Making the Transition to Intentional Growth


I wrote my upcoming book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, because I wanted to help others see the value of growth and make it a priority in life. The first law is the Law of Intentionality: Growth Doesn’t Just Happen. We don’t improve by simply living. We have to be intentional about it. And the sooner you make the transition to becoming intentional about your personal growth, the better it will be for you, because growth compounds and accelerates as you remain intentional about it. Here’s how to make the change:

1. Ask the Big Question Now

The first year that I engaged in intentional personal growth, I discovered that it was going to be a lifetime process. During that year, the question in my mind changed from “How long will this take?” to “How far can I go?” That is the question you should be asking yourself right now—not that you will be able to fully answer it. I started this growth journey forty years ago, and I still haven’t answered it. But it will help you set the direction, if not the distance.

  • Where do you want to go in life?
  • What direction do you want to go?
  • What’s the farthest you can imagine going?

Answering those questions will get you started on the personal-growth journey. The best you can hope to do in life is to make the most out of whatever you’ve been given. You do that by investing in yourself, making yourself the best you can be. The more you’ve got to work with, the greater your potential—and the farther you should try to go. As my dad used to say to me repeatedly when I was a kid, “To whomever much is given—much shall be required.” Give growing your best so you can become your best.

2. Do It Now

In 1974 I attended a seminar at the University of Dayton, where W. Clement Stone spoke on the subject of having a sense of urgency. Stone was a business tycoon who had made his fortune in insurance. His session was titled “Do It Now,” and one of the things he told us was this: “Before you get out of bed every morning, say ‘do it now’ fifty times. At the end of the day before you go to sleep, the last thing you should do is say ‘do it now’ fifty times.”

I’m guessing there were about eight thousand people in the audience that day, but it felt like he was talking to me personally. I went home, and for the next six months I actually followed his advice. The first thing every morning and the last thing before I went to sleep, I repeated the words “do it now.” It gave me a tremendous sense of urgency.

The greatest danger you face in this moment is the idea that you will make intentional growth a priority later. Don’t fall into that trap! Recently I read an article by Jennifer Reed in SUCCESS. She wrote,

Can there be a more insidious word? Later, as in “I’ll do it later.” Or, “Later, I’ll have time to write that book that’s been on my mind for the past five years.” Or, “I know I need to straighten out my finances…I’ll do it later.”

“Later” is one of those dream-killers, one of the countless obstacles we put up to derail our chances of success. The diet that starts “tomorrow,” the job hunt that happens “eventually,” the pursuit of the life dream that begins “someday” combine with other self-imposed roadblocks and lock us on autopilot.

Why do we do this to ourselves, anyway? Why don’t we take action now? Let’s face it: The familiar is easy; the uncharted path is lined with uncertainties.

By reading this series of posts, you’ve already begun the process. Don’t stop there! Keep taking more steps. Pick a resource that will help you grow and begin learning from it today.

3. Face the Fear Factor

I recently read an article on the fears that keep people from being successful. The following five factors came into play:

  • Fear of Failure
  • Fear of Trading Security for the Unknown
  • Fear of Being Overextended Financially
  • Fear of What Others Will Say or Think
  • Fear that Success Will Alienate Peers

Which of those fears most impacts you? For me it was the last one: alienating my peers. By nature I’m a people pleaser, and I wanted everyone to like me. But it really doesn’t matter which fear affects you the most. We all have fears. But here’s the good news. We also all have faith. The question you have to ask yourself is, “Which emotion will I allow to be stronger?” Your answer is important, because the stronger emotion wins. I want to encourage you to feed your faith and starve your fear.

4. Change from Accidental to Intentional Growth

People tend to get into ruts in life. They get in an easy groove, and they don’t try to break out if it—even when it’s taking them in the wrong direction. After a while, they just get by. If they learn something, it’s because of a happy accident. Don’t let that happen to you! If that is the attitude you’ve developed, then you would do well to remember that the only difference between a rut and a grave is the length!

