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The 4-Step Process to Grow Past Any Obstacle

By Maxwell Leadership | July 11, 2023
The 4-Step Process to Grow Past Any Obstacle

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.

Have you ever felt that you were just stuck in some aspect of your life?

You want to advance in your career, but you seem to have stalled. You desire to improve your relationship with your spouse, but you don’t seem able to break new ground. Or you hit a plateau in your health, and nothing you do seems to advance your efforts. How do you overcome such stagnation? Here’s what a lot of people do: They make external changes. They look for a different job, leave their spouse, or give up exercising.

The better solution is to pursue internal changes. External changes generally only relieve symptoms of stagnation temporarily. If you get a different job, the newness of it and the fresh challenges it brings may thrill you for a while, but when that wears off—a few weeks, months, or years later—you will be faced with the same old problems. The same is usually true for second marriages. And if you give up exercising, your health will only decline.

However, if you make personal growth your goal, then your focus is on changes you can make on the inside. You become better equipped to face career challenges. You discover new ways to relate to your spouse. You find ways to improve your eating or maximize your exercise. You gain the potential to break the stagnation and improve your situation without some of the losses of career changes, broken relationships, or neglected health.

Strategic Action Over Time Results in Maximum Growth

Personal growth is the most direct pathway to your goal, no matter what you’re trying to accomplish. Consider these 4 steps for prioritizing your personal development:


In 1972, high school swimmer John Nabor watched the Olympics on television and was inspired. He was already an excellent swimmer, but he began thinking about making the leap to become an Olympic-caliber athlete. He figured he would have to lower his time by four seconds in four years. For the average swimmer, that might not be too difficult, because there’s a great distance between average and excellent. But for someone like Nabor, who was already well-trained, that seemed impossible. Elite racers think in terms of improving by fractions of a second.

Thinking about that fact, he suddenly figured out how to approach the task. If he planned to train ten months a year for the next four years, he would have to improve by a tenth of a second every month. It was still a great challenge, but he believed he could do it and be ready for the 1976 Olympics. Nabor had the right idea. And it worked. He came home with five medals, four of them gold.

If we want to be successful in our growth, we must adopt a similar mindset. If we desire to improve a little every day and plan it that way, then we can make great progress over the long haul.


Flowers bloom. Trees bear fruit. Babies grow into children, children into teens, and teens into adults. All around us, we see growth happening naturally – and that can lead us to believe that personal growth happens naturally as well. If only that were true!

As we go through our lives, we can count on change. But change does not necessarily equal growth. In order to experience personal growth, we must be intentional about it. Put time on the calendar to grow, and put a plan in place to maximize that time.


You may be familiar with Richard Biggs’ famous quote, “The greatest gap in life is the one between knowing and doing.” But you may not know that bridging that gap begins with writing things down.

If a quote, story, or idea speaks to you in your learning, file it away for yourself. Not only will this habit yield a great harvest of material for your future use, it will also keep you more highly focused, force you to evaluate what you’re reading, and help you to bypass the junk and go for the good stuff that will stimulate you and help you grow.


Mike Abrashoff, author of It’s Your Ship, says, “Up is not an easy direction. It defies gravity, both cultural and magnetic.” Often the most difficult part of the upward climb of growth is putting into practice what you learn. Yet that is where the true value is. The final test of any learning is always application. If what you’re learning can be used in some way to help and improve you or others, then it is worth the effort.

If you REALLY want to seize the opportunities for growth…

Then you will want to join us for one day in August in Orlando for Day to Grow! This is your chance! Day to Grow will feature major speakers like John C. Maxwell, Ally Love, James Clear (author of Atomic Habits) Juliet Funt, and Ryan Leak. Want to know more? Click here for the full event information.

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