Saturday, May 16, 2009

Paths and Principles

Book Review: The Principle Of The Path: How to get from where you are to where you want to be by Andy Stanley, published by Thomas Nelson.

I just spent a few conflicted hours with Andy Stanley's latest book. As usual, he delivers a powerful message, with biblical accuracy and pointed simplicity. The point of the book, and the principle stated plainly is: Direction - not intention - determines our destination. Later in the book he adds that our attention determines direction or what we focus on determines our path and our path determines our destination. It seems so obvious to me and yet I am also very tempted to lobby for an exception.

The book is well written. The author has used great examples from personal life and important passages from scripture to make the point that the choices we make determine our destination. The points are well explained and even argued as he understands well the questions one might ask. In fact we all ask many of the questions of this book and we all make many of the mistakes in the book as well. Who hasn't wished they could eat whatever they wanted or skip exercising without gaining weight (or worse)? Who hasn't wished there was some shortcut to happiness.

I understand and agree with the ideas in the book. I take responsibility for my choices of what I eat and how I spend my time; of the thoughts I choose to dwell on and the habits I've allowed. I take responsibility for those things and therefore I accept responsibility for where my life is after 51 years.

But there is little to encourage those of us who are a number of years or miles away from where we'd like to be. The book offers little more than a suggestion that we seek out a mentor or that we submit to God. Maybe there is little more than that for someone like me with several years of bad decisions behind them. This is a great book but I'm left more disappointed with my life for having read it. I don't know why. Maybe I'm arguing with submitting to God. Maybe I want to reserve the right to try to take shortcuts. But I felt after completing the book that the answer to the question "How do I get from where I am to where I want to be?" is that I can't get there from here. I have to go back in time or accept some compromise for a destination. The book seems to offer little regardless of my desire to change.

Therefore, I don't know how to recommend the book. I will probably offer it to some high-school graduates at my church, but I don't see recommending it to many of my friends at my age. I'm a big fan of the author's and I've appreciated his works like Next Generation Leader and Visioneering, which I both enthusiastically recommend. But I'm left with an empty recollection of The Principle Of The Path, wondering, contemplating where my life will end up now that I'm this far from my dream path.