John Maxwell on Leadership

Without a Plan, You’re Growing Nowhere


Personal growth doesn’t happen by accident. It’s not an automatic process. If you want to guarantee growth, then you need a plan—something strategic, specific, and scheduled. Motivational speaker Earl Nightingale said, “If a person will spend one hour a day on the same subject for five years, that person will be an expert on that subject.” Isn’t that incredible? It shows how far we are able to go when we have the discipline to make growth a daily practice.

A plan for growth requires you to…

1) Set aside time to grow.

For 13 to 20 years, depending on how long we stay in school, the educational system challenges us to learn. Yet upon graduation, many people almost never pick up a book. Going to the next level in your career demands that you take responsibility for continuing your personal growth.

The secret to success is determined by your daily agenda. You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. Be practical about personal growth—literally put it on your calendar. Never rely on enthusiasm to replace rigorous discipline and a detailed plan. Oftentimes, we get hyped up to learn something new, and then quickly abandon the project as soon as our initial excitement subsides. To sustain growth, we need to schedule it.

2) Identify your areas of growth.

Choose to grow in the areas of your strengths, and NOT in the areas of your weakness. Making this commitment requires us to swim against the prevailing cultural current. We’re taught to be well-rounded and to improve our weaknesses. However, in many arenas of life, we naturally perform poorly. Even with hard work, we will never become better than average in them. The reality is that people don’t pay for average. No one gets excited to dine out at an average restaurant, to spend two hours watching an average movie, or to hire someone with average abilities.

Success comes when we identify our natural talents, and then work diligently to develop them into extraordinary skills. Concentrate on fine-tuning your strengths, on climbing from above-average to excellent in an area, rather than on shoring up your weaknesses. When you stray from your strengths, you not only limit yourself, but you also negative impact your team.

3) Find resources in your area of growth.

People keep a poker close to the fire so that they can stir the coals and keep the fire hot. In the same way, stay close to passionate people who stir up your curiosity. Associate with fellow learners who will challenge your thinking and inspire you to grow.

In addition to finding people who will encourage your growth, track down great content and file it away for future reference. Leaders are readers. They’re hungry for insights and when they come across knowledge, they have a system for storing it up for eventual use.

4) Apply what you have learned.

The whole exercise of seeking knowledge is fruitless unless you find a way to apply what you have learned. One helpful practice is to follow the 24-hour rule. Every time you’ve learned something significant, share the lesson with someone else within 24 hours. If you do not practice or pass along what you have learned, then it will not become part of your life and you’ll lose it.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

Growth is the great separator of those who succeed and those who do not. Consider the follow questions:

  1. When are you growing?
  2. In which areas are you growing?
  3. Who is helping you to grow?
  4. How are you applying what you learn?

If you don’t have a solid answer to one or more of the questions, then take some time to develop a more intentional plan for your personal growth.


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