Can you believe we are approaching a new year already?! Have you been able to stick to your new year resolutions and accomplish your goals? If you find yourself hesitating to answer that question, don’t worry. It’s never too late to begin developing the one skill that will not only help you accomplish your goals before the year is out but will also result in true and lasting fulfillment and success for years to come!
Anyone can benefit from the principles outlined in the biblical book of Proverbs. In it, King Solomon shares with us one sure way of accomplishing any new project or goal:
A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.
Yes, I’m talking about the skill of diligence. According to Steven K. Scott, author of “The Richest Man Who Ever Lived,” diligence is “the key to winning every race!” Whether you are trying to get in top shape, planning to write a book, or working on improving your marriage (or any relationship for that matter), diligence is the one skill sure to result in success every time. However, diligence does not come easily. Human beings are naturally inclined to choose the easiest path—the path that requires the least resistance. But the good news is that diligence is a learnable skill; even better news is that as we practice diligence, the easier it becomes for us to be diligent in all area of our lives.
In his book, Scott describes diligence as:
a learnable skill that combines: creative persistence, a smart-working effort rightly planned and rightly performed in a timely, efficient, and effective manner to attain a result that is pure and of the highest quality of excellence.
Let me break that down for you:
Diligence is creative persistence. Persistence is defined as “the act of firmly and obstinately (stubbornly) continuing in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.” This is true of people who are persistent and consistent in their efforts (as opposed to being “flaky” or backing out of their commitments). They are determined to finish what they start. Diligent persistence understands that challenges may arise, but it refuses to quit. Diligent people are able to choose the hard path because they live by the motto, “No pain, no gain.” They have come to terms with the fact that most often, success comes at a price and they are willing to pay that price.
But diligence is not only persistent; it is creatively persistent. Creative persistence is all about finding ways to encourage perseverance, like rewarding yourself for a job well done. For example, I usually plan to go to the gym at least three times a week. Whenever I succeed at my goal, I always reward myself at week’s end with my favorite cookie or ice cream. There are also times when I may have a conduct research for something that I am writing, and when I complete it, I reward myself (like I am going to reward myself when I finish writing this article) with a movie or with one (or two) of one my favorite YouTube videos. Being diligent means being persistent and rewarding oneself for doing so.
Diligence means working smart. Working hard and working smart are two entirely different things. A farmer who plows his field by hand is certainly hard-working but not smart-working. Today, there is a great deal of technology available to help us make the best use of our energy and time. We’ve gone from writing books by hand, then by typewriter, then by word-processor, and now you can speak your book with the purchase of any voice recognition software! Diligence means working efficiently—that is, finding the best way to achieve maximum productivity with minimum wasted time, effort, or expense.
Diligence requires strategic planning. Part of working smart means (1) creating a plan to accomplish your goals and (2) prioritizing that plan (i.e., deciding what is of high, medium, or low importance, what steps to take first, second, and last, etc.). Starting any project without taking the time to plan will lead to many dead ends and wasted efforts. Planning ahead, then, is the proactive approach to tackling any project because it involves determining the necessary resources and the best course of action. It is what I like to refer to as “sharpening the ax.” You can certainly cut down a tree with a dull ax, but it will take far more time and energy to do so than it will if you sharpen your ax before you begin.
Here are some of the many benefits of planning ahead:
- Your stress levels will decrease or diminish completely.
- You will eliminate the “decision dilemma” that says, “What should I do next?”
- You will never grow bored or waste your time (perhaps our most precious commodity).
- Your work will be more focused and more controlled, increasing your confidence levels as well as the likelihood of success.
- You will wake up each day with a greater sense of clarity, direction, and purpose.
A great way to begin planning is by setting aside time in your calendar daily and weekly just for planning and scheduling. I store all of my to-items in one place and then update my calendar accordingly. Additionally, begin each project by conducting research on the best ways to plan for and complete said projects. But more on that in a moment.
Diligence implies performance. We’re all familiar with the kinds of advertisements that offer “secrets” on ways to lose weight without changing our eating habits or ever setting foot in a gym. And how about those gimmicks that guarantee that if we try a particular program, we can get rich fast and without making any significant financial investments? Do you want the truth? These companies merely monopolize on the fact that most people want to get the best results possible with little effort or time. A word of advice: If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. (Not always, but usually.)
Did you know that most gamblers and lottery winners lose all or most of their winnings not long after they win? King Solomon warns, “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” In other words, those who expend little effort to gain large amounts of money usually end up squandering their resources while those who gain their wealth steadily, through diligent efforts, are naturally more inclined to protect their investments and are, thus, more likely to keep and even increase their wealth. (After all, they’ve worked for it.)
Diligence means educating yourself. Scott’s definition of diligence is that it is “a smart-working effort . . . rightly performed.” The best thing that you can do before undertaking any new project is to educate yourself, if indeed that project is to be “rightly performed.” Even if you cannot afford to spend hundreds of dollars on books and seminars related to your craft, there are still hundreds, even thousands, of free online resources that anyone can utilize to, at least, understand the basics of almost every craft or project there is.
For example, if you are writing a new book and want to get advice about how to become a best-selling author, seek the counsel of men and women whose names can be found on any bestsellers list. (Michael Hyatt is a great example of a best-selling author who offers lots of free advice on his website about how you can get started writing that book you’ve always dreamed of writing and be just as successful too! He also offers more comprehensive advice which is available for purchase on his website.) Or, if you are learning how to sew, search the web for popular resources that teach you about the essentials of sewing: different fabrics, sewing techniques, types of apparel, etc. Everyone listens to an expert—a person who has an authoritative and comprehensive knowledge of or skill in a particular area. Educating yourself will not only maximize your time and energy; it will bring you one step closer to mastery and to becoming a respected authority in your field.
And lastly . . .
Diligence results in excellence and purity. We all know what excellence is when we see it. Excellence can be described as something that is “extremely good” or something of the highest quality. Men and women who live lives of excellence—that is, those who excel in thought, word, and deed—are surely to be praised by their peers and even by those in authority:
Do you see a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings.
An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels . . . Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all’ . . . Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
The outcome of diligence is excellence and purity—not the moral or ethical kind of purity but the kind that characterizes pure gold. The “pure” side of diligence returns a product that is very valuable and highly sought after (as is pure gold), and it is the thing that separates the average man from the extraordinary.