Review: The Principle of the Path

I don’t know how Andy Stanley consistently communicates with such simplicity and power. Every time I read something by him or listen to him preach or give a talk at a conference, I find myself thinking, “That’s pretty self-evident.” Yet, then I realize how deep the topic or principle he shares with such clarity actually is. That’s one of his gifts. He is able to take complexity and transform it to simplicity.

Previously, I’ve reviewed three other books by him:

I picked up The Principle of the Path on sale, and after reading it, I wonder why it hasn’t been more talked about. The book is shaped around one very basic analogy – what path you’re on will determine your ultimate destination. Andy elaborates on that in a few very simple thoughts, including:

Direction, not intention, determines destination.

So many people wonder how in the world they “wound up” in their current situation. The answer is clear to their family and friends. They “wound up” where they are based on the decisions they made on the path they were heading. It’s an age-old problem. It’s hard to see above the walls of a rut. When you are doing life, day after day, you are making decisions, and every decision has a directional quality about them. Put together, those decisions that you make will put you one day in a destination.

Rationalizations for decisions have a radical power to determine your destination, as in:

  • Zero percent financing and no money down…
  • She makes me feel like I used to feel…
  • But he’s rich…
  • That’s how business is done here…

If you don’t want to wind up there, you need to start making decisions here. You can’t put off taking a u-turn. The longer you head in the same direction, the sooner you’ll wind up in a place you may not want to be. You must quit assuming you’ll always have time to change things.

Choosing the right path begins with submission, not information.

This particular reality is so glaringly obvious. A good example is doctors who smoke cigarettes. They have the information about what such an activity will do to their health. That information can’t change them. They must submit to the truth and adjust their lifestyle in order for it to change their path.

Andy has a great chapter about the importance of seeking counsel that relates to this principle that is powerful. In it, he urges us to quit seeking input from people in our same season of life.

Taking cues from people who share your season of life is the equivalent of asking for and following the directions of someone who’s never been where you want to go.

Using the example of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, in the Old Testament, Andy shows how the nation of Israel was fractured because Rehoboam listened to his peers rather than those older and wiser.

What gets our attention determines our direction, and ultimately, our destination.

Whatever we focus on, we will head toward. After all, it’s a principle in racing, archery, etc. You aim at something, and you’re most likely to hit it. Andy asks hard questions about what is it that you’re currently paying attention to? It has the power to determine your direction. He also points out that what we give our attention to will also capture our affection.

More from the Book

Perhaps you’ve heard someone make the argument that experience is the best teacher. That may be true, but that’s only half the truth. Experience is often a brutal teacher. Experience eats up your most valuable commodity: time. Learning from experience can eat up years. It can steal an entire stage of life. Experience can leave scars, inescapable memories, and regret. Sure, we all live and learn. But living and learning don’t erase regret. And regret is more than memory. It is more than cerebral. It’s emotional. Regret has the potential to create powerful emotions – emotions with the potential to drive a person right back to the behavior that created the regret to begin with. If regret can be avoided, it should be. (p7)

I live in a world of nodding heads and note takers who walk right out the door every Sunday and do very little with what they’ve heard. (p48)

We would do well to abandon the adage, trust your heart. Apparently, the heart can’t be trusted… If our hearts are deceitful by nature (Jeremiah 17.9), then it is no wonder we are so prone to deceive ourselves. (p69)

Your decision making environments are not emotionally neutral.. Emotionally driven decision making rarely leads us down the right path. (p103-104)

It is next to impossible to hear the voice of wisdom if we are not really listening for it to begin with. The best counsel in the world is wasted counsel if our minds are already made up… Pride is hard to see in the bathroom mirror. But it is awfully easy to see in the rearview mirror. (p129)

Asking for help doesn’t mean you lack wisdom – it’s evidence of wisdom. (p134)

Conclusion

The Principle of the Path is a great resource for anyone. I’d especially recommend it to graduating high school seniors and college students. It’s one of those powerfully practical books that can help shape your life wisely. Because it shares biblical counsel and connects it with 21st century living, its proactive message can save you a lot of time, hurt and wasted resources.

On this day...

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