I see better when the lights are on. That may sound obvious, but it becomes ever more important in the middle of the night when I have some urgency to get to another room. I would urge blind people to never own a dog or have children. Both like to leave their stuff on the path to necessary rooms.
People typically know the way forward. They may just feel like they are in walking forward in the dark. There may be obstacles on the path that weren’t there the night before. When a person is taking important steps in their lives, you may want to tell them what direction to go, but the best thing you can do is turn on every light in their house.
Decisions are best made when you can see the path, the surrounding terrain, obstacles blocking the way forward, and even better, the destination.
Turn On Every Light in the House
Our electric company likes to provide us a service by telling us where our house ranks in electrical usage compared to our neighbors. I am proud to say that we are always # 1! According to their records, we use more electricity than any other house on the block. I’m not sure why, but it might be because we tend to leave every light on in the house. You never know when you’ll be coming back fast to the bathroom and won’t want to take that extra second to flip on the light. (If you don’t understand sarcasm, you may think I’m a nut.)
If you’re helping a person think through a decision, instead of giving them your own map, start turning on some lights. Help them to consider how their own experience might give them a stronger perspective on the issue.
Be creative in your questions. It’s counter-intuitive, but the more broad your question, the more lights you can turn on. You tend to think for them to make a decision, you would want to put a spotlight on the issue. But instead, illuminate all the corners. See if there is a hidden treasure on a shelf that was being saved for just such an occasion. See if there is a ticking time bomb hidden in the closet. The brain remembers everything it encounters, but it doesn’t always make all the information instantly available to you. Help the person turn on all the lights in their brain.
Ask them to consider their earlier education. Ask them to consider what they want the future to look like. Ask them what failure has taught them about what not to do this time. Ask them what made them successful during another stressful time in the past.
A great question to ask is what they would tell a friend if the friend was making this decision. That takes a lot of the cloudiness away from the issue. It takes away the shame of possible failure and the over-eagerness of a high achiever.
With all the lights on, the path looks much different, maybe easier to walk, maybe much more difficult to walk.
Turn on the Outside Lights
I grew up 10 miles out of a city of 1,200 people. If someone drove by our house, it was the mailman, or they were really lost. Needless to say, at night, it got really dark. I’m sure at mom’s urging, dad put in a security pole light. It was basically a street light on a country farm. The light gave us a lot more confidence about avoiding coyotes or trespassers, which would come along now and then.
If you’re helping a person make a tough decision, expand their thinking beyond their own. Harness the power of the network of people they know (and even ones they don’t know) – family, co-workers, neighbors, writers, and heroes.
One of my favorite questions is to ask what their hero would do in this situation. Another is who could help? For goodness sake, there are billions of people on the planet. Somebody could help. Where could we find more information about the issue? Who else is struggling with this issue? What would your mother tell you to do in this situation?
Turning on the inside lights is like turning on their brain to all their past experience and knowledge. Turning on the outside lights is making sure they have considered all the people who could give them advice, insight, or even better help.
In many cases, this may be enough for most people. They were walking around in the dark, and now you have helped turn all kinds of lights on. But sometimes, the lights may show that the path forward looks impossible. Or perhaps the light showed that there are many paths, and no one path looks like the obvious choice.
Look up at the Stars
Back on the farm, when we really wanted to get a good look at the stars, we would shut the pole light off. I’ve never seen the Milky Way galaxy so bright as on the farm during a cloudless night with the pole light off. At first, you might think it was pitch black, but even on a moonless night, your eyes would adjust and the world would be illuminated by stars thick around the galaxy’s belt. These stars are an ancient light. Nothing travels faster than light, but these stars are so far away that in some cases, the light is thousands of years old before it brightens your surroundings.
To really see this kind of light, you have to be purposeful. You have to get away from all other lights. These stars then give you a whole other perspective on your life. These ancient lights were here millennia before you and will remain eons after. Your decisions look more manageable as turn on the lights of heaven.
Our daughter has a tough decision coming up. We were pleased that she sought God’s take on the issue. He told her pretty clearly, “I don’t care what you do.” At first, that sounds a little cold. But it wasn’t cold at all. He took the pressure off. The world’s safety doesn’t depend on her. It depends on Him. Now she could make a decision with a little less guilt and a lot more guile.
When you help others seek God’s view on their issue, they might find some larger connected purpose to their decision. Simply ask them, what is God saying to you about this? What does He want you to do about it? What is a story in the Bible that is similar to yours? Who is God asking you to be in this situation? What name has God given you for this task?
A Well Lit Decision
At the end, you haven’t told your friend anything from your experience. And now that you’ve turned on so many lights, you see for yourself that the little light you could have added is almost invisible compared to the many lights you were able to turn on for them.
Coaching is all about turning on the lights. When is a time that someone helped you turn on a light that changed your life?