One of the most important questions a leader can ask is “Who am I becoming?” Before cranking out a lot of fresh ideas or implementing a bunch of new actions, a smart leader will consider the direction of his identity.
Most leaders I know start with a vision for the organization. The problem with organizational future as a starting point is that as the organization grows, the leader also grows – and too often the growth of the leader and the growth of the organization are not aligned. The leader mistakenly charts an organizational course that would fulfill the person he is today, but which will stagnate and frustrate the person he is becoming. A wiser move is to consider who you are becoming and then chart an organizational course that will coincide with your future self. In this way, your future self and the future organization converge.
Who are you becoming?
An exercise I sometimes have coaching clients conduct involves the client imagining meeting his or her “future self” in five, ten, or twenty years. You can try the exercise now, if you’d like. I strongly suggest giving the time to God so that His Spirit guides your imagination and leading your thoughts.
Start by prayerfully imagining the hand of God reaching down and lifting you out of where you are (space) and out of when you are (time). As God transports you above the earth, He whispers to you that He has a gift to show you. By ushering you into the future, God wants to reveal to you His plans for who you are to become. With tender care, imagine God lowers you to the place where you dwell ten years from now.
Where does your future self live? Knock on the door—as your future self opens the door, take a good look around. What does he look like? How does he carry himself? What’s the inside of his place look like? Is anyone else there?
Now you get to have a conversation with your future self. Start off by asking what his life is like today. Ask him:
- What are you doing with your life?
- What do you love about your life?
- What do I need to do to get where you are?
- What is our purpose?
Finally, ask him to share with you one word to remember when you’re feeling discouraged or you need support to keep going toward your goals. What is that word? Remember it.
A new person with a new name
This simple imagination exercise is powerful for many people. After all, God has a preferred future for each of us and we are wise to seek His direction rather than craft our own story.
This exercise reminds me that in Revelation 2:17 those who are victorious are promised a white stone with a new name written on it – a name known only to the person and to God. I’m not sure the full meaning of this promise, but I find it a powerful image: God granting us a total newness, even to the point of a new name.
Some of my clients choose to “name” their future self. Obviously this chosen new name is but a pale forerunner of the new name God will give someday, but it can be a powerful tool for reminding you who you are becoming in Christ and through His Spirit.
As leaders, we are often tempted to act first and reflect later. But I think it much wiser to pause, reflect, and to prayerfully consider who you are becoming. The church, ministry, family, or company you lead will be far better served if your leadership choices today and tomorrow are in alignment with the person you are becoming rather than the person you’ve been. After all, the future self God has planned for you is always an upgraded version!