We’re at the end of January 2015. I am sure by now most people have already moved on from the feeling of starting a new year and are back into the full swing of daily life post holidays. In a lot of ways, I have too. Yet the things I have been thinking about and sharing here have been staying with me. Remembering to be gentle with myself in those moments when I am quick to put myself down. Remembering to take a deep breathe and experience abundance through Christ whether missing out on a simple treat or missing a loved one. I have one more theme that I am starting this year with and want to share a bit about it.
Recently a friend of mine introduced me to this concept as a great evaluation tool in decisions. We were talking about life with kids, and specifically about trying to take our children on outings but feeling like it is often so much work that it barely seems worth it from the parent perspective. If you’re a parent, think of taking your child swimming, camping or even just to a friends house for a play date. On the one hand there’s all the packing, all the little kid bundling up, then the “I have to pee!” and the battle with the carseat after getting everyone bundled up. Yet on the other hand there is the joy and fun your child experiences at the pool or park or play date, there’s the social interaction and physical exertion, there’s the memories created and the laugh out loud moments, or there’s simply the triumph of making it out of the house! When you balance out both sides, is it a net gain or a net loss?
There are three things I love about this approach. First, it is simple. It is just this small concept that can quickly help you identify and evaluate both sides of a decision. Second, it is not a formula. There is no “always” or “never” with net gain. You have to look fresh at the situation you are presented with each day and decide net gain or net loss. Taking the kids to the park on a regular sunny day? Net gain. Taking the kids to the park when one of them feels sick and we all only got 4 hours of sleep? Net loss. Third, this approach acknowledges that most things in life will include a healthy dose of hard work or frustration. Net gain puts that in perspective against the end result. It recognizes that there are deeper, bigger things in life that make all the hard parts worth it.
So far the examples above have to do with kids. This is because it is a pretty obvious and useful area of life to apply the net gain concept. You want your kids to grow, to make friends, to develop skills, to have fun, to make memories, and so much more, but it all comes out of a lot of hard work on the part of the parents. So as you evaluate parenting questions such as what extra-curricular activities to be involved in, where to take the family on vacation, and many other things, you can start by asking yourself if the end result will be a net gain or net loss.
However, in the past short while I have already found this approach applicable to lots of other decisions and situations. Net gain or net loss? Deciding what to do with my time, how and when to exercise, what and how much to eat, how to build friendships, how to strengthen my marriage, how to pursue a deeper relationship with God, which ways I can serve my church family and community – in all this I can start by asking myself if it will produce a net gain or net loss. This quickly helps me clarify my priorities and motivation to determine how to move forward. As always I look to Christ and the Bible as my example. When I look at Jesus facing the cross and praying “Not my will but yours be done”, when I read about Paul enduring every imaginable trouble while spreading the news of Jesus, even when I think about God choosing to create the world in the first place, it is all because God knows the beautiful and glorious end. He knows that it will be a complete gain over the heart breaking middle. So from the big to the small matters I am learning to be willing to choose the harder path when I know it will be a net gain in the end.
Have you ever used an approach like this with decisions, whether for big life decisions or day-to-day matters? How would you determine if something will be a net gain or net loss?