It’s almost 2017…almost. Many of you are planning New Year’s Resolutions to accompany your celebration of the turning of another calendar year. It’s a common practice among those in our culture to deem the start of a new year as a time to suddenly start doing what’s important. However, if these resolutions were really something of great importance, would we not have started them the moment that we first realized their worth?
I’m not a big believer in the “New Year’s Resolution” as an effective means of conveyance to change the life of someone who has procrastinated upon the implementation of doing something really important in their life. If you really need a marker-date to start something good, there’s a numeric classification attached to every single day of the year. When you realize you need to start, pick that day and begin the process. Waiting for January 1st is only a sign that you really don’t hold this 'new thing' of any real importance, nor do you hold it in as high of a regard as you think you do...or probably should.
As the New Year approaches, we do have a moment to evaluate the activities of the previous year. We can probably classify all of these evaluations under the two categories of “successful” or “unsuccessful.” Our failures may outnumber our victories, and they probably will, but such is life. As some would assume, failing at something doesn’t always mean that we simply did a bad job or that we didn't put forth a good effort. Failure is a marker of effort. If you’ve never failed, then you’ve never tried. Let's be sure to understand that.
I love to read. Over the years I have read many books that compare the activities of those who are successful versus those who are not. Today, I wanted to share some of that information with you. Do with it as you will…
Successful people read everyday…Unsuccessful people do not
This is a fact grounded in almost every study that I have read. People who are successful take the time to read. Reading stimulates the mind. Read books, newspapers, articles online…read everything you can, anytime you can. Read the works of people you agree with, and read the thoughts of those you disagree with, as well! Reading enlightens us, and it opens up cognitive processes in our mind that are not touched by video games, television sitcoms, or movies. Many people have told me that they hate to read. If you hate to read, then you probably hate to learn. Successful people understand the importance of reading.
Successful people compliment…Unsuccessful people criticize
To be successful in our world requires a mind that can detect the positive hidden inside a sea of negative. Successful people are positive. They focus their energies on finding the positive and building upon it. Their mindset is one of optimism, and they don’t allow themselves to become entangled in the negative evaluation of others. Criticizing consumes portions of your mind (and ultimately your life) that you could be using to improve your own personal situation. Critics are almost always insecure people who are seeking to prop up their own deficits by exposing the deficits they see in others. When successful people identify a problem in their own organization, they engage their energies in finding solutions. They do not make excuses, and they do not compare their ‘bad’ to the ‘greater bad’ they see elsewhere. Successful people do not burn their energies on criticism.
Successful people embrace change…Unsuccessful people fear change
Change is a fact of life. For anything to grow, change is a requirement. When we fear change, we stifle what could be, settling instead for the comfort, and often complacency, of what has always been. The influences of change are certainly not always good, but simply fearing change for the sake of fear is foolishness. Adapt, overcome, and realize that success will most certainly be accompanied by some sort of change. Albert Einstein had it right with his notion that the definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result." A fearful person who refuses to change will never be successful.
Successful people forgive others…Unsuccessful people hold grudges
You will be “done wrong” in this life. If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s coming. Wait for it… People can simply be mean. They will try to lie, cheat, and steal their way to the head of the line. These individuals are not worthy of your time, so take a moment to be angry and move on. I am aware that this is a lot easier said than done, but forgiveness is a practice of the intelligent and successful, and it is a practice that is well worth your time. When you forgive someone who has perpetrated a wrong against you, then you are denying them a place in your mind…a place that should be filled with optimism, creativity, and focus. Holding grudges inhibits you in far too many ways to even discuss. Just let it go. Successful people always seem to be trailed by critics, and there's a reason that the critics are trailing and not leading. Winston Churchill once said: “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” Let them bark (they're going to bark anyway), and you move on with your life. Success demands it.
Successful people talk about ideas…Unsuccessful people talk about others
Unsuccessful people love to criticize and gossip. In my opinion, gossip is the tool of the feeble mind. It’s commonplace among those in our culture, but small and feeble minds are commonplace as well. If you want to succeed, then empty your mind of gossip, and focus your energies on the things that are relevant in your own personal pursuit of success. Talking about others only detracts from your own forward progress, and it makes you look as foolish as you are trying to make others look by talking about them. Be better than that. Be smarter than that. Frankly, if you’re going to be successful, then you don’t have time for the activity of gossip.
