“If it’s not growing, it’s dying.”
At least that’s what I’ve heard said, and I think there’s a lot of truth to that statement.
I like to play the guitar. I’ve noticed that, if I don’t practice regularly, my skill level doesn’t stay at it’s peak. Instead, it declines until I get myself on a regular practice routine again, and then it starts to grow.
Wouldn’t it be cool if you could exercise and eat right until you had the body you desired, and then it just stayed that way forever? Heck yes it would!
We were designed to grow. It’s what we’re meant to do. Growth makes us happy, makes us healthy, and makes us wise. When we set goals to learn, to achieve, and to improve our health, we experience growth in the process of reaching those goals.
Unfortunately, many people just don’t grow. They get comfortable where they are and remain stunted, like 17 year-olds living in 30, 40, or 50 year-old bodies. This lack of growth often leads to discontent, relational dysfunction, and poor physical health. At the end of the day, life is just so much better when we make growth in our lives a priority.
I have found that there are four reasons why many people never grow. They are not huge obstacles, and anyone can overcome them. It just takes a little commitment to move forward toward being your best.
Personal growth requires humility.
Many people don’t grow simply because they don’t feel like they need to. Pride gets in the way of seeing areas of growth potential, and it’s just not teachable. When interviewing potential team members at our church, we always ask, “What do you think you could learn from being a part of the team?” If the answer is something like, “I think I could really help you guys out,” then that person doesn’t make the cut. Feeling like there is no need to grow is a sign of arrogance that usually leads to bigger problems down the road.
Personal growth requires an investment.
It takes time, energy, and sometimes money to intentionally grow. Want to grow as a parent? You’ll probably have to invest your time in reading a book. Want to grow in your physical health? You’re going to have to invest your energy into some exercise. Some people even invest their dollars into hiring a life coach when they want to see even greater growth. People don’t grow by just sitting there watching videos or trolling Facebook. It takes an investment. The investment, however, is totally worth it!
Personal growth requires focus.
We are such a terribly distracted culture. Our smartphones have set their hooks in us and we’ve become addicted to the dopamine hits we get from glancing from one digital novelty to the next. It requires focus to put down the phone and pick up a book. We must constantly make the decision to say no to momentary entertainment and say yes to personal growth. It is the only way to make the journey of growth without making a thousand unnecessary stops along the way.
Personal growth takes time.
Sometimes I’ll meet someone who refuses to take growth actions in their life because they “already tried that”. This usually means they went to the gym for a month or read the first two chapters of a book. Growth takes commitment. We can’t expect months (or years) of growth to take place from a half-hearted, commitment-less, weak-sauce attempt at improving our health, intellect, or spiritual condition. Make the commitment to stick to it until you reach the place you want to be!
That’s four but I know there are more. What are some obstacles you hit when attempting to grow? Share them below and we’ll talk about it.
Be teachable, make the investment, focus, and stay the course!
Have you ever felt stuck? I sure have!
Once, I spent over 5 YEARS trying to lose 10 pounds. I know that doesn’t sound like much, and you might be laughing at me right now for struggling with that for so long. I went to the gym faithfully, I used a calorie counting app, and I worked hard at reaching my target weight. My weight goal was behind a wall, and I just could not break through to it.
Every once and a while I’d get close. I’d drop a few pounds and, wham! Christmas would come. Or I’d go on vacation, gain it back, and struggle for months just to lose a couple pounds. Talk about stuck!
There are lots of ways to get stuck in life. We can get stuck in our health, in our relationships, our careers, and our personal growth, to name a few. It’s normal. It happens to the best of us and, if you’re feeling stuck right now, you’re not alone.
The danger is not in getting stuck. It’s in staying stuck. The problem is that, most of the time, we get stuck and only see one (or maybe two) ways to get unstuck. For example, I felt stuck in my weigh loss goals and believed the only way to get unstuck was through diet and exercise. It didn’t occur to me that there were other ways to lose weight.
Or, we might feel stuck in our career and believe the only way to get unstuck is going back to school. There’s something about being stuck that seems to limit our perspective, squelch creativity, and keep us from seeing the less than obvious options.
Today I want to give you a little exercise that you can do if you’re feeling stuck in a particular area. Are you ready? Let’s begin!
First, grab a sheet of paper and a pen. You’re going to do some writing. At the top of the sheet of paper, write “Ways to get unstuck in my ______________” Fill that blank in with the area you’re stuck in.
