Hey, my friends. Welcome back to Let’s Encourage One Another.
I’d like to introduce you to my friend Susie. Susie loves to help others in any way she can—making meals, running errands, dropping off flowers to those who need a little cheering up. Her love for her family is evident to all, as she plays with her kiddos and takes care of the house. In the evening time, you’ll either find her at a church event or cuddled up with her family at home reading books and playing games together.
But Susie has a problem, and that is, she is constantly making choices all day long, and by the end of the day, is so drained and so tired that whatever she is doing, she is doing not fully present and engaged.
In fact, maybe she’s distracted by all the texts she gets, asking her to do this or that. Maybe she is overwhelmed by the requests from her pastor or ministry leaders to do just one more thing at church. Add to that, her children’s fundraisers and sports teams and trying to find a little quiet time of her own and Susie is really struggling.
Now, there’s a lot going on here that we could talk about, but today, I want to share with you one thing that could really help Susie—could really help us—in these moments of overwhelm and distraction, and that is pre-deciding.
Pre-deciding is exactly what it sounds like: making a decision before a decision actually has to be made. This eliminates the pressure of having to make a last-minute decision that may not be thought out, and it also helps with decision fatigue, those times when you’re making decision after decision after decision and you just don’t want to make another decision.
A common example is meal planning. You might sit down at the beginning of the week and decide what your family is going to eat each night. For me, this means looking at what nights my husband can cook—because he likes to cook and he’s better at it than I am—as well as what nights we’ll be home to eat and which nights we’ll be out. From there, I can look to see what we have in the fridge and start mapping out meals. It eliminates the need for me to decide after I’ve been working all day and now I’m picking up kids and my husband’s going to be home soon and what in the world am I going to fix? Have you ever been there? So the weeks where I can meal plan a bit, even if it’s just a few days before hand, they go a lot more smoothly and peacefully than the days where I don’t.
Now in this episode, we are focusing on pre-deciding in difficult seasons, so this could be when you are going through a season of grief or are struggling with depression, or maybe you just moved or switched jobs, but it could also be when you’re the one walking alongside someone else who is hurting, caring for an elderly parent or have a child who requires some extra care.
The Benefits of Pre-Deciding
Why is it so important to pre-decide in difficult seasons?
First, it gives you time to think and process a decision. In other words, you don’t have to make a decision in the moment when you’re feeling rushed and pressured—because, really, how many times do we make a good decision when we’re feeling pressured?
This is especially important for us more introverted gals who so desperately want that time to ourselves to really think through a decision, especially a big one. We want our journaling, we want our pros and cons list, we want to pause and consider all the alternatives. But this is also important for extraverts, too. They might be able to think better out loud, but, again, having to make a decision under pressure isn’t fun for anyone, I don’t think. In fact, there are many times where, if I feel pressured, I just freeze up. I don’t like it at all.
Second, pre-deciding allows us to intentionally focus on our priorities. And when you’re in a difficult season, you have to be very clear about where you are putting your time and energy. If you’re grieving, you might need to cut back on some commitments so you have the time and space to grieve, remember, and celebrate. If you’re struggling with depression, you need to consider the things that bring you life and joy and pursue those. If you’re a caregiver of littles or elderly parents, you want to make sure you can focus your time and energy on those you’re caring for while still taking care of yourself.
Different seasons bring different priorities. By pre-deciding some things, we can take the pressure off and focus on what we need to be focusing on.
And third, pre-deciding brings with it a lot of peace—which means less stress for you. You know you’ve thought through your decision, it’s the best decision for you in this season, you’re committed to it, and you’re at peace with the consequences of that decision. For example, I’m in a season of not leading any ministry at church. I still serve, but not on an ongoing basis right now. So I might volunteer for a one-time thing instead of doing something every single week. And that was from a decision I’ve made on my part—not that I don’t want to serve right now, but that I have other things that are taking my time and focus right now. And because I know where that decision came from, I’m at peace with what that means, so when I need to say “no” to someone, I can say it lovingly and with confidence. We’ll go through some more examples soon.
What Pre-Deciding Doesn’t Mean
But first, let me tell you what pre-deciding doesn’t mean.
It doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but a guideline, a filter of sorts.
For example, I know where I want to focus my time and energy as a business this next year. But if an amazing opportunity arises that I want to participate in, I can decide to make room for that.
It doesn’t mean it’s forever. As I’ve said, every season is different and carries with it its own priorities. And so, you can pre-decide some things for this season, and then when you enter a new one, you can decide differently.
Examples of Pre-Deciding
Okay, so what are some examples? What does this look like?
Discerning Who to Encourage
I want to start by referring back to episode 2, where I talked about discerning who to encourage. Now, we all know that we can’t encourage everybody, right? We do know that, don’t we? We only have so much time and energy and care to give to others.
And so in episode 2, I talked about how to decide who to encourage and care for. And I shared how I start with my inner circle and focus on those individuals, and that is a way that I have pre-decided where my time and energy is focused. My immediate family comes first. Because I’m the only one who can care for them as a wife and a mom. They get the bulk of my care and encouragement. And then in different seasons, other people come in and out from that.
There are often times when there is an immediate need with someone we know—someone in our community or someone my husband works with—and we have also pre-decided that we want to help in these situations as we’re able. So when something comes up, we just have to mention it to the other and we both know it’s a “yes, we want to help.” This might be financially, but it’s usually short-term or a one-time thing. And then the next month, we can keep our eyes and hearts open for someone else God is inviting us to support.
