The first of 15 laws in The 15 Laws of Invaluable Growth by John C. Maxwell
I have always been fascinated by the Ironman race. 140.6 grueling miles in a day: a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, all followed by a marathon. To me, it represented the ultimate test of preparation and will power.
Whenever I talked about doing one, I always attached the word “someday” to give myself an out. There always seemed to be a real GAP between wanting to do one and actually getting out and finishing one.
John Maxwell gave a name to some of these gaps I was experiencing. In his book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, he calls them “Growth Gaps”. I recognized them immediately, because many of them have showed up in my life at one time or another. I will share just a couple of the “growth gaps” that were keeping me from attempting an Ironman.
- The Knowledge Gap or the “I don’t know how” Gap.
I told myself:
- I had never run a marathon before (or ridden a century or even swam much more than a mile before) therefore, I don’t know how to do an Ironman
- I don’t know all the logistics involved with such a long race
- I don’t know all there is to know about nutrition for endurance racing
- I don’t know how I would even begin to train
- I don’t know how I could fit adequate training into my schedule
2. The Timing Gap or the “It’s not the right time” Gap
I told myself:
- I am too busy with work right now
- The demands and pressures of being a DI coach deserve all my attention
- This is just not the right time
- I am not in good enough shape right now
- Maybe next year will be better
The real trap here is the Law of Diminishing Intent: The longer we wait to do something, the greater the odds that we won’t ever do it.
3. The Mistake Gap or the “I don’t want to fail” Gap
I asked myself:
- What if I fail?
- What if I bonk along the way?
- What if I can’t finish?
- How embarrassing would it be to work so hard and not finish?
- What if it hurts?…. Um, DUH!
Regardless, I had begun to decide that at some point I would do it, but I realized I needed to take the leap and become truly intentional. I couldn’t wait for everything to be perfect.
Before I could give myself another reason to stop myself, I jumped on the computer and registered for an Ironman race. Unbeknownst to me, I signed up for the reportedly hardest Ironman route in the country: St George, Utah.
When I woke up the next day and remembered what I had done, I knew I was committed and left myself no choice but to become very intentional about my preparation.
I created a schedule and I began to get up before dawn. I got a coach and she gave me a workout, she held me accountable and she taught me about nutrition for an endurance race. The gaps were beginning to fill in…
I was highly intentional about my preparation mostly because I feared pain and figured that the harder I worked the less it would hurt. As a result, I grew tremendously in both my physical and mental (emotional) capacities. When race day came it was one of the best experiences of my life. While hundreds of people were unfortunately being pulled out of the 55 degree water because of hypothermia, I had one of the best swims of my life.
I relished each smooth stroke of my arms and I enjoyed watching the early morning sun light the sky with each breath I took. I was where I wanted to be, doing what I had prepared to do.
It is possible that I was delirious, but I had a big goofy smile the entire day and drank in every moment of the experience. I looked forward to the steep switchbacks on my bike as well as “The Wall” (the affectionate name given to the steepest climb of the race). I kept my pace during the run by counting my steps and my spirits up by smiling at other racers and cheering them
on. I passed the time looking for my own family, my coach, and my friends supporting me in the crowd and by embracing the wonderful support of the volunteers along the route.
Although it was a tremendous test of will power, the bonk I basically expected, never came. I had been intentional, I had prepared, I had learned proper nutrition and I had grown to meet the challenges of the occasion.
It is still crazy to me that I saved my first full marathon for race day, but I did it and I ended up coming in over an hour ahead of the time I had set as my goal to finish.
I learned that I was capable of doing something I didn’t think I had the time, skills or knowledge to accomplish. I realized that I had even more potential and ability than what I gave myself credit for and I was able to finish strong because I had been intentional about being prepared, filling in the “gaps”, and growing to be fit for the occasion.
This is true for all of us. When we are intentional about reaching our potential we learn we are capable of so much more than we realized. Goals are just stepping stones in our continual journey of growth.
John Maxwell said it perfectly when he said, “If you focus on goals, you may hit goals — but that doesn’t guarantee growth. If you focus on growth, you will grow and always hit your goals.”
We can’t wait until all the “gaps” are filled and the situation for growth is perfect. We have to get started where are and we must get intentional about it now.
It can be similar to driving on an unfamiliar road at night. We would of course like to see the whole route clearly lit before us, but instead we see it progressively. As we move forward and continue to be intentional about our growth more of the road is revealed to us. And if we want to see more of what is ahead, we must keep moving!
In life, we must keep growing.
Accomplishing the Ironman was not just about accomplishing a goal, it was about growing and realizing my potential. As a result of growing I accomplished a goal that taught me that I am capable of much more then I realized and prepared me for more future growth.
My Ironman race became a metaphor for life and a reference point of growth for me. I learned a great deal about myself as I grew for that opportunity. Consequently, when I come across challenges now I don’t sit back and wait for the gaps to fill in; I recognize that it is up to me to do the work and as I move forward I will inevitably grow fit to be where I want to be. I know that if I want to get somewhere I need to start where I am and get intentional about getting there now.
You see the path never ends in this life. but the journey is amazing.
If you want to reach your potential and become what you were created to be, you MUST DO more than experience life and hope that you will grow and learn something along the way.
You MUST go out of your way to seize growth opportunities as if your future depends on it. Because it does! I learned that if we wait for “someday”, growth will never just happen—not for me, not for you, not for anybody.
Intentional growth does happen and it will happen even faster when you make yourself accountable to others that are also committed to your growth. When you get intentional about your growth, you will attract others into your life that will support you and celebrate with you.
As a matter of fact, you don’t have to finish an Ironman to celebrate a growth victory; but you must recognize each victory and celebrate each baby step along the way. Taking the time to recognize and celebrate your successes, large or small, is a critical step in building momentum and sustaining your growth.
Get started on something today. Happy Growing!