Next, as quickly as you can, you’re going to write out all the ideas that come to your mind for getting unstuck. Don’t worry about how crazy or unrealistic the idea is. The point is to warm up the ol’ noggin. Our brains are like muscles. If they’ve been performing the same actions, thinking the same thoughts, and haven’t been forced to think creatively in a while, then they need some exercise.
Set a timer for 5 minutes and just start writing!
For example, if you’re trying to lose a few pounds, you might write:
Work out 30 minutes a day
Take a walk after work
Eat only salad for a month
Take cold showers
Beat up Jillian Michaels
Drink a gallon of water a day
Give up soda and beer
Put up a mirror in the dining room so I can see myself eat (Yuck!)
Lock the refrigerator after 8:00pm and give my spouse the key
Get a Wii Fit
Park far from the door when I go shopping
Only take the stairs
Sweat to the oldies
You get the picture! Keep on writing until you have wrung out every last idea you can think of, or until the 5 minutes is up. If you want to really put the process on steroids, then ask a friend to join you.
Once you have your list, start eliminating the crazy ones. I’m certain that you will find at least one idea in your brainstorming list that is doable, maybe even enjoyable, and that you didn’t think of before. If you struggled with it, that’s okay. Like I said, your brain is a muscle, and this is a great way to exercise it. Take a break and do it again. Maybe get some inspiration by googling “Craziest way to _______________.” The answer to getting you unstuck exists. Others have been where you are, and gotten unstuck. You can do this!
Once you’ve chosen your idea (or two) DO IT! Envision yourself free from this stuck area, make a plan, and take action. You will be so glad you did!
So, you might be wondering how I managed to lose that last 10 pounds after all these years. I’ll give you a hint:
We all do it. We make goals that we hope will change our lives for the better.
Write a book.
Get out of debt.
Launch a business.
Lean a new skill.
The world is full of people with unfulfilled dreams, goals, and desires. At the beginning of every year, around 62% of people make New Year’s resolution. Only 8% of those resolution makers actually follow through.
The problem with most of us is that we just don’t understand the process of moving from where we are to where we want to be. We’re pretty sure we know where we want to go but there’s a disconnect, and that disconnect keeps us living in the land of dreamers instead of enjoying success.
The following are seven questions that, if answered thoughtfully, will greatly increase your odds of accomplishing your goals, and moving from frustration to fulfillment. They are questions that successful people have been asking themselves for years (I didn’t make them up) and I think they’re really going to help you.
1. is my goal achievable?
Let’s be honest. Sometimes we have crazy dreams. Not everyone who tries to become the next great movies star ends up on the screen. Some people work their entire lives to accomplish something, and it never happens. The tragedy is that, if they would have applied themselves to something else, they probably would have experienced massive success. Asking the achievability question will help eliminate pining for things that just aren’t going to happen.
2. How will i measure my progress?
A great goal is measurable. Dieters can measure their progress with a scale. Writers can measure their progress by checking their word count. Sometimes measuring progress just means drawing a mark on the calendar for every day that you worked toward your goal, and try not to miss a day. Find a way to measure progress and measure it every day.
3. Where am I now?
It’s hard to know if you’re moving forward if you don’t have a clear picture of where you are. What is your skill level? What are your resources? What are your giftings and passions? What is your current quality of life? Take inventory and write it down.
4. What is the deadline?
Great goals have a deadline. It eliminates “pie in the sky”, and “someday” thinking and lights a fire under you to git ‘er done. Share your deadline with a friend and ask them to hold you accountable. I have a friend who’s goal was to write a Life Plan for himself. When he wasn’t getting it done, I challenged him to have it written by a certain date or he had to buy me lunch at the most expensive restaurant in town. You better believe he got it done!
5. What are my obstacles?
This is where we get real about what’s holding us back. Do you have a hard time getting out of bed early? That might be an obstacle. Do you lack knowledge needed to accomplish your goal? That’s another obstacle. Too busy? Too tired? Too broke? More obstacles. Write them down and start brainstorming ways to overcome them.
6. What skills or knowledge is needed?
This flows beautifully from question 5. Personally, I have never achieved a big goal without having to read at least one book, take a class, or seek out loads of information. The best goals usually require some growth on our part so get ready to learn and be stretched.
