John Maxwell on Leadership

The Secrets of Success, Week Two: Personal Growth


Have you ever noticed how small children spend a lot of time talking about “one day”?

“One day, I’ll be big enough to ride that ride.”

“One day, I’ll be able to make my own decisions.”

“One day, I’m going to have a pony.”

When you’re a small child, you want to be a big adult. You don’t pay attention to the details of adult life. You just see that adults – big people – get more privileges, get to have more fun.

What we don’t understand until we’re adults is there’s a price to pay for growing up. You have to go to work – every day. You have to take care of things around the house – every day. You have to pay attention to things like bills, car maintenance, emails, and projects – every day.

Children think about “one day.” Adults think about “every day”.

Here’s the truth: if we want to grow, if we want get “big,” we have to get intentional about “every day”.

Last week I started the Secrets of Success blog series to highlight the three most impactful decisions you can make for your life. The idea is that the secret to your success lies in what you do each day. We began with health, because your body is a crucial asset. If you take care of it, it will take care of you!

This week, I want to focus on personal growth. And just like we must be intentional about our health every day, we must also be intentional about our personal growth.

Unfortunately, many people treat personal growth as a by-product of life. They seem to think if they stick around long enough, they will magically accumulate maturity, wisdom, and skill. But acquiring the right seasoning to make a difference in the world takes more than longevity. It takes a commitment to get just a little bit better each day.

Here are two things you can do daily to help your personal growth. They are simple, but just remember, simple to understand doesn’t always mean simple to execute.

Make Growth a Daily Priority

You’d be surprised at how many people fail because they don’t make growth a priority in their minds and schedules. They have every intention of growing and want to grow, but they lack the ability to translate their intention into action. They need something to help them get growing.

I’ve shared before about my Rule of 5. (Click the link if you haven’t heard of it before now.) It’s a simple but powerful system that helps me focus on the five small tasks I do each day to maintain my growth in certain areas.

For instance, if I want to continue to grow as a writer, I know I need to spend time each day reading, thinking, filing, asking questions, and—of course—writing! I could do all of those things each day without my Rule of 5, but I wouldn’t be nearly as intentional about it. One or more activities could easily fall through the cracks. It’s a simple system, but it helps me maintain my daily discipline of growing as an author.

To make growth a daily priority, make a Rule of 5 for personal growth. For example, if you want to get better at work, choose the five tasks, attitudes, or habits you need to emphasize each day to improve. It could look something like this:

  1. Begin each day with the the two most important tasks
  2. Spend time connecting with my supervisor and doing more than expected
  3. Return client emails in a timely fashion
  4. Choose to be positive with co-workers
  5. Leave my office tidy and ready for the next day

Which five things you include in your Rule of 5 is up to you; in fact, you should adjust your Rule of 5 as you grow! Creating the system is the important thing because it creates a pathway for daily growth.

Make Growth a Defined Pursuit

But maybe you’re not a systems person. Maybe you work best when your options are open. You can still be intentional about your growth if you’ll get intentional about your time. Start with defining your priorities, and then allot each a certain amount of time based on importance. Give your growth activities more weight than your rote activities, to minimize the distractions that might set you back.

A great example is the email inbox. Set a time limit for checking email, say maybe 20 minutes at the start of the day, 15 minutes at lunch, and 10 minutes before you leave to go home. It sounds severe, but you’d be surprised at how quickly email can eat quality minutes from your day.

Defining how much time you’ll give to your priorities allows you to utilize that time to its fullest. Chances are you allow more time than you realize to slip through your fingers. After all, rabbit holes aren’t just for public speakers; anyone can get lost in a task that doesn’t offer much value.

How ever you choose to go about it, remember that growth doesn’t just happen. You have to plan for it. It’s what Kurt Campmeier taught me when I was just starting my career, and it’s something I’ve repeated countless times. I’m so dedicated to it that I created the Maxwell Plan for Personal Growth, which takes you even deeper into intentionally choosing a life of daily improvement.

Remember, personal growth is the cornerstone for success. By being intentional about growing better every single day, you can experience incremental growth, “five good swings” at a time.


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