"What do you do to stay so 'on' all the time?" the man asked me. I mumbled out some sort of answer and asked him a similar question. We finished our time together and parted ways, but his question stayed with me.
Am I really 'on' all the time? I thought.
No, not really, I thought to myself, doubting whether anyone could truly be 'on' all the time.
Still, I am fairly excited and enthusiastic most of the time, and most days I awake super-charged to plow into the work that I do. I am blessed, love what I do, and don't want to waste any chances I've been given.
Also, however, I've been well taught. Years and years of listening to audio CDs, attending conferences and seminars, reading thousands of books, and hanging around similarly driven individuals, have all combined to make me what I am today. One of the biggest lessons I've taken from all this experience is the following: a successful, happy, contributing life comes from proper 'personal management.'
Management can mean the proper, disciplined, responsible application and stewardship of something valuable. It follows, then, that personal management is the proper, disciplined, responsible application and stewardship of one's life, health, time, resources, energy, and blessings. And it can be seen that those who accomplish the most and seem to be the happiest are those who do the best job with their personal management.
In other words, how well you manage yourself determines what you achieve and how much you fulfill your God-given potential.
Wait! Before you tune out thinking this is just so much motivational drivel, stop and ask yourself some questions:
1. How well do you do in the category of 'personal management?'
2. Does your life demonstrate self-discipline and a responsible shepherding of the gifts and privileges you've been given?
3. Do employ your time wisely?
4. Do you keep yourself fit and in good health?
5. Do you have goals in life you are pursuing, directly and through a specific game plan?
6. Do you have a financial plan so you can deploy the most possible resources toward your life's purposes?
7. Do you feel a special pull to accomplish something particular in your life?
If most of your answers to these types of questions (and I could expand that list indefinitely) are in the negative, you may need to begin doing a better job managing yourself. After all, it's for your own good and happiness. People sometimes avoid the terms 'discipline' and 'accountability' and 'stewardship' and similar topics because they don't like putting themselves under pressure. But one of the paradoxes of life is that we are the happiest when under pressure, especially when that pressure is the healthy, self-applied variety.
So what do you need to do to begin managing your life more productively? What must you do to stop wasting time, energy, health, and resources and instead begin living a vibrant, productive, disciplined, happy life? Here is a partial list of things to consider and steps to take that may be helpful.
1. Pursue your purpose. Aimlessness results from not aiming at anything. Without a burning purpose, time and energy is wasted poking around through the days of your life and accomplishing nothing. Discovering your purpose is a little like an archaeology project, you uncover it a bit at a time. Begin before any more is wasted.
2. Find someone (or several someones) to serve. Our problems usually diminish when we help other people with theirs. We gain perspective and receive blessings from sharing what we have with others in need. It is impossible to be entirely self-serving when you are busy serving others. Whenever I deal with someone who is embroiled in tremendous trifles and poor self-management, I always inquire to find out whom they are serving besides themselves. The answer is almost always, "no one."
3. Cultivate the awareness of the passing of time. You will not live forever, and each passing day is an evaporating gift. One thing I will never understand is the people who are living as though they've got forever. They waste time, frit away their days, and plow through entire swaths of the calendar without doing anything meaningful or important. You will regret the time you wasted that you can't re-get.
4. Foster a little disappointment in yourself. This won't work for some personality types, perhaps, but I think it's healthy to stay a little unhappy with oneself. I don't ever want to be satisfied with my performance or think I've arrived. I don't want to grow complacent or lose my edge. Therefore, I zero in on areas where I obviously need to improve, and use these to motivate myself to heightened commitment and better results.
5. Shut out the world a little bit. A lot of what comes in to us is negative and destructive, while much of the rest is distracting. Learn to block out the noise from time and time and garner for yourself moments to think, pray, study, and live uninterrupted.
6. Plug into sources of power. First and foremost is to understand who you are and who's you are. Get your life right with God. Further, plug into information sources that are educational, uplifting, practical, and edifying. Read the good books (including the Good Book), listen to instructional audios, attend conferences, and learn to feed your brain the food it needs to stay active at a high level. I once asked a busy, active, 83 year-old billionaire what his secret to health and vitality was. His answer was to keep your brain going so fast that it can't atrophy.
7. Improve your associations. We become a lot like the people we hang around the most. To improve your life, improve the quality of the people you allow into it. Be intentional about this and choose your friends and associates wisely.
8. Set goals. Chasing after something specific is exhilarating and productive. When we have a goal, all sorts of ideas and plans pop into our head to help us relieve the 'pressure' the goal provides. Suddenly we are alive with the idea of pursuit and we are busy about something definite.
9. Develop game plans. Game plans are the attempted routes toward the accomplishment of goals. They don't always work out, but they at least get us started down the road to victory. Chart a course and set sail. You can't arrive if you don't depart.
10. Allow rewards. When you increase your self discipline, it is a good idea to reward yourself along the way. When you hit a little goal, give yourself a tiny, commensurate treat. This reinforces the behavior and proves to yourself that all the effort is paying off. It cements the productive behavior as a new, worthwhile habit and encourages further growth in that direction.
Consider this: There is nothing more common than someone who is out of shape physically, or has all sorts of relationship problems, or has money problems, etc. Anybody (and sometimes is seems as if it's most everybody) gets themselves off track and into these categories. But it doesn't have to be that way. It doesn't have to be you!
Poor personal management is to blame; it was the road that got them there. But the good news is that personal management can also be the road out. So put some more effort into your personal management today and take the baby steps to where you want to be.
No one can do it but you.