We all have a tendency to dream about a better future. As children we dream of future activities and accomplishments. As we get older and a little more mature we refine those dreams, make them into New Year’s resolutions or even better we write them out as goals. When do these good ideas become a real personal growth plan?
However, a written goal is just a statement until we put action to it. John Greenleaf Whittier wrote, “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.'”
For me, I desire to be a better person a year from now than I am today. I want to be growing in my journey with Jesus. I want to grow to be a better husband and father. I want to keep growing as a leader. I want to grow.
The reality is growth doesn’t just happen; I have to work at it. If you want to grow, you have to work at it. So I decided a personal growth plan was in order. I will admit I have looked for that quick and easy plan to grow my spiritual life, my personal life and even in my leadership development. I have looked at what others have done and tried to “borrow” it, but there is no one size fits all growth plan. God made us different and so the specifics of our personal growth plans will be different. They will have similarities, but we are different so our growth plans should be different.
So how do we create a personal growth plan in our spiritual journey, our personal growth or our leadership development? We start by understanding some realities of growth.
5 REALITIES OF GROWTH: CREATING A PERSONAL GROWTH PLAN
1. Growth Starts by Following First.
Leonard Sweet wrote in his book I AM A FOLLOWER; “Over the last three decades, there has been a seismic shift across the landscape of the church… Seminars and conferences have become trendy leadership fitness centers. Titans of business and megachurch pastors serve as leadership fitness trainers, while books and periodicals deliver leadership steroids and growth hormones. The goal of such industry? To create better leaders, stronger leaders, to make and multiply leaders… Jesus didn’t recruit leaders for his ministry. He didn’t go to the local synagogue and place a notice on the bulletin board, announcing that he was taking resumes and setting up interviews for potential leaders. (Only the best and the brightest need apply.)… Jesus wasn’t looking for leaders at all. Jesus was looking for followers.” Any growth starts by following. Anything we hope to accomplish, any new level of spiritual, personal or leadership growth, begins by following the creator of all things! If you want to grow, start by taking time to Follow Jesus. This sounds simple, right? We are all there, right? Set an appointment with Jesus. Listen to the plan He has for your growth.
2. Growth is up to God, but you have to do the work.
Gary Newton, one of my former professors, discusses in his book Growing Towards Spiritual Maturity, Growth is up to God, but our effort diligence and responsibility for growth is ours. As we follow first, God will show us what to do, but we have to do it! No one is going to do all the heavy lifting of our growth plans for us. We have to do the work. We want to grow in our Journey with Jesus, we have to do what it takes.
3. Growth has to have a stretch in it.
John Maxwell talks about the Law of the Rubber Band in his book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. He states, “God’s gift to us: potential. Our gift to God: developing it. How do we do that? By getting out of our comfort zone. By continually stretching—not only physically but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Life begins at the end of our comfort zone. We go there by stretching.” Any kind of growth we are looking for will have to involve a stretch for us. If there is no stretch out of our comfort zone, there is no growth.
4. Growth is about moving forward.
This connects to the last point, “Growth equals change. If you want to get better, you have to keep changing and improving.” (John Maxwell, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader.) This has everything to do with our dreams and desires. If we are not growing we are not changing. If we want things to be different we have to create a personalized growth plan and work the plan. It is all about moving forward.
5. Growth is not a journey to take alone.
Follow First implies that we would not venture into a growth plan alone. The reality is many start by following and then find a rabbit trail to follow. If we are going to grow, we need to be sure that others are helping us along the way. Take some time to look into your past. Most of us will see the number of people that have helped us up to this point. Maybe it was a parent, youth pastor, teacher or coach. If they helped us get this far, shouldn’t we be looking for others to go with us on the next part of the journey?
So what do you dream about? What do you want to see change in your life during this next year? “To reach your potential you must grow. And to grow, you must be highly intentional about it” (John Maxwell, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth). Growth is not an accidental occurrence. Growth is something we plan for and work toward. So learn to follow well, work at it, be willing to stretch, and change.
Questions: In what areas of your life do you want to see growth?
Are you willing to do the work to grow with a personal growth plan?
After listening to Jesus, what is your next step?
This article originally appeared here.