Thursday, December 17, 2015

You're never too old to grow

My education was a little different than most. I didn't start working on my undergrad degree until I was 39 years old. I was working full-time in a factory, pastoring a small church, and raising a family when I decided I wanted to pursue my education. Some thought I was nuts. I was often asked how long it would take before I graduated, and I would tell them I thought it would take seven years. The next question was my favorite: How old will you be when you graduate? I always answered, "In seven years I'll be 46 years old. Now, in seven years I'm going to be 46 whether I have a bachelor's degree or not. I've just chosen to be 46 with a degree."

In yesterday's post I wrote about the importance of setting goals and developing strategies that will help us achieve what we want in life and work. Without focused intentionality it becomes too easy to drift along thinking that things will somehow work out the way we want them. That seldom happens.

A dying church can turn around and become a vibrant, growing congregation again. A business close to bankruptcy can find new markets and become very successful. Marriages that have lost their spark can relight that flame. Relationships that have been damaged or ignored can be rebuilt. But, a turnaround in any of these areas requires being intentional in our efforts.

The same is true for our personal growth. I have met many people who feel stuck. They are trapped in jobs they don't like and in routines that are not satisfying. They may struggle with habits that they seem unable to break. Although they might want things to be different, they have convinced themselves that things will never change for them. We need to be very careful which internal voices we listen to because some of these voices will lie to us. Some examples of those lies:

  • I don't have the resources to make the changes in my life I want to make.
  • I don't have the time.
  • My situation is largely the result of things that have happened in the past, and I can't do anything now about that.
  • I've made too many mistakes in the past that control my life.
  • I'm too old to change or learn new things.
None of these are true. Many successful people started out with much less than you do. We all have 24 hours in a day. What we accomplish is determined by how we choose to spend those 24 hours. Some people do grow up in difficult situations, but we do not have to be defined by what happened in the past. Mistakes? We've all made them. Thank God for his forgiveness that is available to all who call upon him. Too old? As long as you've got breath you're not too old to learn new things.

A few years ago I was in a meeting. One of the people on our committee was a retired pastor and professor who was in his 90s. He told us he would not attend our evening session because he had a class that evening. He was taking an elementary course in Spanish. Here was a distinguished PhD over 90 years old taking an elementary course so he could learn a new language. I love people like that!

I'm not one of those who believe that you can achieve anything you want to in life. I can assure you that no matter how hard I might try I will never be either a brain surgeon or a concert pianist! But, each of us can grow in many areas of our lives and enjoy life more fully. All we have to do is to stop believing the lies that limit that growth and begin to take intentional steps towards growing in those areas that are important to us.

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