John Maxwell on Leadership

The Secrets of Success, Week One: Health


Why is it some people always seem to get ahead?

How has that older couple kept the magic of their marriage alive all these years?

What does the fitness instructor at the gym, the one with the perfect biceps, know that you don’t?

It’s simple: the secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda.

That guy who’s always getting promoted knows he has to make decisions every day to grow better in his job. That couple celebrating 50 years of marriage knows they have to choose each day to love and honor their relationship. And the fitness instructor at the gym, the one with the perfect biceps, she knows you have to be disciplined in your daily choices in order stay fit and trim.

It’s the power of daily decisions. Everyone makes them – but not everyone makes them well. In my book, Today Matters, I outline how the key to being successful is determining ahead of time the decisions you will make and then managing them each day. The book takes a good long look at the twelve crucial decisions that shape our lives, and gives some powerful insights on how to manage those decisions each day.

But this is a blog, not a book. We only have so much space! That’s why over the next three weeks I want to focus on three critical decisions that impact everything else in your world. If you can win these three each day, you are on your way to living life successfully. We’ll cover one a week so you’ll have plenty of time to marinate on each one.

The first area I want to address is health. After all, you can’t do much of anything without your body and mind, can you?

As someone who hasn’t always taken his health seriously, I want to emphasize the importance of this area of your life. I took my health for granted until I had my heart attack in 1998 – and even after that, I struggled to embrace healthy living. Fortunately, I’ve gotten better over time. And I’ve discovered that there is no substitute for making daily choices to eat the right amount of nutritious foods and engage in the right amount of physical exercise. I talk regularly with my doctors to know what is safe and effective for me, and that’s a good place for anyone to begin.

You see, how you eat, how you exercise, how you choose to feel about the day, all have significant impact on your quality of life. If you eat poorly, it can make you feel tired. If you go to the gym early, it can be the kick start your day truly needs. Even something as small as waking up and saying to yourself, “Today, I will choose to be positive” can transform how you experience the day.

That’s what makes this decision so vital – the choices you make about your health affect everything else. And yet is there another area where people struggle more?

Quite often I hear people say they don’t have the time, or the resources, or the discipline to do better with their health. And my response is always the same.

“Yes you do. You just have to choose it.”

As simple as it sounds, that’s the truth. You can choose each day to live a healthy life. It doesn’t require a gym membership, or switching to a vegan diet, or anything more complicated than just making a decision you already know you need to make. It’s a two-step process, which I’ll explain right now:

1. I decide I will be healthy today.

2. I choose to eat, drink and do healthy things today.

That’s it! Nothing more to it – you simply repeat those two steps each day. But to give you some practical handles for this idea, allow me to suggest the following:

  • Instead of taking the elevator, take the stairs.
  • Instead of drinking a soda, drink water.
  • Instead of ordering the super-size meal, order the small.
  • Instead of parking next to the building, park farther away and walk.
  • Instead of ordering dessert, be content to pass.
  • Instead of allowing the day to dictate how you feel, choose to see the good in the day.

Your health is the accumulation of your choices, good or bad, over time. If you decide each day to make good choices, no matter how seemingly insignificant, those good choices compound as the days pass. You may not run a marathon on day two, but you might in year two – and that’s the point. When you choose each day to do what you can to be healthy, those choices add up.

I can think of no better decision I’ve made than the choice to manage my health. Every time I go to dinner with Margaret, or spend the weekend with my grandchildren, I’m reminded that the small sacrifices I make each day to be healthy give me so much in return. Because in the end, I’m not just choosing to be healthy for me; I’m choosing to be healthy for them as well.

My friend, you can do this. You can make the small choice to have a salad instead of a burger, to hear the compliment instead of the criticism, or to take the stairs instead of the elevator, and you can do it today. I promise you, if you’ll start today, and make the same healthy decisions tomorrow and the day after that, you won’t regret what you’ll gain.

You can be successful with your health. I believe in you – and I’m right here beside you.


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