In I Corinthians 9: 24-27, the Apostle Paul shares some challenging words:
24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.
25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way as not beating the air;
27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
It strikes me that Paul knew where he was going in life. He was not aimless. He had clear-cut objectives for his life.
I am reminded of a conversation that John Maxwell had forty years ago that radically changed his life. He was having breakfast with Kurt Kampmeir at a Holiday Inn in Lancaster, Ohio. While they were eating, Kurt posed this question:
John, what is your plan for personal growth?
Never at a loss for words, I tried to find things in my life that might qualify for growth. I told him about the many activities that I was engaged in throughout the week. And I went into a speech about how hard I had worked and the gains I was making in my organization. I must have talked for ten minutes, until I finally ran out of gas. Kurt listened patiently, but then he finally smiled and said, “You don’t have a personal plan for growth, do you?”
“No,” I finally admitted.
“You know,” Kurt said simply, “growth is not an automatic process.”
Maxwell realized that, in order to grow, you have to have a plan for growth.
Last year I turned 60, and it has been a time of real reflection for me as I move into the fourth quarter of life. One of the great truths that has become apparent to me is that I you really want to grow and develop any area of your life, you must be intentional. You have to have a plan for growth, or it will never happen. This is true in your spiritual life, marriage, career, finances, and your intellectual life.
The problem is that most people don’t understand this, and it explains why, for so many people, there is a great gap between the life that they aspire to lead and the one that they are actually living. It explains why so many adults live with such great disappointment.
For me personally, several years ago I encountered a principle regarding personal growth that has powerfully impacted my own life. It is called the Vector Principle, and I first read about it in Jerry Foster’s book, Life Focus.
Vector, a term in mathematics and physics, quantifies the speed and direction of an object. If you were the pilot of a jetliner, you would use vectors to define the course to your destination. When you are given a new vector by the control center, you turn the plane to line up with that heading on the compass, creating a new vector angle.
Obviously, even the smallest vector change in the cockpit can make a big difference in the plane’s ultimate destination. Though it may seem an imperceptible change, with every mile traveled you are farther from your previous course. For example, upon leaving New York, you could make a tiny vector change while flying to reach Seattle, yet you could end up in Los Angeles instead.
The Vector Principle applies to our lives in the same manner. Even if you never fly an airplane, you are vectoring through life by the choices you make. You are currently on a course that was determined by choices you have made since you were aware of your capacity to choose. Many of these choices seemed rather insignificant at the time, but small changes make a big difference over time.
This is significant. Small changes make a big difference with the passage of time. Most people do not realize it, but the most significant achievements in life are the result of many little things done in a single, strategic direction.
Therefore, at the beginning of each year, I seek to make three or four small but relevant changes in the most strategic areas of my life. After thirty or forty days they become habits. And these habits create a ripple effect as the years go by.
I read recently where Pat Williams, former NBA coach and currently senior vice-president of the Orlando Magic, was having dinner with the legendary basketball coach, John Wooden. At one point during the meal, Williams asked Coach Wooden, “Coach, if you could pinpoint just one secret of success in life, what would it be?”
Coach Wooden thought about it for a minute and responded, “The closest I can come to one single secret of success is this: a lot of little things done well.”
My prayer for you in 2015 is that you will prayerfully select and get on a path that leads to growth in the most significant areas of your life.
If you would like to read more about intentionally seeking growth, we suggest that you read Richard’s most recent book, A Life of Excellence. The link to the book at Amazon is here: