The scariest moment of my life came on December 18th, 1998. I was celebrating at a company Christmas party with my employees and their spouses when I began to feel ill. At the end of the evening, an employee gave me a hug goodbye and noticed a cold sweat on the back of my neck. Suddenly, excruciating pain exploded in my chest, and I crumpled to my knees. As I laid on the floor in agony, waiting for the paramedics, it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I was glad my wife, children, and many of my closest friends were nearby because I honestly thought my life was coming to an end.

At the hospital, doctors informed me I had suffered a heart attack. They attended to me and tried several treatments, none of which seemed to be helping. Around 3:00 am, cardiologist Dr. Jeff Marshall arrived on the scene, and he performed an emergency operation to remove a small blood clot from my heart. His skillful care saved my life. Later, Dr. Marshall explained that the operation I had undergone was a new development in the medical profession. Had I suffered the heart attack a year earlier, he would not have known how to save me!


Pain accompanies change. One way or another it’s going to hurt to make adjustments in our lives. That’s the bad news. The good news is that we can choose the pain we endure. We have two options: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.

Of course, the wise choice is to select the pain of discipline. I love eating rich foods, from steaks to chocolate cakes, and there’s an emotional distress in bypassing the unhealthy dishes I enjoy the most. I also do not particularly enjoy trips to the gym. Especially after a draining day of work, I have little desire to go through the soreness and physical fatigue associated with working out. Yet, had I endured the mild discomforts of eating healthy and exercising, I could have avoided the excruciating pain of a medial emergency. I regret that it took a near-death situation for me finally to get serious about making changes to my health.


The longer you wait to make changes, the costlier they are to make. In 1998, I nearly paid the ultimate price for ignoring my physical fitness. Had I simply made a few tweaks to my weekly regimen as a young leader, and maintained them over time, I never would have found myself in that situation. Thankfully, I received a second chance. However, even after the scare of the heart attack, I have tremendous difficulty prioritizing my health. Ingrained habits aren’t easily overcome.


If you want to change your life, then you need to change something you do daily. In my case, I have learned that physical fitness doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a succession of healthy decisions, made each day, to see progress.


We tend to stay the same until it hurts so bad that we have to do something differently. In my case, the pain was sudden, severe, and possible to ignore. Yet, the warning signs were there all along, and how I wish that I had heeded them! I knew that I had gained weight, and friends had cautioned me about my fitness. However, since I felt relatively healthy, I avoided disciplining myself to eat better and to be more active.

In which areas of life do you see warning signs? Perhaps like me, your health needs attention. Possibly, there are relationships in your life that, unless they change course, are headed for disaster. Or, maybe a defect in your character threatens to derail you. Wherever you see warning sings, don’t delay in making a change. It’s far easier to prevent damage now than to repair it later.


  1. Mahadi Ademnur on November 18, 2018 at 1:54 am

    What an article ! What a lesson ! You are talking about me, not only you. You put me to a corner to think about myself seriously.
    Thank you so much !

    • Ben Watts on August 24, 2019 at 6:20 pm

      I love John Maxwell and today I had a heart attack and now I know I need to make changes.

      He always inspires me

  2. Peter Brown on May 24, 2019 at 9:49 am

    I’ve been a fan of yours from a distance for a decade and have read quite a few of your books. This blog post is exactly what I needed to hear, when I needed to hear it! As a church planter, it’s so difficult to create/find time to do anything outside of the go-go-go mentality required to launch a church. Yet I know that in these last few years I’ve had to sacrifice something and physical fitness and eating healthy were on the chopping block.

    I’m thankful it hasn’t taken a heart attack for God to get my attention in this area although the pressures of this calling sure have had me feeling pain – even much physical pain – at times.

    Thank you for your wisdom, as always!

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