Action and striving for success can result in failure

I have to confess I am your typical Type A personality – overly organised and very focussed on getting results.  In short, if there is a project or a problem that need to be solved I am there. Why?  Because my middle name is: ACTION! ACTION! ACTION!

In the Corporate world I have found these traits very beneficial.  Striving for results almost always guarantees some level of success, and lets be honest in most cases today a person is measured on a level of results that he/she has achieved.

At home, I don’t think my family would necessarily rate these traits as a success because it can be hugely frustrating to live with someone who always have a list of things that need to be ticked off.  With a large amount of tolerance and trying to be nice my husband would probably say that the only benefit from it is that at least the list of house maintenance does not get too long before it is sorted out.

Quietly I have always thought that these are good traits to have only to have recently fallen flat on my face and realised that:

Action and striving for success does not always guarantee the right results

In one of my previous blogs I have mentioned my interaction with an informal settlement.  At the end of last year I have heard that they urgently wanted to start a small nursery for the children living in the area and that the community leaders have been talking about it for the last six months with no obvious move forward.  Now is this not the perfect challenge for a type A?  I was off like a bullet, putting a project plan together, getting people involved and of course writing up a plan A, B and just for in case C.

There was just one little thing I did not consider:

The possibility that my short term solution of a crèche for the children (although positive) may actually hurt the community more than helping them. 

After my first meeting with the community to discuss the plans that we have drawn up and the positive steps we have taken I had to literally stop everything.  The problem was not that they have changed there minds or that the urgency has moved on, it was rather that I was trying to bring relief to a situation that rather called for development for the bigger community.

Let me explain.  In  our Christian journey we will get to a stage where we would like to do nothing more than to please God in some way. One of the ways in which to please God is to help build His kingdom, and the way we do it is to help others where there is need. The problem is that we try and serve in a way that we are used to in the Western world by focussing on the product or the immediate result:

  • Food shortage – Donate some food
  • Money shortage – Organise a fundraise,

without considering that there may be some deeper problems that need to find solutions first.

Originally I did exactly the same.  It was only when I started talking to the community and the evangelist involved that I realised that there was deeper problems that had to be addressed first like:  Self-esteem and self-sufficiency and empowerment.  In this case the process that we had to follow, the community standing up and doing some of the initiatives and work themselves, was the way to success and not the product (nursery).

This means that a 2 month project is now becoming a project with an indefinite time period which in my and your books will most probably rate as a dismal failure, but in the future of the community a roaring success!  A little project like setting up a small crèche can give people pride in themselves and the knowledge that they have the ability to step out of their  ‘poor’ circumstances to achieve something that they would normally be dependent on from those that have more than they do.

Success sometimes mean we need to focus on the people and process and not the project. ‘When Helping Hurts’ – Brian Fikkert & Steve Corbett


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