Pivot: How One Simple Word Can Change Your Life

Starting something new is much easier than transitioning something established.

Currently, I serve as lead pastor of the Mars Hill Baptist Church of Chicago. I succeeded my father, the late Rev. Dr. Clarence E. Stowers, Sr. who served for thirty-six years. The church I inherited was a traditional African American Baptist Church rich with tradition.

After five years of praying, meeting, teaching, leading, and building supportive teams, we transitioned to a contemporary church. During the process, I almost quit, but decided to pivot and stick it out. It was the best decision of my life. In life, you’ll eventually come to a crossroad. When it happens, you must decide if you’ll stick with it, quit, or pivot. How do you know which choice is best? I chose to pivot.

In life, you’ll eventually come to a crossroad. When it happens, you must decide if you’ll stick with it, quit, or pivot. How do you know which choice is best? I chose to pivot.

Top View of Business Shoes on the floor with the text: New Life - Old Life

So What Does it Mean to Pivot

I love sports, and when I hear the word pivot, immediately basketball comes to mind. When basketball players stop dribbling the ball, they must decide which foot is their pivot foot. Upon deciding, they can’t switch feet. Pivoting is the term used to define both the act of keeping one foot in place while moving the other and the actual foot which remains on the ground.

Keeping one foot in place is necessary when a player stops dribbling the ball but wishes to reposition himself for a pass or shot. A player may rotate and move around as long as one foot remains in place, on the floor. The foot chosen is known as the “pivot”, or “pivot foot”, and if it comes off the ground, or otherwise shifts position away from its original spot on the floor, a travelling violation will be called.

Knowing What To Do Is Only Half The Battle

Seventeen years ago, our church had plateaued. Although we had great leaders, strong attendance, and debt-free facilities, I was worried. Why? Our congregation was getting older, and children were as rare as an Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

Instinctively I knew we needed to change course, but I couldn’t be certain where the new one would take us. Our best years were not behind us; they were ahead of us. It was time to pivot.

It’s hard to know when it’s the right time for you to pivot, but having a vision and mission play a key role. In the case of our church, I probably would’ve missed the window of opportunity if we were not clear on our vision and mission. When both are clear, they are your pivot foot, allowing you to remain firmly planted, while charting a new course. If organizations can pivot, so can you.

In the case of our church, I probably would’ve missed the window of opportunity if we were not clear on our vision and mission. When both are clear, they are your pivot foot, allowing you to remain firmly planted, while charting a new course. If organizations can pivot, so can you.

Is it Time for a Life Pivot

The idea of a pivot is changing the direction of your life while staying grounded in your mission and vision. Before you pivot, make sure your goals, mission, vision, or purpose in life are firmly planted. Wise People change direction quickly but stay grounded in their vision and purpose in life (mission).

Goals, methods, and strategies change, but your vision and mission remain constant. They instinctively keep their pivot foot on the vision and mission while looking towards possible future. To pivot doesn’t mean you abandon your idea or your vision. It means you must be willing to change your method, strategy, and approach.

How To Know When To Pivot

When I assumed my pastoral duties, I could have sat back and enjoyed the ride. But that would’ve meant death by a thousand cuts. We all face choices. Looking back on the decision I made to pivot, I remember three alarming triggers:

  1. It’s time to pivot when you have a clear vision (a picture of what could be and should be) and mission your purpose why you exist).
  2. It’s time to pivot when you are unsatisfied about where you are but excited about where you’re going. If you’re unsatisfied with a certain area of your life, things will probably only get worse with time. Being miserable in one are of life negatively influences all other areas.
  3. It’s time to pivot when the methods and strategies that worked in the past no longer work in the present. You can’t solve today’s challenges with yesterday’s thinking.

What would you add to my list of triggers? Are you ready to pivot? Do you have a clear vision and mission about your life? I’d love to hear your comments.

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