In one of the classes that I’ve regularly facilitated, we do an activity called “The Parking Space.” Participants are given a role-play scenario in which two people have to compete for a single parking space. One person is running late for a job interview, and the other is running late for a meeting with an important client. As one tries to back into the parking space, the other is trying to pull forward into it. The two people get out of their cars and negotiate to see who gets the space.
What’s really interesting about the interaction isn’t who gets the space or even how they get it (and I’ve heard some really creative and unethical methods of coercion). It’s that in the process of overpowering their adversary for the space, both people completely forget what their primary goals were – getting the job or making the meeting. It never dawns on them that time is ticking away as they bicker about who gets to park where. Each person fights for a win-lose outcome, but what they end up with is lose-lose, because the parking space is moot by the time they miss their respective appointments.
The role-play is an excellent example of sacrificing a Big “G” Goal (making the appointment) in order to achieve a little “g” goal (getting the parking space). It sounds crazy, but we do it all the time.
- We pull out all the stops to win the argument but forget that we are trying to build the relationship.
- We prevent our top performers from transferring to other departments in order to protect our team’s productivity and end up losing them because there is no room for advancement.
- We refuse to share information with another group because they haven’t reciprocated in the past and lose sight of the fact that we work for the same company.
- We cut services back in order to reduce expenses and succeed in chasing off our customers.
- We invent rules for a small percentage of “law-breakers” and ultimately punish the 99.9% of people who want to do the right thing but can’t get anything done because of the excessive red-tape.
- We turn drill sergeant with our kids to get them ready in the morning and manage to ruin everyone’s day as we head out the door for a family event.
- We argue with our neighbors over property rights and forget that we were trying to win them to Christ.
Our problem is that we are so focused on what’s before us that we can’t see the big picture. We are intent on winning battles, but our short-term focus is losing us the wars. If we could keep our eyes on the Big “G” Goals, what a difference it would make in our lives, in our work and in our ministries!
We would have so much more grace for people who don’t act the way we want them to act. We would be able to keep a healthy perspective on the minor things that don’t go our way. We would make better decisions in the moment as we assessed the impact of those decisions on our Big “G” goals.
Where is it that you have gotten seduced by the urgency of little “g” goals? How could you maintain your focus on the the bigger picture? A long-range focus informs better decision making in the moment. It takes practice, but if you’re like me, you’ve got plenty of opportunities.