Truett Cathy, famous founder and chairman of Chick-Fil-A, once said, “If a man can’t manage his own life, he can’t manage a business.” (www.brainyquote.com/authors/s_truett_cathy) Most people will never lead others because they cannot lead themselves. We’ve probably all seen people in our office or workplace who seem real smart and talented but their personal lives, family, and/or their health are falling apart. Discipline, initiative, hard work, and intentionality are essential to any great ministry, business, or family. How do you lead yourself well? Here are some thoughts:
It’s been said for pastors that the people won’t go where you don’t grow. The only thing you have is your character, and for some their giftedness takes them to places where their character cannot keep them. As a child of God, whether you’re a pastor, a businessman, a soldier, or a stay at home mom, your time in God’s Presence reading his Word, praying, and worshipping every day is vital. You cannot lead your family in the ways of God without hearing from the Lord daily. You cannot respond in Christ-likeness in your workplace when trouble arises without soaking up God’s love and patience every morning. You certainly can’t lead in ministry without being full of God’s Holy Spirit. Every morning I have my hour of power. Almost every single day without fail I get up before my family is up, before the day begins, and I spend an hour in prayer, Scripture reading with meditation, and personal worship. Child of God, it is a non-negotiable, absolutely essential discipline for your life.
Physical health is not the most important part of life, spiritual health is, but physical health matters. Many people are unable to work and give themselves fully to their vocation or calling in life because they just don’t have the health to do so. I still remember a pastor mentor in my life telling me that many pastors are killing themselves; killing themselves with their fork. Also, the lack of discipline in diet and exercise might be an indicator of laziness in life. Laziness is not the absence of activity, it’s failing to do the most important things. It’s not about weight and appearance, it’s about energy, vitality, and focus. Eating well, exercising, and getting plenty of rest have been proven to boost productivity and positivity in your life. No exercise and the diet of a teenager makes people think you have the maturity of a teenager. An undisciplined diet and lack of exercise will zap your strength, squash your productivity, and can lead to a negative outlook. One last thought: parents, don’t you want to be healthy enough to play with your grandchildren? Leaving an example for our families ought to motivate us to discipline in this area as well.
Now, this is one most people don’t think about, especially men. You must lead yourself emotionally. Life hurts and leadership is hard. You cannot ignore your feelings of hurt, pain, disappointment, discouragement, or outright depression. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide rates are at an all-time high in our country. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America, over 44,000 people die each year by taking their own lives. The most sobering stat for me is the highest suicide rate is among white males ages 45-54. (https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/) Men don’t know how to address their emotions, and as a result they hold them deep within and some eventually snap. Years of frustration and disappointment buried deep in the recesses of our soul can turn deadly. Find another mature believer in Christ of the same gender or a counselor who you can vent to and share your deepest thoughts and heartaches with often. Pray for one another and confess your sins and struggles. Go have fun with your family. Often our unhealthy emotional state takes a toll on our families, so find a way to love them and enjoy them. Have a hobby that helps you clear your mind. Be keenly aware of your emotional state and recognize when it’s time to address it with someone you trust.
Leading yourself well; if you can’t lead yourself you can’t lead others. You’re probably wondering what about education and vocation? What about learning and discipline in your career? Disciplined reading and learning is important, and so is time management; but don’t miss the point. If you don’t get these first three right, those won’t matter. Jesus said we can gain the whole world and still lose our soul. Start with the basics. Spend time with Jesus, eat a balanced diet and exercise, and be aware of and honest about your emotional state and address it with another mature believer in Christ of the same gender or a counselor who can help. Lead yourself well.