Not long ago, a man in front of me at the checkout line spent $100 on lottery tickets. “Hey,” I asked him, “do you ever break even on all that?”
He smiled and answered: “Yeah, sometimes.” In other words—no.
Later that day I wondered what is it about our human nature that wants something for nothing. Why do we look to luck or quick fixes in order to make dreams come true?
We all have ambitions and hopes. But I’ve discovered there is one thing—more than anything—that helps those goals and dreams come true. And there’s another thing that never will.
Nothing Comes from Nothing
Achieving our goals rarely occurs in a convenience store checkout line. It’s not immediate. It takes time, and it especially takes the wisdom to do something at the right time.
An ancient proverb clues us in to this reality:
The lazy man will not plow because of winter; He will beg during harvest and have nothing–Proverbs 20:4 NKJV
In other words, a farmer knows and applies common sense to his goal:
- There is a right season in which to plow. In ancient Israel, the best time to plant occurred during the rainy season. It took diligence to work hard in those tough conditions. Some simply weren’t willing, and they missed the opportunity.
- There are steps required for success. Enjoying a good meal is the last step in a long process. Plowing and planting always come before harvesting.
- The rewards of hard work require hard work. Rocket science, I know. But many people live as if this principle isn’t true. They want something for nothing. Instead, they get just nothing.
Some principles never change. We need to apply the same truths in order to enjoy the realization of our goals and dreams.
It’s Not Just the What—It’s the Why
Recently, I’ve taken up the challenge Michael Hyatt gives in his new video course, 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever. In this course, he makes an interesting statement:
I’ve seen it time and time again. People lose their way because they lose their why. One of the most important aspects of achieving the goals you set is to get deeply connected with your motivations for each one.–Michael Hyatt
What I like about this course is not simply its challenge to have my best year ever. The principles also apply to my lifetime. After all, life is made up of a collection of single years.
The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard understood that life is best lived when we think about how we want it to end. He said it this way:
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.–Soren Kierkegaard
In other words, we need to think about what we want to be true of us when it’s all said and done. Once that picture is in mind, we retrace the steps that journey requires and live them forward. Then comes the hard part.
We have to stay on that path.
The Greatest Challenge to Dreams Coming True
There’s one thing that never will help us accomplish our goals. I call it “a good reason.” This coin has two sides:
- We can always find “a good reason” to put off what we need to do in order to achieve our goals. If we’re honest, it’s usually our excuse for laziness.
- Often our good reasons lead to nothing more than good intentions. No results.
Another proverb says it well:
The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.–Proverbs 13:4 NKJV
The results of hard work aren’t immediate. That’s why we’re often tempted to give up. But another principle is also true: the results of laziness are not immediate either. But they always come.
I counter my “good reasons” by applying the wisdom of this proverb in two ways:
- Adding diligence to my desires means considering the steps to take and then committing to (i.e. scheduling) the hard work these steps require.
- Determining that accomplishing the goals will always be worth the hard work gives me a reason to stay on the path.
In the long run, diligence will pay us and laziness will cost us. Since we will spend most of our lives in the long run, it makes sense to make decisions based off of that fact.
The Next Step
Life is not a lottery of chance successes. There are no shortcuts to goals achieved or to dreams coming true. The shortest path to success is the correct path. Diligence is simply determining every day to take the next step.