How do you know if you’ve slipped into a rut? Take a look at the differences between accidental growth and intentional growth:

Accidental Growth Intentional Growth
Plans to Start Tomorrow Insists on Starting Today
Waits for Growth to Come Takes Complete Responsibility to Grow
Learns Only From Mistakes Often Learns Before Mistakes
Depends on Good Luck Relies on Hard Work
Quits Early and Often Perseveres Long and Hard
Falls into Bad Habits Fights for Good Habits
Talks Big Follows Through
Plays it Safe Takes Risks
Thinks Like a Victim Thinks Like a Learner
Relies on Talent Relies on Character
Stops Learning after Graduation Never Stops Growing

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”

If you want to reach your potential and become the person you were created to be, you must do much more than just experiencing life and hoping that you learn what you need along the way. You must go out of your way to seize growth opportunities as if your future depended on it. Why? Because it does. Growth doesn’t just happen—not for me, not for you, not for anybody. You have to go after it!

From The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth (October 2012)
Available for preorder now.

And announcing a great growth opportunity!

Be Sociable, Share!


  1. 1

    […] Click here to read full post Rate this:Share this:MoreLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  2. 2

    Everytime I recieve and read an article from John i feel like he wrote it specifically for me and to me and this one is no different, can wait to get the book, thank you John for speaking to me again and encouraging me again to grow as a leader.

  3. 3
    Kumar Gauraw says:

    Enjoyed this article very much and especially the step about facing the fears. Thank you for sharing your nuggets of wisdom, John.
    Thanks again!


  4. 4
    Linda Howe says:

    I agree with the statement that when listening to or reading Johns work that it feels like he is talking to me. I have long considered myself a lifelong learner and hope I will never lose that desire. Having said that though, 2 words/statements grabbed my attention – later and someday – ouch!!
    I am looking forward to Oct 2 when I open my kindle and can dive into more of your teaching John. I consider you one of those friends I hope to one day meet. Bless you John.

  5. 5
    Shannon says:

    As always a pleasure to read – invaluable takeaways. Until next read!

  6. 6
    Gustino says:

    Once again that’s a nice work from John.
    Maintaining the spirit of evergrowing? That’s a godly approach to life. I like and keep it in touch.

  7. 7
    Ken Pringle says:

    John, yet another great awakening and
    reminder of the true value in each of us.
    We are responsible for our own successes
    and failures in life.
    We need to continue to grow everyday.
    I look forward to the new book.
    Thank you John

  8. 8
    Joshua Jones says:

    John, I appreciate the comparison of the difference between accidental and intentional growth. I recall you stating that “Growth is not an automatic process” and then noting in my journal “death is, everything else is intentional” This is why I do seinfeld calendars.

  9. 9
    Jason Pulley says:

    Awesome information John. It truly is a life long process and I wish I had known these things earlier in life. But it is never too late to begin is it? I am on this journey now and though it is difficult at times you are sure to keep me inspired and staying in target. Thanks!

  10. 10

    […] John Maxwell on Leadership September 23, 2012 Post Under Uncategorized – Read More […]

  11. 11
    Suzanne says:

    I always look forward the wonderful messages coming from your philosophy. “Seizing growth opportunities” is what I try to do in my everyday life. Intentional growth means spending my time learning and improving. Thanks, Suzanne

  12. 12
    apple jane s. darlucio says:

    I’ve learned a lot! :) I always look forward for a wonderful teachings that you’ve shared. :) God Bless! :)

  13. 13
    Joe Wickman says:

    Once again, fantastic post!
    Thank you for intentionally pouring into all of your readers. You have multiplied your effectiveness countless times, and all who listen and respond are better for it. I know my life has been impacted by your writing. I hope to encourage many others, as you have, as I continue sharing my personal journey of growth and change.
    Thank you.