Getting Off the Treadmill of Good Intentions
by Bill Allison
About ten years ago, I bought my first treadmill. Boy, did I feel great about myself. Just getting that thing down to the basement was a workout in itself—I think I lost half a pound! Once I got that thing settled in its place, I beamed with pride… and just knew that in a short time Iʼd be in shape… or at least in better shape. Yet, I confess to you that though I have over a decade of treadmill ownership under my belt, my belt has not gotten any smaller. I thought about taking the treadmill back and trading it in for a new and improved model. Obviously, this one wasnʼt working. But I think I finally figured out whatʼs wrong. It seems you must actually get on the treadmill three to five times a week for about 20-30 minutes each time if you want any benefits. Go figure. Oh yeah, and they also tell me you should plug the treadmill in and turn it on (sounds kind of dangerous if you ask me).
The Treadmill of Good Intentions
Laugh at me all you want. But Iʼm willing to bet a rarely used ten-year-old treadmill that youʼre frighteningly more like me than you care to admit. Yep, my treadmill story is for YOU—especially if youʼve ever had the good intentions to..
- read the Bible through in a year… but didnʼt make it through the second week of January
- create and stick to a budget… but ran up more credit card debt
- lose weight… and then set a personal record in chocolate eating
- have a better marriage… and then actually argued with your spouse about how (Okay, that could be just me on that one.)
- be a more patient parent… and then yelled at your kids more than ever
- exercise regularly… and then used your treadmill as a clothes hanger
- read a self-help book… but didnʼt help yourself enough to crack it open
Just like me and my treadmill—you bought the books, took notes on the sermon, went to the Bible study, and even signed up for the seminar, but nothing really changed in the key areas of your life. My question to you—before we go any further—is this: Are you sick enough of the treadmill of good intentions that youʼre really ready to move to the track of personal growth?
To Get Off the Treadmill, You Need to Get On Track
If you really want to move off the treadmill of good intentions and onto the track of personal growth, I contend that, like a train, you must be careful to run on two rails. Of course, Iʼm not saying these are the only two keys to personal growth. All Iʼm saying is that the two rails I am about to explore with you are foundational if you really want to quit dinking around and start growing.
Rail #1: A Plan
If you REALLY want to move off the treadmill of good intentions and onto the track of personal growth, youʼre going to need a written plan. Yeah, I know. You donʼt like me now. Pick a number and get in line. But I have to tell you that the most important areas of my life jumped to a new and healthy level when I actually hand wrote my first personal growth plan almost ten years ago. That first written personal growth plan consisted of about fifteen different ways I hoped to cooperate with God in my life for that year. Frankly, on paper, it didnʼt look like much (check it out on the last page). But that simple, not-so-well-written piece of paper changed my life for good and God in substantial ways. Hence, Iʼve written a personal growth plan every year since—and have encouraged everyone I know to do the same.
“Are personal growth plans biblical?”
Iʼm often asked, “Are personal growth plans biblical?” (Usually this is asked by someone seeking to avoid writing a personal growth plan.) Well, not long ago, I was studying the book of Proverbs—using the NET Bible. As I made my way through the first four verses of chapter one, I came across the word discretion: 1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: 2 for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; 3 for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; 4 for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young. According to the NET Bible, discretion means “wise planning; the ability to make plans or formulate the best course of action for attaining a goal.” What does “wise planning” and “the ability to make plans or formulate the best course of action for attaining a goal” sound like to you? That sounds like a personal growth plan to me. So yeah, I think personal growth plans have a biblical basis. I think those who write them are wise. I think when you dare to write a personal growth plan for your life, you are engaging the Proverbial concept of discretion. Until you decide where you want to go, you might be moving, but youʼre not really going anywhere. Thatʼs why I think you MUST write a personal growth plan. The question is: Will you?
Indeed, I contend that writing a personal growth plan is the first rail of the personal growth track. But note well, youʼre also going to need a second rail: at least one person to take your personal growth journey with you.
Rail #2: A Partner
“Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22) I think itʼs important to note that, according to 2 Timothy 2:22, the pathway to purity isnʼt just a matter of fleeing evil and pursuing good. Those two are great, but they are incomplete. Youʼre also going to need a good partner (or several). Note well that Paul instructed Timothy to flee evil and pursue good “along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” That, my friend, is the kind of partnership youʼre going to need if youʼre serious about moving off the treadmill
of good intentions and onto the track of personal growth.
Are You Trying to Do the Job Alone?
