Back when I was a flight instructor, I taught my students two different ways to fly: pilotage and dead reckoning.

Pilotage is looking at the map and determining location based on landmarks. Dead reckoning is flying the plane using instruments (think compass headings, ground speeds, and math). Most private pilots use the two methods simultaneously in order to reach their destinations.

The best way to make sure an airplane is on course is to set the compass heading, then look out into the horizon (10, 20, or 30 miles) for a point along the route like a tower or group of buildings to which you can fly directly. Once you have a focal point, you keep your eye on it and you fly straight to it, naturally making the corrections to keep the plane on course.

There are a few great lessons here for parents:

1) It is extremely important to pick the right focal point. (In this case, it’s not a place, but a Person.)

Just as when piloting an aircraft, picking the wrong focal point can steer our children in the wrong direction, taking them somewhere we never intended them to be.

We all want our children to succeed. We want them to take the opportunities that God has given and reach further than we’ve been able to reach. We may even dream bigger dreams for our kids than those we dare dream for ourselves.

The problem is, it’s all vanity. Solomon had it all, and at the end of his life he said it was meaningless.

When we focus our children on temporal things (wealth, achievements, recognition, position), we are training their hearts to settle for treasures “where moth and rust corrupt and where thieves break in and steal.” The end of these temporal things is emptiness, vanity, and a host of problems that stem from trying to fill that void.

Don’t shrug this off–these temporal treasures can be wrapped in church activity and religiosity, too.

If we are going to empower our kids to succeed in a meaningful way, we have to point them to Jesus as the fulfillment of their desires and the source of their inspiration. Jesus alone can satisfy them and prepare them for the role He has in His kingdom.

We can help our kids to succeed by pointing them to their ultimate purpose in no matter what they do. So whether they eat or drink, or fix cars or brains, or drive a taxi or a space shuttle, or paint houses or sunrises, they can do it for the glory of God.

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Frederick Buechner, writing about vocation

If we can ingrain the idea that Jesus is King and that He means for us to bring tastes of His kingdom to the world around us, then our children’s endeavors will not end in vanity, but in deep fulfillment of who they were created to be.

2) When we’re setting goals, we have to look out into the future and visualize where we want our family to be.

I’ll do a future post just on goal-setting, but here are a few quick thoughts:

  • We take time to think and dream about what we want for our family.
  • We Write. It. Down. (It doesn’t move from being a dream to a goal until it’s in writing.)
  • We make each goal specific and measurable and put a time limit on it.
  • We set goals only pertaining to things we can control. (Setting a goal where someone else is in control just sets us up for frustration.)
  • We share our written goals with a trusted person who can keep us accountable.
  • We post our goal somewhere we can see it regularly!

Keeping a visual reminder of the vision we have for our family’s future helps us with number three:

3) We have to constantly assess our location and adjust our course if we ever hope to reach our goal.

In an airplane, the wind will almost always blow you off course. In life, circumstances will inevitably shift our focus and change our timeline.

Goals give us something by which to measure to keep us headed in the right direction, but we must re-evaluate them often as we see the winds of circumstance changing.

We have to reassess whether our goals are still realistic. Does the timeline need to be changed? Can we make a few changes to get back on course? Does a particular goal need to be completely rewritten?

Also, if we are seeking God’s will, we have to allow Him to direct our course. Listen for the internal voice that gives peace about decisions, but also look for the undeniable realities that God has sovereignly allowed into your life.

The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps.
Proverbs 16:9

Prayerfully make your goals. Post them. Talk about them. Dream about them. But hold them loosely. You never know when life–or the Air Traffic Controller–may change your course.

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