Now, this doesn’t mean that this never changes. But it does set up some pre-determined parameters that really help me when situations pop up.
Having Littles at Home
For another example, think about having littles at home. This might not seem like a “difficult season,” per se, but it is an important one and a life-changing one. All of a sudden, it’s not just you and your husband anymore, but you’ve got little humans to care for. And littles can take a lot of energy.
As a more introverted gal, it can take a lot out of me to invest in my kids in this way—listening to their chatter, teaching them little things, answering their questions, encouraging them to grow a new skill. Like this morning, my son noticed the compass on my car dashboard and asked about it, and so all during our drive, we’re watching it and I’m trying to explain it. Or with my daughter, joining her in creating art together, showing her some new art techniques, challenging her to try something new. It’s all good. It’s so good. But it can take a lot out of me.
So what are some things I can pre-decide? Well, since this season is more focused on caring for my family, I limit the extras that I am involved with, often choosing short, one-time commitments rather than ongoing ones. Speak at a conference? Yep. Do something for the Christmas Eve service? Yep. Coach a sports team? Um, no, that’s something I have to decline right now—not that I really have a lot of sports skills, but you know, the pressure is always there to sign up because you know they’re going to be short on coaches. Can you relate?
It also means we limit our commitments in the evenings, as this is our family time. We only have a few hours each day to all be together, and so we don’t go to a lot of events or programs, because we want that time together.
A Season of Anxiety and Depression
As a final example, think about what it might be like if you were struggling with anxiety or depression. And this is really affecting your everyday life. You can’t sleep, you aren’t eating very well, it’s hard to be around others. For you, it might be helpful to map out a basic structure for your day so that you are really leaning into those routines to get you through the hard days. You have a morning routine that ensures you’re taking care of your body by showering and eating a healthy breakfast, you know ahead of time that you’ll spend your lunch break listening to worship music instead of watching a TV show or news broadcast, and you commit to exercising right after work so you can physically release some of your anxiety and pump those good-feeling endorphins into your body.
Maybe you decide that two nights a week, you need time alone to rest and relax and maybe read, but on other nights, you need to make sure you are hanging out with a trusted and safe friend who can support you. And so this kind of structure or routine is helpful for you, just for a few months, to help you get by. And then after that, you can look and see if anything needs changed or tweaked or added in.
Thinking Through Some Pre-Decisions
Now for you, some of these might be different, so here are some questions you can consider as you think about what you might be able to pre-decide.
One, what is your top priority right now? Is it caring for a loved one? Is it providing for your family? Is it getting rest so you can heal?
Two, what is it you need during this season? Maybe you need lots of quiet time and space. Maybe you need to make sure you are connecting authentically with others. What is it that you need, that will help you as you lean into that priority you just identified?
Three, what do you need to say “yes” to in this season? What will help you get what you need? What habits, routines, and rhythms might you want to create?
And four, what might you need to say “no” to in this season? It’s not that it’s not good, it’s just not what’s most important for you right now. And that’s okay. Again, you only have so much time and energy, and you can’t do all the things. You can’t encourage all the people. Be a good steward of what God has given you and take care of the things, the people, He has placed in your life.
And when someone asks you to do something that doesn’t quite fit for this season, all you have to do is say something like, “You know what, I can’t do that right now, but please ask me again in 6 months.” Or you can just say, “No, thanks.” That’s perfectly acceptable, too. You don’t have to give a big explanation, but you do need to be honest. Because it doesn’t do any good to commit to something that you can’t follow through on, or that if you do, it’s going to hurt you.
I hope that’s helpful to you, the idea of pre-deciding. Again, it can be as simple as meal planning or as intricate as mapping out that daily structure and routine. Do whatever works best for you.
As we end, I just want to remind you of a couple of opportunities to join me this month. I talked about both of these last week, so for more details, you can go back and listen to episode 47.
The first is the Soul Care Group. This is a place where you can take steps to really tend to your soul and relationship with God. Each month, I’ll send an email with some resources to help you explore different spiritual practices that help you stay close to God. For example, this month, they all have to do with the theme, Determined. I start with a 20-minute audio recording where we look at some Bible passages that speak to determination and see what God stirs up in us, and then there are a couple of practices for you to do on your own later in the month. To sign up for that, go to lovedoesthat.org/soulcaregroup.
Second, next week, on Tuesday, January 18th, I am offering a short workshop called “3 Ways to Encounter God on the Pages of Your Journal.” This is a free workshop where I will walk you through three really important things when it comes to journaling and using that as a way to grow closer to God and hear from Him. To register for that, go to lovedoesthat.org/journalingworkshop.
Okay, that’s all for today, my friends. I am so thankful that you are here with me as we seek to care for those around us and care for our own souls, as well. If you have any questions or any prayer requests, you’re welcome to reach out to me at any time. My email address is email@example.com. And remember, my name is spelled K-A-R-I.
Okay, until next time…
>> Soul Care Group: Monthly email with soul care and spiritual formation practices
>> 3 Ways to Encounter God on the Pages of Your Journal Workshop: Tuesday, January 18th at 11:00am Eastern
>> Online Retreats:
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the waitlist
- Episode 2: Discerning Who to Encourage
INTERESTED IN SPIRITUAL DIRECTION?
I’d be honored to walk with you through a difficult season and help you discover God’s presence and work in your life.