Living on the Leading Edge

I love the mental picture of leaning forward into the future, which is why I go make goals and resolutions every year. I usually publish my list, to make myself accountable, and to encourage other people to do the same thing.

But the hard truth is this: over the last twenty years, my success rate, meaning the percentage of goals and resolutions I can say I absolutely accomplished by the end of the year, is probably less than 30%.

So why bother? Because even that small 30% makes me a better man. In fact, so does the other 70%, my un-successes.  Just the act of writing them down, and sometimes that’s all the attention I give them, changed my outlook for the next year.

And that’s the thing about having goals: they change us.

I wonder how often we avoid making goals because we’re afraid to change. We’d rather success or failure depend on a complex series of actions which we can’t control than depend on changing ourselves.

Once we open up to changing ourselves, we lose control of the finished product. Personal change is never a stand-alone thing. It always affects more than we expect. We can’t know exactly who we will be on the other side of personal change.

So why bother with goals or resolutions? Why not let life come as it wants?

Because we thrive most when we stay at our own leading edge. When people asked Duke Ellington, what was his favorite song, he always answered, the next one … the one not yet composed. That’s why having goals is important. Our best days, our best opportunities, our best ministries, are ahead of us.

Here are some of my own goals and resolutions for 2017:

Re-energize my email list. I need to rebuild my mailing list before my next book comes out. Nothing adds energy like change, so I’m making a change from FeedBlitz to MailChimp, mostly to add energy. You can help me with this by subscribing here.

Practice trombone at home more often. And to be honest, any practice will be more.

Complete the Colorado Trail four-week backpacking trip this summer. Join me?

Climb stairs in my office building at least three times per week. (This is part of my training for the previous goal.)

Create a Colorado Trail Facebook page so people can join the adventure and offer suggestions.

Publish family photo albums (I have this on my list every year and haven’t yet done one, but I’m afraid to let it slip away without trying. What stops me is overanalyzing how to structure the albums. Any suggestions?

Commute to work on my bike at least 50 times during 2017

Do a 40-day fast. (Doesn’t have to be a zero-food fast, but I’m not sure the details.)

Complete a Century bike ride. (Either an organized ride, or by myself.)

Regular every-year goals. Things like reading, writing, teaching, loving, cycling, running, etc. (I’ll send details if you really want to know.)

Douglas Engelbart, who invented the first computer mouse and was a leader in developing graphic user interfaces, said that one day as he was driving to work, he felt a frightening, life-altering apprehension: "I had this realization that I didn't have any more goals." It scared him. The prospect scares me, too.

I understand fully that we can’t completely plan our lives. I know our future is uncertain. In fact, living by faith means expecting surprises and setbacks and trusting God to get us through. But I also know that the best way to predict the future is to invent it.

What are your goals for 2017? Where is your leading edge?


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32