A couple of months ago I watched my two year-old daughter attempt to put a puzzle together. She was rather clumsy and therefore rather frustrated. She couldn't make the pieces fit in the right spot, and would cry, “Can't do it! Can't do it!” A few days ago, I saw the very same two year-old blaze through several different puzzles in record time. She loves puzzles!
Do you ever feel locked into doing something that you aren't particularly good at and that you don't particularly enjoy? Or … maybe worse … Do you ever wish you could be good at something but have failed so many times that you just want to give up?
Perhaps you've responded to failed attempts by concluding that it's just not worth trying, that you are the way you are and that you just won't change. After all, you know the saying: “You can't teach an old dog new tricks.”
Well, my friend, there is an important difference between you and the “old dog.” You can choose to change. You really can! Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking, “That's just who I am and how I operate.” Of course, the only way anyone can ultimately change is by experiencing the life-changing grace of the gospel. But what about smaller changes, like changing what time I get up or how much I read or how much I eat or how much money I spend?
I'm not speaking to things that are beyond human limits or beyond the scope of your gifting. We all have God-given limits. Many times, though, we fall short because we aren't willing to expend the time and effort required to change. Don't succumb to believing that you are the way you are and that you can't change. Innovative improvement is often the result of slow, painful effort. Kind of like getting in shape. It's not rocket science, but it takes more effort than most of us are willing to expend.
If you need to develop new habits and new disciplines as a leader–at home, work, church, wherever–start with baby steps. And be prepared to dig in for the long haul. Old dogs can learn new tricks. It just takes time.
We'll consider some strategies for learning new tricks in part two.