This blog post has been adapted from Dr. John Maxwell’s personal productivity resource, Today Matters. John Maxwell has been one of the world’s foremost leadership and personal growth experts for more than 40 years, and this guidebook for success planning contains invaluable insights. You can pick up a copy here.
What were you born to do? What do you think your future holds? Do you believe you have a purpose or a destiny? If so, will you fulfill it?
In Choices, Frederic F. Flach writes, “Most people can look back over the years and identify a time and place at which their lives changed significantly. Whether by accident or design, these are the moments when, because of a readiness within us and a collaboration with events occurring around us, we are forced to seriously reappraise ourselves and the conditions under which we live and to make certain choices that will affect the rest of our lives.”
Commitment is the Key to Success
Think about a time in your life when you made a real commitment to do something differently. Didn’t your life change as a result? It may not have turned out exactly as you expected, but it undoubtedly set you on a new course. If you want to change, you must embrace commitment.
As you strive to keep your commitments daily, keep the following in mind:
DON’T RELY ON TALENT ALONE.
If you want to reach your potential, you need to add a strong work ethic to your talent. Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow shared much insight when he wrote:
The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.
If you want something out of your day, you must put something in it. Your talent is what God put in before you were born. Your skills are what you put in yesterday. Commitment is what you must put in today in order to make today your masterpiece and make tomorrow a success.
FOCUS ON CHOICES, NOT CONDITIONS.
In general, people approach daily commitment in one of two ways. They focus on the external or the internal. Those who focus on the external expect conditions to determine whether or not they keep their commitments. Because conditions are so transitory, their commitment level changes like the wind.
In contrast, people who base their actions on the internal usually focus on their choices. Each choice is a crossroad, one that will either confirm or compromise their commitments.
When you come to a crossroad, you can recognize it because…
- A personal decision is required.
- The decision will cost you something.
- Others will likely be influenced by it.
Your choices are the only thing you truly control. You cannot control your circumstances, nor can you control others. By focusing on your choices, and then making them with integrity, you control your commitment. And that is what often separates success from failure.
Nothing stokes commitment like single-minded effort that results in achievement. A great example of that truth can be found in the story of English minister William Carey. Although he had only an elementary education, by the time Carey was in his teens, he could read the Bible in six languages. Because of his talent for languages, when he was in his early thirties he was chosen to be a missionary to India. Six years later in 1799, he founded the Serampore mission. A few years after that, he became professor of Oriental languages at Fort William College in Calcutta. He also used his talent with languages in becoming a publisher. His press at Serampore printed Bibles in forty languages and dialects for more than three hundred million people.
To what did Carey attribute his success? How was he able to accomplish what he did? He said it was because he was a “plodder.” Describing himself, Carey said, “Anything beyond this will be too much. I can plod. That is my only genius. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.”
DO WHAT’S RIGHT EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT.
Thomas A. Buckner said, “To bring one’s self to a frame of mind and to the proper energy to accomplish things that require plain hard work continuously is the one big battle that everyone has. When this battle is won for all time, then everything is easy.”
Elite athletes understand this truth. When the Olympic athletes come into the stadium during the opening ceremonies and prepare to participate in the games, one of the things they do is recite the following:
“I have prepared.
I have followed the rules.
I will not quit.”
Anyone who can say that with integrity can be proud of themselves, no matter what happens afterward. As Arthur Gordon, author of A Touch of Wonder, said, “Nothing is easier than saying words. Nothing is harder than living them, day after day. What you promise today must be renewed and redecided tomorrow and each day that stretches out before you.”
If you do what you should only when you really feel like it, you won’t keep your commitments consistently. Author Ken Blanchard says, “When you’re interested in something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.” If you refuse to give in to excuses, no matter how good they may sound or how good they will make you feel in the moment, you have the potential to go far.
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