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The Difference Between Accidental Growth and Intentional Growth

By Maxwell Leadership | November 8, 2022
The Difference Between Accidental Growth and Intentional Growth

September 22, 1963. A car full of young men on their way home to Madrid takes too sharp of a turn at more than 100 miles per hour. The car skids, leaps off the road, and sends three of the passengers flying from the vehicle.

Miraculously, everyone survives.

However, one of the young men – a promising up-and-comer in professional soccer – walks away with a compressed nerve in his spine. His dreams of a sports career are dashed. He will have to work hard to even walk again.

As he recovers, his nurse suggests he takes up guitar to improve his dexterity. He takes her suggestion, and it’s not long before he discovers he has a knack for music.

That young man was Grammy-award-winning singer-songwriter Julio Iglesias – Spain’s most successful musician and one of the best-selling musicians in the history of the industry. He has sold more than 100 million records since releasing his first single in 1968 – all because his life took a hard left turn.

But what if it hadn’t?

Are you growing by choice or by chance?

One of the world’s most impactful music careers was born by a complete fluke. What if he’d never picked up the guitar? Would the world have waited 10, 20, 30 years for his music – if he ever wrote any at all?

Yes – we can grow by accident. But hope is not a strategy. Growth is our only guarantee that tomorrow will be better than today, and that, we cannot leave up to chance. Even if we take every opportunity that comes our way, we leave potential on the table when we don’t seek out growth.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” What we choose changes us – and no choice is very much a choice.

Are you choosing growth, or are you chancing it? The 3 major differences between accidental and intentional growth will help you self-assess.


Time, money, energy, connection. What do all these things have in common? They’re resources – you can leverage them to achieve your goals.

But there’s one that’s different from the others: time. You can earn more money, restore your energy, and connect with new people, but you’ll never get lost time back. That makes time your most valuable resource.

Those who value growth at all know that they must act on opportunities to grow. But accidental growth waits for those opportunities; intentional growth looks for them, or even creates them. Accidental growth plans to start tomorrow, while intentional growth knows that today matters. Accidental growth learns from mistakes, but intentional growth seeks out insight to try to learn before them.


Anyone who tries to grow knows it is not easy. Growth does not happen when we are comfortable; it happens when we are encouraged to rise to a challenge.

Accidental growth and intentional growth have polarized priorities. Accidental growth prioritizes convenience. Once growth becomes difficult, those who grow only by accident will quit early on and fall back into old habits.

Those who are intentional about growth make it the center of all their decisions. A challenge is just something they’ve got to get past in order to see their growth realized. This priority gives them determination – they persevere and keep their new, goal-oriented habits, rain or shine.


Of course, what’s at the center of growth is what’s at the center of everything: belief.

You may have heard the Henry Ford quote, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” His words speak to the power of personal conviction, the driving force behind everything in human history.

Accidental growth is passive and intermittent because it is hopeless. It believes that growth can only be achieved by chance – that getting better is a matter of luck, skill, and timing. We procrastinate because we cannot see possibility, and we fail often because we do not see our own free will. We do not recognize the power of choice. This leaves us thinking like victims.

Instead, intentional growth is convinced of its ability. It sees growth as a matter of time, not timing; of strategy, not skill; and of effort instead of luck. All of these, we have control over. Instead of thinking like a victim, intentional growth thinks like a student. Intentional growth is always asking, “How can I use this to grow?”

What are you doing to choose growth?

At Maxwell Leadership, our heart is personal growth and development. It is so much part of our DNA that at our twice-annual event, the International Maxwell Conference, we have an entire day dedicated to personal growth – and we’d like to invite you to join.

On March 13, 2023, join Dr. John C. Maxwell and his panel of personal growth experts at the Marriott World Center in Orlando, Florida (or remotely!) for an entire day of growth and development training. Not only will you connect with other professionals passionate about achieving their full potential, but you’ll also go home equipped with an intentional action plan to begin putting in place same-day.

You can register for Personal Growth Day here – we would love to grow with you!

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