Some conversations and situations stay with you. I will never forget this young man.
He was in his mid-20s, and he was speaking about career plans with a group of us at church. He passionately spoke about the steps he would take to move from his current position as assistant manager to a manager then to a regional position in the company. Ultimately he was going to own a store of his own. There was a fire in his eyes as he spoke about his dreams, and something inside of me felt his passion and fire. I got excited for him and with him.
We remained casual acquaintances for several years, and I watched his career unfold. He continued to work as an assistant manager, and he often talked about his dreams. But he started arriving late or missing morning shifts. The evening before he stayed up most of the night on his gaming counsel playing video games with his friends. That made it difficult to get into the store on time. It was not a problem for him; there were always two managers on duty, so things were covered. And he was the senior assistant manager, so he had some privileges, he thought.
A management position opened in the company, and he was overlooked. The other assistant manager, with less seniority, was promoted. He complained that they did not appreciate him and his skills. He would then speak again about his dreams of someday owning his own store. He had many ideas about how at “his store” things would be different than at the place he currently worked. He stated, “Maybe I will skip the assistant manager to manager to regional manager path and start looking at opening my own store instead. That’s the way entrepreneurs do it!” That old passion would rise as he spoke about the great future that awaited him.
A few months went by during which he was reprimanded and written up. He had continued to miss shifts, calling in sick. He didn’t feel well after staying up most of the night on his gaming counsel. When he was at work, the quality of his work was fair and his ability to manage the staff and store became an issue. Finally, he was discharged.
For the next few years, he went from entry level job to entry level job and no farther. He still talked about how he intended someday to own a store of his own. But he never did. He never came close to his dream. As long as I knew him all he ever did was talk passionately about it.
It is funny, after over 40 years I still remember. Maybe it is because of what I learned watching this young man. He had good intentions, great intentions, but his intentions never got him to where he desired to go. Direction, not intention, determines destination.
His intentions were lofty and passionate. But they got him nowhere. Why? He never put action behind his intentions. He never got going in the direction of his dream. The couple of times that he did, he ran into the need for hard work, dedication, sacrifice and discipline. Things that were more difficult than dreaming.
He could get all fired up when he dreamed and spoke about his dreams, but when he was playing his video games late at night, his dreams and intentions couldn’t get him to bed and then up in time to go to the store. He was unable to put action behind the intentions that would lead to the destination that he dreamt about.
The other thing he lacked was discipline. While direction, not intention, determines destiny. It is discipline, not desire that determines destiny. The man with self-discipline will rise above the man with lofty dreams. But combine the self-discipline and the lofty dreams, and you have a powerhouse.
These same principles apply to your spiritual life. Many Christ-followers talk about the lofty goals they have in making a difference for Jesus. They passionately speak about touching the lives of the hurting or reaching out to the broken. Their eyes light up, and excitement fills their words, but that is all that happens. They have great intentions, but they don’t start moving, and so nothing of significance happens. They sound spiritual, but it is only words. Because direction, not intention, determines destination; and discipline, not desire, determines destiny. Don’t let your destiny slip away—do something. Put action to your intentions and discipline to your desires and watch the difference you will make.