“Despite the career-induced failure of his marriage, Chuck’s drive to the top continued, unabated and without course correction.”
That was the sentence I almost missed while recently reading a book by Eric Metaxas called 7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness. It’s a fantastic book of short biographies about, you guessed it, seven great men. The last chapter was about Chuck Colson who served as the Whitehouse counsel for President Nixon, and was involved in the Watergate Scandal. After a major change of heart (and a few years in prison) Colson became a well known Christian leader and author.
As I read his biography, I almost moved right passed this seemingly random sentence without a second thought, but somehow it caught my attention.
We tend to have unrealistic ideals about what causes lasting change in our lives. We often imagine that change comes from a single significant life event. We think we can explain every action and thought process of a criminal by a single past experience from his or her childhood. We think we can become better dads, friends or beach bodies by changing one thing about ourselves.
Some of us are so convinced of this that we will go out of our way to seek out our own life transforming event, instead of waiting for it to find us. We’ll attend conferences, trail pilgrimages and obsess over #LifeHacks in hopes of finding that one thing that will change everything.
But just as we see in this obscure sentence about Chuck Colson, not every big event in our lives actually makes the difference we think it will. Chuck’s marriage fell apart because he neglected his family for his career, and it didn’t change him at all. It was not the wake up call that you might have expected it to be.
Events may make you think about change, but they are not what change you. Workaholics don’t finally take a break because their marriage falls apart; drugs addicts don’t quit because of an overdose; and teenagers don’t suddenly behave because of a Christian youth camp.
These events usually make people think about change, they make people realize they need to change, and they often even make people try to change for at least a couple of weeks. But they never lead to lasting transformation. That is because when a major life event the only thing that ignites motivation for self-improvement, regression will take over as soon as the feelings about the event are gone.
This is why your life will never change. Because you keep waiting for a transformational event to do the trick.
So what are the things that will actually change your life in a lasting way?
1. The Holy Spirit, not an event.
First and foremost, only the Holy Spirit can change your life in a way that leads to true freedom. Of course, God may use an event to get your attention, but it isn’t the event that transforms your life. The event was just a tool in the hand of God. Only when the Holy Spirit awakens and changes your heart will the transformation be able to outlive your feelings about the so-called “life changing event.”
2. Habits, not decisions.
A one-time decision is not enough to make a difference. A daily decision which eventually becomes a habit is what leads to lasting transformation. Big events lead to a one-time decision, but changing how you think and what you prioritize leads to a daily decision.
3. Plans, not intentions.
We all have a mental picture of the person we want to be: great parents, successful entrepreneurs, sincere Christians, free and sober human beings, etc. But good intentions don’t take you from A to Z, or even A to B. If you want to make a change, you have to have a plan—a specific plan. If you want to stop looking at porn, you can’t just stop by promising to stay pure. You have to set parameters. Lose your smart phone, sign-up for accountability software, commit to never be online alone. that is a specific plans, and specific plans often work.
4. Accountability, not self-determination.
You can’t just rely on yourself to have the will power to stay the course. You will have week moments, and those moments are why you need accountability. Accountability means that you tell others what transformation you are pursuing, and give those people explicit permission to confront you every time they see you not following the plan you’ve made.
If you want your life to change, stop chasing or hoping for a life changing event, and begin making daily decisions to live like the great person you imagine yourself becoming.
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