Create an action plan

Go Epic Part II

“We have to dispel the myth that you really have to know what you’re doing before you start doing it. Just accept the fact that you’re going to make some mistakes. Everybody does…Offering whatever you have and whatever you are is ‘enough.'” (from Jim Wallis’s Faith Works: Lessons from the Life of an Activist Preacher)

If you already know the group of people you “have a heart for,” the problem you want to tackle or the place you want to help revitalize, this exercise is for you. (If you don’t, back up and go through our inventory process.)

This is where things really get interesting, where orphans find families, widows find comfort, hungry people get fed and inhuman systems get challenged.

To complete your action plan you’ll need:

  • 2 hours — Initially this will take a few hours, but it’s a ongoing process. You plan, then you evaluate how things went. You plan, you evaluate. You get the idea.
  • Your Companions from Part I (if you had any).

The Action Plan has two sections:

  1. Sketch an initial plan.
  2. Evaluate your efforts.

Section 1 — Sketch an initial plan

Time to complete: 1 hour

If you already know the group of people you want to help, the problem you want to tackle or the place you want to help revitalize, then great! You’ve already made it further than most people in writing yourself into a story of need. Your next step is to learn as much as possible. Among other things, that means doing some research, getting some hands-on experience, meeting some new people and learning some new systems. The questions you need to answer at this point include, “Where do I start? What needs to be done? What’s already being done? Who can I partner with?”

Start by figuring out what you can do right now (or in the very near future) to write yourself into the particular story of need you have chosen. Ask yourself:

  • What minimum resources (time, finances, relationships, connections, etc.) do I need to get started? If you don’t have those minimum resources, that isn’t a reason to not begin, it’s a reason to begin gathering those resources!

Briefly describe:

  1. Your desire,
  2. How you’ll gain experience with the people, problem or place you have chosen,
  3. How you’ll meet “experts” working with that group of people, problem or place, and,
  4. What you’re going to do on a practical, hands-on level to begin to write yourself into that story of need.

For example, you could say, “(1) I have a heart for helping homeless people, so this weekend I will: (2) go meet some homeless people, (3) set a meeting with the director of the local homeless shelter, and (4) put together some “curb kits” for people asking for help at stoplights.

No matter what you decide to do, make sure you take proper safety precautions — make sure someone knows where you’re going and what you’re doing, and if possible, do whatever you decide to do in a group or at least with a trusted friend, family member or coworker.

If you’re still unsure where to start, ask yourself:

  • Where is my industry/work/discipline in pain? How could I help alleviate it?
  • How could a group I’m a part of make a difference together in our community?
  • Where are people in my neighborhood or city in need? How could I help them?
  • What are the one or two biggest problems/places/people in need that stand out to me as I listen to the radio, watch the news or go about my daily life?

Once you get some experience with a particular group of people, a problem or a place, you can begin to think long-term. Same as before, briefly describe:

  1. Your long-term dream or desire
  2. How you’ll really get to know people in need and learn what would really help them
  3. How you’ll partner with experts and identify the cracks in the current system, and,
  4. What you will do now to lay the groundwork for realizing your dream.

For example, “(1) I want to help end homelessness in my area, so I will: (2) get to know as many homeless people as possible and find out what put them on the street and what keeps them on the street, (3) form a coalition of families, existing non-profits and local government, because they currently don’t work well together in my community, and (4) create ways to make sure no one slips through the cracks — a homeless hotline, a new homeless shelter, a list of people who will temporarily take people in off the street, a job center, a substance abuse center, etc.

Section 2 — Refine your efforts

Time to complete: 1 hour

After each attempt to live into your new story, take some time to evaluate how things went.

  • What went well? What did I like? What felt right about it?
  • What didn’t go well? What didn’t I like? What didn’t feel right about it?
  • What problems do I keep running into?
  • What did I learn about myself?
  • What did I learn about the people, problem or place I am getting to know?
  • What do I still need to learn in order to do a better job of serving people in need or addressing the issue I’ve chosen?
  • Who else do I need to talk to or learn from in order to take my next step?

Use your answers to refine your continued involvement, whether you go back to the same place or group of people, or whether you try something different.

  • Get feedback from friends: does what I’m doing fit me? Does it do justice to my past, passions, gifts and dreams? Does it do justice to “the world’s deep hunger”? The more open and honest you all are, the more you’ll glean from the discussion. (Remember, input from others is just one tool that can help you put together your vocational puzzle, not the only tool.)
  • What choices do I need to make now related to how I spend my time, how I make my living and how I spend my money, how I find the strength to live the good story to which I feel called, and who I do it all with? (There are lots of ways individuals make decisions — intuition, imitation, conformity, chance — but “wise” counsel and the input of a community of people you trust can help a lot.)
  • How might I creatively reconstruct the different parts of my life to make it easier to write myself into this story of need?

Join a circle of like-minded individuals or groups for mutual encouragement and support, or form your own if none currently exist in your community. You might start with a fraternal order or faith community you’re a part of, your family or a group of your close friends. If you’ve gotten this far, please let me know what happens as put your plan into action!

In any case, WELL DONE — you’re two-thirds of the way there! Take a well deserved break, but remember, there’s one final crucial step to complete: GO EPIC Part III, developing the disciplines.