Leaders Avoid Subtle Traps (The Dr. Evil Game)

As a ministry leader, you will want to set goals for yourself and for your ministry. Goal-setting is actually biblical as Jesus himself has given the church a goal of sorts when he commanded us to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Yet so often we fail to reach our ministry goals or we see our plans be frustrated. Why is that? Of course, one answer is that things outside our control can sabotage our plans. Our world is broken by sin so things will naturally arise and derail our plans. But many times we makes ourselves fail. Through lack of discipline, lack of planning, or lack of communication, there are many ways that we can derail our own plans and goals.

How do we combat our own self-sabotage which leads to our failure in ministry? Annie Duke, in her book How to Decide, presents leaders with an important thought experiment which can help us overcome self-sabotage. She calls it the DR. EVIL GAME.

Imagine this scenario:

  1. Dr. Evil has taken control of your mind. He’s trying to “get you to make decisions that guarantee failure” (202).
  2. Here’s the twist! If you make obviously bad decisions, he’ll get caught. So his plan is to make you make subtle bad decisions (202).

Notice the difference? The obviously bad decisions we can weed out and avoid. But when a bad decision is SUBTLE and SMALL, we can make it over and over again, slowly derailing our plans and goals. This is how Dr. Evil makes you fail. “He gets you to make small, poor choices that hide in the shadows, keeping you from seeing how repeatedly making those decisions guarantees failure” (202).

For example, if he wants you to fail losing weight, he won’t just dump a truckload of pizza and ice cream at your door. No. He’ll tempt you with thoughts like, “I worked really hard today I deserve this one slice…” Then a day later, things go poorly for you, and you think, “Man, today was terrible. I deserve…” Until compromise by compromise, you’re not only NOT losing weight, but gaining it. In the moment, each of those decisions to eat the pizza and the ice cream was totally justifiable. And that’s the problem. It seems justifiable and thereby avoids detection as a bad decision.

Steps to Play the Dr. Evil Game

Here are the steps from Duke’s book as to how to play the Dr. Evil Game (203):

  1. Imagine a positive goal
  2. Imagine that Dr. Evil has control for your brain, causing you to make decisions that will guarantee failure
  3. Any given instance of that type of decision must have a good enough rationale that it won’t be noticed by you or others examining that decision.
  4. Write down those decisions.

An Example for a Ministry Setting:

  1. Image you want to raise up a new leader in the ministry.
  2. Dr. Evil is now controlling your brain, causing you to make decisions that will guarantee failure
  3. There things need a good enough rationale so as to be undetectable at first blush:
  4. Write them down:
    1. Not wanting to impose on the other person because you know they’re busy (so you don’t schedule time to disciple them).
    2. You say to yourself that you’re taking a “long haul” view with this person and they need more time (rather than challenging them to step up and lead).
    3. You think it’s just easier to do the task yourself (instead of equipping someone else for the work of ministry).

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