Hereʼs a shocker: Your personal growth is not a solo adventure. Reread that sentence again because if youʼre like most people, youʼre trying to grow yourself… by yourself. But thatʼs not the way God designed it (Hebrews 10:24-25). You were wired by God to live in community. You need a few trusted friends and comrades to do life with and to take your personal growth journey with you. And they need you to join them in theirs. Yet, so many of us are stuck on the treadmill of good intentions precisely because weʼre alone. Make no mistake about it: You need a partner on your personal growth journey.
True Confessions of a Couch Potato
As I look over my first few personal growth plans, I confess that I wrote an exercise goal each year… but never really got into the habit. I was a flash-in-the-pan exerciser. I may have even used the treadmill once or twice before I totally bombed out on the whole idea of exerting myself physically. I used to joke, “I do one sit up a day. Half when I wake up in the morning and the other half when I go to bed at night.” I just couldnʼt sus- tain my good intentions when it came to regular exercise. My problem wasnʼt a lack of knowledge though. I knew, as a middle-aged man, I needed to get my heart beating for 20-30 minutes at least three times a week. With six kids, I was motivated. After all, I want to be around for them and my grandchildren (somewhere down the road). Nevertheless, I would dare to write a personal exercise goal in my personal growth plan every year… and that exercise goal mocked me for years… until… One beautiful spring day several years ago, I asked my teenage son if he wanted to take a jog. To my surprise, he said yes. (I think he just wanted the pleasure of laughing at me while he ran circles around me.) So we went. Amazingly, I could walk the next morning. So we went jogging again that day. And the next day after that too. First it was one mile. A few months later it was two miles. Then three. My wife purchased matching running shoes for us (but donʼt tell my sonʼs friends… thatʼs so uncool). Soon, we sucked my wife into the exercise vortex and she began jogging with us. We were the jogging Allison family! We now jog an average of three times a week (with the exception of a few really cold weeks in the winter). Iʼve been doing this going on three years now.
The question is WHY? What moved me from the treadmill of good intentions to the track of personal growth? Perhaps it was the matching running shoes. But I think it was the missing rail of partnership. I had exercise written in my personal growth plan for years, but I had no jogging partners. I was stuck… all by myself… on a treadmill. Think about a treadmill for a moment. A treadmill is made for one person. Itʼs one of the reasons I never got around to actually using my treadmill. It was lonely. I needed partners. Once I got a partner or two, I was off and running (pun intended). And those partners have come in very handy, like when I donʼt feel like jogging. My son says, “Whatʼs wrong old man? Canʼt get out of your wheelchair? Donʼt want to leave your oxygen tank? Afraid I might out-run you?” Next thing you know, Iʼm lacing up my running shoes.
Do You Have a Proverbs 27:17 Partner?
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) How about you? Arenʼt you tired of taking the journey by yourself? What good things would happen in your life if you dared to invite someone into your personal growth journey this year? Who would be a great personal growth partner for you? Why not offer this person a mutually beneficial personal growth partnership for this year… and just see if a Proverbs 27:17 partnership makes any difference in your lives?
Two Rails, One Track, and God
I contend that these two rails—a plan and a partner—make up the track to personal growth. But let me be unmistakably clear: God must be your engine. God is the one who causes real spiritual and personal growth. Like a train engine, God must lead the way in your life. Like a train, itʼs your attachment to God (the engine) that enables you to move forward. I focused this entire article on the two rails that make up the track you must run on rather than the engine because I know if we get on the track and engage God as our engine—weʼll go forward. Iʼm not worried about the engine. Iʼm worried about us getting our lives on the rails that will propel us forward. And I have good reason to be concerned. How so? Well, if you listen closely, youʼll hear a faint call coming from your basement… itʼs coming from a barely used treadmill… agreeing with me. That relatively new treadmill is mocking you! What are you going to do about it?
Do You Need Some Next Steps?
If youʼd like some practical and biblically-based next steps on:
- How to write a personal growth plan
- How to find a personal growth partner please keep reading.
If youʼre more of an audio learner, for a limited time you can get 50% off each of the following audio training sessions (a savings of $2.50 per audio download). Be sure to use this coupon code for the 50% discount: pgp2010 (coupon only good until 1/15/10).
Personally I think Bill Allison and his team have knocked it out of the park with this material. I have been doing personal growth plans for over three years now (I plan on posting mine later on so stay tuned). Accountability partners are also people who I have kept on and off to help teach and train me in the ways of the Lord. Remember, a true leader is a learner. I would strongly recommend looking into seeking an accountability partner immediately.