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Wow—another year is in the books.

I know it’s cliché-ish, but every year seems to go faster than its predecessor. I blinked, and 2018 was over.

2018 was an amazing year in so many ways: I have an incredible wife who is beautiful on the inside as well as the outside. Four boys and three daughters-in-law whom we love deeply. Our first grandchild was born—a gorgeous baby girl. She’s brought tremendous joy into our world. And we learned a few weeks ago we’re going to be grandparents again—another baby girl will be making her grand entrance in about five months!

On top of all that goodness, Converge Coaching experienced its best year ever on multiple levels.

So many good things in 2018. So much success. And you would think, emotional depletion would have no space in such an amazing year. Yet back in August, I could feel depression nipping at my heels. It wasn’t cataclysmic like the initial emotional crash 26 years ago, where I was hurting so badly that ending my life seemed like the only way out. No, this recent bout was much milder, but still menacing.

How did this unwelcome enemy knock on my door during one of our best years ever? At first it didn’t compute. But taking a step back, and reflecting with the help of my wife, a counselor, and some trusted friends, the reasons depression started to nip at my heels became obvious. The more I processed these reasons, the more prominent the lessons they taught me became.

I’d like to share with you the three most important things I learned in 2018. Hoping I don’t have to relearn them sometime down the road. I want them to become seared in my memory. Here they are:

Success comes with inherent risk

Success is great. It’s awesome. It’s desirable. But it’s often accompanied by longer-than-advisable work days; the unintentional neglect of friendships; and even scarier—a false sense of invincibility. As Converge Coaching was experiencing great success in 2018, I started taking on more and more work. Riding a wave of momentum, I subconsciously thought I could say yes to more than was wise without a negative impact. I was reading/responding to emails and phone calls late in the evening, and failing to put a finish line on the day. My friendships were getting increasingly ignored. And in August, I started experiencing the following symptoms: Difficulty sleeping; heightened irritability; intermittent sadness; and waking up in the morning not looking forward to the day ahead.

My personal experience with major depression, and the tremendous amount of study I’ve done on the subject, alerted me to impending emotional danger. So, I took the steps I advise many others to take: I went to my doctor for a physical, scheduled time with my counselor, started to put a clear and earlier ending point to my day; got friends back on the calendar, and then realized it was going to take a while (always longer than you want) to get the emotional tank full again. Success comes with inherent risk.

I can’t help everybody

You may be thinking: “Well—duh!” But this was a hard lesson for me. A couple of months ago, sitting across a breakfast table with one of my mentors, he said: “John, you can’t help everybody.” I knew he was right. But what he said still bothered me. Yet the longer I reflected on his challenge, the more I realized he was spot on. You see, it’s prideful to think we can help everybody. It’s arrogant to think we can meet everyone’s needs. I discovered once again in 2018 that I have limits (So do you by the way.)  I rediscovered I have a wheelhouse consisting of my passion, pain, and proficiency, along with the personality God has given me. That wheelhouse should influence and direct where I spend the majority of my work energy. This second lesson is about assignment. Effectiveness. Focus. And it has been painful. I can’t help everybody.

Taking reasonable risks is required to get where God wants Converge Coaching to go

In 2018, we introduced a couple of new ways to help leaders. They aren’t unique mechanisms—but they were unique to us. And can I tell you, as we worked to develop these new approaches and then launch them, I was scared. I wondered: “Will these new methods work?” “Will they cannibalize our current ways of helping?” “If they fail, will it hurt our reputation?” If you’re afraid to fail, you’ll likely never get where God wants you to go.

So, while there were serious concerns in my mind, I knew in order to reach our God-given goals, we needed to adapt. The good news? These new approaches have been well-received. The outcomes have exceeded expectations. I found myself thinking: “What was I so afraid of?” Reasonable risk is necessary for you to get where God wants you to go.

So today I wonder—which of these three things resonates with you the most?

Is success setting you up for emotional difficulty down the road? It doesn’t have to, if you’re intentional about maintaining healthy rhythms and replenishing friendships in the middle of your success.

Are you focused on your God-given assignment? Or are you shooting buckshot? Are you accepting every opportunity presenting itself to you? You can’t help everybody. Take time to reflect on the intersection of your passion, pain, proficiency, and personality. Where those circles intersect is where you should be spending at least 75% of your work effort.

Are you taking reasonable risks or playing it safe? Reaching the the finish line God’s set for you requires taking reasonable, well-thought-out, and prayer-bathed risks. What you’ve done to this point has gotten you to where you are today. But it likely won’t get you to where you need to go tomorrow. You’ll have to adapt and try some new ways to accomplish your God-given assignment. Take some reasonable, well-thought-out, and prayed-bathed risks. Don’t be afraid to fail trying something new.

If you haven’t already, can I encourage you to take some time to reflect on 2018, and figure out what are the three most important things you learned? Write them down, reference them often, and let them guide you into a productive and healthy 2019.

I’m rooting and praying for you!

P.S. – I’ve put together a free resource I’d like to offer to you: 3 Reasons You Need a Mentor. You can find the resource here.

John Opalewski

Author John Opalewski

John Opalewski is a graduate of Oral Roberts University. He served as a pastor for fifteen years. He has worked in the business world for nearly two decades, serving in multiple leadership roles. John's experience as a leader in both the church and business arenas has made him a sought-after international speaker, coach and mentor.

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