I'm currently reading John Maxwell's latest book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth: Live Them and Reach Your Potential. Yesterday I came across his caution about allowing our environment to define and limit us. He said that if you put a pumpkin in a jug when it's only the size of a walnut it will grow to the size and shape of the jug and never get any larger. As I read that I thought how many people I had seen who had allowed that to happen to them. Then I thought of how many times it has happened to me in my own life.
Our friends certainly have an impact on our success in life. If one constantly hangs out around losers that person will become like them. If one spends much of his or her time with complainers and whiners that is what this person will become. Some psychologists claim that the people we spend the most time with will determine as much as 95 percent of our success or failure. That's huge, and it's the reason we need to be careful about the people we spend most of our time with. We need to spend time with people of integrity, people who are going somewhere in life, people who encourage us and lift us up when we are down, and people who are always seeking to grow in their own lives. If you want to grow, then spend time with others who are growing.
The mental tapes we play over and over again in our minds also impact us. It is very difficult for anyone who was constantly told they are a loser growing up to erase that tape from their minds. Every time they fail at something they will be reminded that they were always told they were failures and assume it must be true. Eventually, such people often give up. One of the most important things any person can do to grow is to record new mental tapes. Again, being around positive people can help you do that. It's also important to force yourself to focus on your successes as well as the things you learned from your failures. I have found that it hurts much less to fail if I can learn a valuable lesson from the experience, and believe me I've had plenty of practice.
These mental tapes are often the result of growing up in difficult circumstances. You may feel that others have had advantages in life you never enjoyed, and that could be true. But that doesn't mean you
have to settle for where you are now. Becoming a mature person means taking responsibility for your own life. You can spend forever pointing back to the disadvantages you had as a child, but that won't change a thing. If you want a better future than your past, then you have to make that happen. Determine what you want to do in life and go for it, and do not allow one single excuse to stand in your way.
Some bivocational ministers never grow beyond the size of the churches they serve because they can't see beyond the walls of those churches. They compare the 35 people in their church to the church down the highway with 3,000 in attendance and decide that somehow they just don't measure up to the pastors in that church. "If God had really called me into the ministry He would have called me to a more significant place by now," is a complaint often thought, if not spoken, by many in bivocational ministry. Over time it becomes easy to forget the call from God you once felt for this place where you serve. This is the place where you are to blossom and grow. This is the place where people are trusting you to minister to them and assist them in their own spiritual development. Comparing yourself to other pastors is a waste of time. Focus your time and energy on your own personal growth and development.
At the same time, you don't have to limit yourself to the walls of your church. Do you want a larger ministry? Write a blog as I do and have a ministry with the potential to reach people around the world. Write a book or articles for magazines that will impact people you will never meet. Become creative and stretch yourself and your understanding of ministry, and in that process you will not be confined by your environment.