Every leader faces a constant gravitational pull towards ordinary. The existence of these opposing forces is undeniable and at times unstoppable. These daily forces can actively work against our ability to be extraordinary. The pull towards ordinary disrupts our intentions to do more and be more.
Intention vs Direction
I’ve heard it said two ways. Andy Stanley said, “Direction, not intention determines your destination” and Kyle Idleman said, “intention doesn’t determine direction.” Both statements draw a clear delineation between our intentions and the direction we are heading. The tension between ordinary and extraordinary.
Not sure about you, but I wake up with the best of intentions every single day. I intend to be a good father, husband, friend, coach, and leader. My desire is to not hit the snooze too many times, be tremendously productive at work, stay positive throughout the day, be present with my family, encourage others, love people, and lead well. When my intentions align with the direction I am headed, extraordinary things happen.
Unfortunately, many times my extraordinary intentions face a gravitational pull towards ordinary. My day gets derailed by distractions, discouragement, and details. I am reminded daily that my intentions do not determine my direction, they do not get me to my desired destination.
Here are three of the forces that contribute to the gravitation pull towards ordinary in a leader’s life. The ones that restrict our abilities to be extraordinary in our daily leadership journeys:
We live in a distracting world. I get distracted, you get distracted. In fact, you have probably lost focus at some point in reading this post. Some experts suggest that the average human being can be exposed to more than 10,000 messages a day. That is a lot! Thousands of messages tugging and pulling us back to ordinary.
One of those distractions is getting lost scrolling through endless feeds of social media or surfing the internet. In even the shortest periods of time, it can expose you to multiple opinions, conflicting feelings, comparative analyses, and a variety of rapidly forming emotions. Guess what? The feeds just keep going…and going…and going. Distracting, distracting, distracting.
As a leader, distractions come in the crisis of the day, Haters, decisions that need to be made (and made now), and burdensome deadlines. All of the above can distract you from your primary focus, the people you lead. There really are no ordinary leaders when you think about it. Ordinary people are managers, extraordinary people are leaders. Dealing with and minimizing distractions helps lead us towards our intended destination of being extraordinary.
Have you ever been in a fast-flowing river and tried walking up stream? It is pretty difficult right? If you do it long enough, it can be downright physically exhaustive. It can also be mentally draining as well. You work extra hard just to struggle to make progress towards your desired destination, against the current. It’s way easier to get to a destination down river, with the support of the current, the energy of the river.
One of the most discouraging things is dealing with things and people that go against the current of our intentions. They can be the force that goes against the flow that leads you to pure exhaustion. Tired leaders cannot be extraordinary. We must find the source of energy of our leadership that carries the things and people that breathe life into us, with us, not against us.
The antidote to discouragement is always encouragement. Truett Cathy once said, “How do you know if someone needs encouragement? If they are breathing.” As leaders, it’s easy to put up the false facade that we are strong enough to not need encouragement. We need to surround ourselves with the things and people that help us use the current to carry us towards the intended destination of extraordinary, not go away from it. We make daily decisions to determine the direction we flow, choose the current of encouragement. It will get you and your team to the desired destination.
High School football cranked up this past Friday in the State of Georgia. As a long-time coach of the sport, I know that great coaches who produce winning teams have been wearing out the fundamentals all summer. Fundamentals are the small details that make a big difference. They separate the ordinary teams from the extraordinary
The challenge is that details can become mundane. We get complacent with success, we drift. The details are no longer a priority, processes and systems break down. The boring and mundane things build a foundation for consistent success. Inconsistency leads to ordinary expectations, while consistency leads to extraordinary ones.
Kevin Paul Scott with ADDO recently conducted a leadership development session for our city team. He emphasized that as leaders we must, “Make the mundane meaningful.” When our team understands the meaning behind the mundane things, it can provide resistance to the gravitational pull towards ordinary. Execution of details counterbalances those negative forces and releases us to extraordinary ways.
So what gravitational force is pulling you towards ordinary? Is it distraction, discouragement, details, or something completely different? Whatever IT is, that is your gravitational pull towards ordinary.
Leadership is tough. You tend to walk upstream more than float down with the current. Our daily intentions don’t always align with our directions. It takes sheer will sometimes to make those two things sync up.
The good news is, extraordinary is achievable. Simply add an “al” to the word intention. The more intentional we are in pursuing extraordinary, the less we will feel the gravitational pull towards ordinary. Great leaders are relentless in their pursuit of extraordinary. With a determined level of persistence, there is no force that can pull you towards ordinary. Be extraordinary.