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This article is the first in a series of four articles for the month of April. These are personal insights based on observations and teachings from different resources. This is designed to be a training series in which the articles focus on a particular life skill to enhance reader's approach to life and work. This particular series contains material useful for new graduates but can also be applied to those in ministry and other professions.

Achieving What You Really Want

It's the time of year once again when students everywhere put on long robes and square hats and prepare to march in time to solemn orchestra music. Graduation is upon many schools these days, and whether it's for pre-kindergarten kids or for five-year college students it will be a memorable experience.
One of the things that makes graduation so memorable is the work required the achieve it. Any graduating student can tell you that it is not an event that just happens. The achievement of graduation is really a compounded effect of a lot of little achievements during the school years. Doing assignments, taking notes, developing study habits and balancing it all with home and social life are all small achievements that are realized day to day. In short, graduation is the recognition of all those small disciplines and accomplishments. As author John Maxwell puts it, "Your graduation didn't happen today; it just showed up."
What most people don't realize is that the same principle applies to every other kind of success or accomplishment in life: Any success is the result of a lot of little achievements that add up over time. Unfortunately, most people want success the microwave method-easy and instant.

Achievement-Everyone Wants It!

Another thing that most people don't realize is that the level of success in any endeavor depends heavily upon the desire of the person. While resources are always factors whether success is realized, the desire of the person to accomplish his or her goal is usually the main issue.
Everyone wants to achieve something. Even those who say they don't want to achieve anything actually want to achieve underachievement. Desire to achieve is everywhere; people desire to amass wealth or gain knowledge or sculpt a physique-all of which the world equates with success and achievement. The difference maker in whether those people achieve or fall short, however, is most often what they choose to do with that desire. In general, people do five things with their desire for success:

1. They settle for less. The word "mediocre" literally means "halfway to the peak." It connotes only making it to the middle, not going to the top or realizing a goal. When we settle for mediocre we essentially say that we want to go halfway and are satisfied with only staying where we are. A standard of "halfway" may come from people thinking that what they want is either too far out of their reach or is too hard to attain. As a result they settle for what they can get rather than what they are capable of.

2. They dream and talk but never do. Bob Taylor, maker of Taylor guitars, says, "Inspiration is easy. Implementation is the hard part." People might read books and attend seminars and talk about all the wonderful things they've learned to do. However, the fact still remains that if they don't do anything with their training and plans, they will not make any progress.

3. They achieve but don't go beyond initial success. One-hit wonders and single-book authors have successes early on but then either cannot produce material of the same standard or simply try to replicate what they did. People who use their desire this way sometimes become so enamored with their past successes that they cannot go anywhere else. In order to keep achieving, one must learn from the past and strive for going beyond what was previously reached.

4. They achieve consistently but without direction. Stephen Covey puts it this way: "Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall."
He goes on to describe these highly efficient, productive managers like men cutting a path through a jungle with machetes. They do the work quickly and get a lot of things done. Then someone (the leader) climbs a tree, surveys the scene and shouts to the managers, "WRONG JUNGLE!"
The managers all shout back "SHUT UP! WE'RE MAKING PROGRESS!"
If you want achievement that has significance and leaves a legacy, strive for achievement with direction.

5. They know what they want to achieve and keep on achieving. People in this category are making the best use of their desire to achieve. They not only know what they want to achieve, but they keep growing and are able to break new ground. Their goals and life purpose are in step with each other; every step they take is in the right direction.

True achievement is striving for something greater than you for people other than you that will leave a legacy that will last longer than you. I invite you to join me for a three-part journey in which we will explore how to achieve true achievement. Graduating students may find this particularly eye-opening; according to reports, there is life beyond the toga and diploma.

Crowning Achievement

I will be drawing on a story from the Bible as basis for the rest of this series. Those of you with reservations are encouraged to stay with me; after all, the most effective management and self-improvement principles are directly out of the Bible. In this series, we will be looking at King Solomon, the richest man who ever lived and the greatest king the world has ever seen. He accomplished what much of the world called great achievements. However, early in his career as king he was faced with a daunting task that, if achieved, would fulfill the dreams of his father and forefathers. Over the next three weeks, we will look at how Solomon realized this great goal by looking at three areas which he drew on. We'll look at:
1) His Vision-Solomon could only seize what he could see.
2) His Teachability-there's a reason no other ruler has come close to his wisdom.
3) His Growth-throughout the entire process of accomplishing his goal, he continually reached for more than what he had become.

If you would like a head start on the story that will unfold, read 1 Chronicles 28 and 29:1-9.
Check back next week for the next installment in the Achievement Series.

Medical Mission
Finding a Mentor in John Maxwell
Small Place, Big Growth

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