At the start of this month, 50 years ago, I preached my first sermon. And, during those 50 years I have continued to read and learn hopefully growing wiser each year. Throughout those years I have been very aware of what areas I need to be growing in and how to improve in those areas. So, my skill set has grown and improved, being constantly sharpened and increased. And, I study in a wide variety of areas so I can teach and live life with a wider perspective. As a result I have a tremendous store of information both in books and in computerized notes and teachings and even stored in my mind and heart.
Knowing ‘what’ to improve and ‘how’ to improve are critical to consistency in personal growth. But so is knowing ‘why’. The ‘how’ and ‘what’ will take you only so far. The ‘why’ is what keeps you motivated long after the first rush of energy and enthusiasm wears off. It can carry you through when willpower isn’t enough. Think of it as why-power.
I love the story of the salesman who looked out the window of the hotel restaurant at a blinding snowstorm. He asked his waiter, “Do you think the roads will be clear enough in the morning to travel?”
The waiter replied, “Depends on if you’re on salary or commission.”
Having a strong ‘why’ will help you keep going when the discipline of learning becomes difficult, discouraging, and tedious. If your growth is connected to your values, dreams, and purpose, you’ll know ‘why’ you’re doing it. And you will be more likely to follow through.
One of the ways to judge whether you have tapped into your ‘whys’ is to take what is called the “Why Test.” Your answers to the following questions seven questions will let you know if your ‘why’ is solid enough to motivate you to consistently grow:
- Question 1: Do you constantly procrastinate on important tasks?
- Question 2: Do you require coaxing to do small chores?
- Question 3: Do you perform duties just to get by?
- Question 4: Do you constantly talk negatively about your work?
- Question 5: Do efforts of friends to encourage you irritate you instead?
- Question 6: Do you start small projects and abandon them?
- Question 7: Do you avoid self-improvement opportunities?
If you answer yes to many of these questions, you haven’t tapped into a strong enough or big enough ‘why’ to keep you growing.
There is a relationship between motivation – the ‘why’ – and discipline. If you think about it, you can see that discipline and motivation are two sides of the same coin. If you have the motivation you need, discipline is no problem. If you lack motivation (the ‘why’), discipline is always a problem.
You have to give yourself more and bigger ‘whys’ so you can keep wanting to put in the effort to grow. The greater number of reasons you give yourself to grow, the more likely you will be to follow through. Of course, in certain circumstances one really compelling ‘why’ can also be enough, as Kenyan world-class runner Bernard “Kip” Lagat demonstrated when he was interviewed during the Sydney Olympics. He was asked how his country was able to produce so many great distant runners. His answer: “It’s the road signs: ‘Beware the Lions.’”
When you make the right choices – however small – and do it consistently over time, it can make a huge difference in your life. If you remember ‘why’ you are making those choices, it becomes easier. But to continue to reach your goals and have a life that has meaning and purpose you must continue to learn and to grow. It must be a constant in your life.