7. What is my plan?
This is where it gets fun. Grab a notebook and pen and start charting your course from where you are to where you want to be. Write the names of books you’ll read, obstacles you’ll overcome, and who you’ll include on the journey. Turn the dream into tasks, and break those tasks into smaller ones. What can you do, every day, that will lead you to reaching your goal? Make a plan, discipline yourself to live it out, and delight in your accomplishment when you reach it!
Leaders are readers, and readers lead. At least that’s what I’ve always been told.
For 2017, I decided to make it my goal to read 15 books. I’ve read 17 so far and I’m working on number 18. I felt pretty good about myself for that, and then my wife told me she just finished reading her 40th book this year. (Insert comical wah wah wah wah trombone sound here.)
Anyway, I thought I’d share with you the five books that had the greatest impact on me in 2017. In no particular order, they are as follows:
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
In this book, Greg McKeown walks readers through the process of eliminating the non-essentials in life and work so that our efforts and energy have greater impact. It’s definitely one I’ll read again every year or two to keep the concepts fresh.
Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing
Dr. Joy DeGruy does an amazing job of explaining the impact that hundreds of years of slavery has had on American black culture. If you’ve ever scratched your head wondering about racial tension this is a great place to start.
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
Ever struggle to concentrate for more than a few seconds? Cal Newport writes about creating the conditions conducive to strong focus, problem solving, and life free from distractions. I’ve recommended this book to more people this year than any other.
How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels
N.T. Wright explains the gospels in a way I’ve never considered before. Incredible insights on the Kingdom of God, the coming of Jesus, and the role of the believer today. It might hold a personal record for most highlighted book!
Fathered by God: Learning What Your Dad Could Never Teach You
Here John Eldredge shares a pathway to manhood for a generation where Godly fathers were in short supply. Really helpful for understanding where you are along your life’s journey, and how you can make a contribution to the development of other.
That’s my list. If you have a book or two that were particularly impactful to you this year, would you mind sharing them in the comments? I’m building my list for 2018. Thanks!
I was recently invited onto a podcast to be grilled by the host for an hour.
I don’t know why, but conversations like this have always been difficult for me. I don’t answer questions “on the spot” very well, and I tend to freeze if the topic isn’t something I’m very knowledgeable about.
When I was younger, there were people in my life who would ask me questions about my faith, not in the spirit of exchanging ideas, but to try to make me look foolish. I honestly don’t know why your neighbor’s son was hit by a car, I’m not sure what happens to people who have never heard the gospel, and I have no idea if God can create a rock so heavy that even He can’t lift it.
Truth be told, I’m not much of a theologian. I’ve been reading through the Bible, over and over again, for around 30 years, and I’ve been in ministry for over 20. But I’m a Bible College dropout, and I’ve only read a small handful of books on theology. I know other people who are able to answer difficult questions much more concisely, and with greater confidence than I can.
Fortunately, the podcast was produced by a friend from our church, and it was done in the spirit of honest conversation, rather than an attempt to publicly debate me. Nonetheless, it was very uncomfortable. But, as I’ve been mulling the experience over for the last week, I’ve come to realize that there are some benefits to engaging in uncomfortable conversations.
They force you to really think. A lot of times, we just adopt our beliefs without giving much thought to them. We were taught certain things, they sounded good, and we accepted them. What we believe about God is the most important thing about us, yet we give more thought to the shoes we buy than the faith we buy into.
They make you dig deep. Let’s face it, most conversation we engage in is pretty shallow. It doesn’t take much thought, and doesn’t challenge us. But an uncomfortable conversation is like a workout. We have to search our memory for information we’ve read, observations we’ve made, and evidence we’ve accumulated. This is especially true if you don’t want to give answers like, “because the Bible says so” or “just because”.
They challenge you to decide where you really stand. I know that it’s important to pick your battles wisely. However, it’s also important to know what you believe, and not be wishy washy on certain issues. That doesn’t mean we become dogmatic or inflexible. It just means we move toward becoming established in our beliefs about what is important to us.
Lastly, uncomfortable conversations are humbling. I mean this in a good way. If you approach an uncomfortable conversation in the right spirit, you have the opportunity to learn what you don’t know, and you can start growing in that area. In the instance of the podcast, I was inspired to do some reading on the issues we talked about. I don’t want to merely postulate or philosophize. I want to actually know what I’m talking about.
If you’ve been avoiding uncomfortable conversations, I would encourage you to kindly engage in one in the near future. They are, well…uncomfortable, but so is exercising and learning new skills. Give it a try!
If you’d like to listen to my uncomfortable podcast conversation, click here.