Successful people continuously learn…Unsuccessful people think they already know it all
About the time that I think I have a good handle on life, I learn that I really don’t. There is always something to learn, and there will always be something to learn. If you think that you know it all, let me assure you that your delusional belief is proof, all by itself, that you don’t. We can always glean something new from everyone that we meet, everything that we read, and every experience that we undertake. To think that we have all the answers is a sign of ignorant foolishness, and it will stagnate our growth and drop us hard at the doorstep of failure. Actually, it will throw us over the doorstep, through the front door, and right into the middle of the abode of failure. Don’t ever assume that you can’t learn something new everyday. Regardless of how good you are at something, there will always be someone better. Successful people seek out those who are more skilled than they, for the sole purpose of learning from them. When they find them, they are not intimidated by someone of greater skill or knowledge; instead, they should feel privileged to have the opportunity to learn something new. We don’t succeed by thinking that we know it all; we succeed by understanding that we don’t.
Successful people accept responsibilities for their failures…Unsuccessful people blame others for their failures
Like I said before, failure is definitive proof that you tried. When you try and fail, you should view that as a learning experience. If you truly failed because of someone else, then you have just learned a lesson... do not include them in the process again, under the same circumstances, without taking the time to help make them successful. However, successful people take ownership of their efforts. Always pointing fingers at others is a sign insecurity, and it will not lead you any further down the road to success. Pick up, adjust, reevaluate, implement, and continue on with the journey. Blaming others for your failures is a sign that you may not be mentally prepared for success, as success will always be preceded by some degree of failure. If you’re constantly trying to assign blame, then you’re never really concentrating on the pursuit of success…you’re only concentrating on the reasons you haven’t achieved it. If you stay there too long, your life will turn out to be 'just one big excuse.' Successful people don't embrace excuses...they embrace solutions.
Successful people have a sense of gratitude…Unsuccessful people have a sense of entitlement
One of the quickest ways to achieve failure is to claim an illegitimate ownership to success. If you don’t believe me, then try it. Go down the road of trying to piggyback on the work, effort and investment of others who have achieved success, and then try to convince them that you deserve the same success simply because you exist. The cancer of ‘entitlement mentality’ is running rampant throughout our country. It’s a doctrine that everyone ‘deserves’ to be successful regardless of their efforts. It’s like giving someone a participant trophy for coming in last. Races have but one winner. As much as we love to award second and third place medals, there is only one true winner. Ultimately, and frankly, second place is the very first loser of the race. Although their effort was good, it still did not win the prize. We seem to celebrate mediocrity, and we try to feel good about it by making the mediocre performers feel that they have been successful too…when, in reality, they may have failed.
When I was in school, if you came in last, you didn’t get anything. Not only that, you didn’t feel like you should get anything. Today, that mindset has changed. The truth is, we are all given the same 24 hours that comprise a day. What we do with that time is up to our own determination. If we use it wisely, work hard, and achieve, then we’re probably headed in the direction of success. However, success will never ‘find’ us. Success isn’t pursuing anyone. It’s not a predator. Success can be hard to find even for those who work very hard to attain it. Keep standing at the back of line with your hand up screaming that you're entitled, and I guarantee you that success will always be out of reach...not "just out reach," no, instead, it will be "way out of reach." Oddly enough, those who feel entitled to success are ungracious when they do not achieve it, while those who are successful are often filled with gratitude. This is not always the case. There are certainly those people who achieve success and flaunt it; however, I believe most successful individuals possess a heart of gratitude. No one owes you anything. If you want to be successful, work hard and be gracious.
Successful people set goals…Unsuccessful people never set goals
How can we ever hope to evaluate anything if there are no parameters set up to do so? How can we even define what success looks like if we don’t know what we’re trying to accomplish? Successful people set goals and drive their energies and resources in the direction and pursuit of those goals. Unsuccessful people float through life without a plan, and specifically without goals. They may not even know they are unsuccessful, because they’ve never defined what success actually is.
A life devoid of goals is a life devoid of purpose. Goals should drive us forward and focus our energy. Setting goals is healthy and positive. Setting goals causes us to engage in life. Someone with a lack of goals is someone with a lot of extra time on their hands…time to be entertained watching TV or playing video games, time to criticize the efforts of those who are trying to reach their own goals, time to gossip, time to blame others, time to reminisce about everyone they hold a grudge against, time to wonder why the world is changing around them, and time to do everything but learn. Successful people understand that setting goals is something of great importance. So, if you’re trying to be successful in an endeavor, then set up some goals, and start the process of achieving them. Those goals may change along your journey, but not having any goals is proof that you probably embrace mediocrity. Have a plan. Success reveals itself to the mind prepared to find it and the effort prepared to achieve it.
This year is about to become a thing of the past. Tomorrow is only as bright as your work and your efforts are willing to make it. If you think that 2017 will be better than 2016 without any additional effort, then prepare yourself to be disappointed. However, 2017 holds great promise for those who are willing to work hard, learn from failure, and practice some commonsense. Every year is a blessing from our wonderful God. Embrace the opportunities placed before you in the dawning of a new year, and plan to succeed in more than words alone.
May God bless your 2017!
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!