If success has eluded us, when we know we could be doing so much more, the time to reevaluate life is here. We must be honest with ourselves, the hard choices made, a plan with defined goals, yet with the flexibility needed in the real world should be thought out. Change begins when we recognize that must master ourselves, holding in check our desires, passion, and excesses.
We close out another year and usher in a new decade. All of us tend to make resolutions on New Year’s day and yet how many of us follow through? We often give up within a month, why? Change is hard, leaving our comfort zone is not easy, does it mean we do not want to improve our lives? We all have dreams and aspirations, but are we willing to put in the work that it will take to reach them? If we want something bad enough, we will make the time, find the funds, be consistent and throw away the excuses.
Maybe you got the right grades in high school and attended a good college. You came out ready to set the world on fire, but settled instead for a steady paycheck. Or, maybe like me, you went against the norm and caused some trouble earlier in life. The unconventional life is what I lived. I always felt that there was so much more to life than playing it safe.
What makes you tick? If you were writing down your story, how would you describe your character? Grab a piece of paper and a pen, and jot down a few things. It’s not what we do for a living that defines us, it’s who we are as a person and what we live for.
Why does your character make the choices they do?
How does their life affect those closest to them?
What has your character learned that they can pass on to others?
How would others describe your character?
These are just answers for you to think about, not for anyone else to see, so answer them truthfully. Now that you have a description of your character, let it sit for a bit. Come back to it later and read it again.
Do you like the character that you see forming on the page? If yes – great!
If you are not happy in anyway, get busy.
All of us benefit by thinking about the people we look up to, and qualities they possess. By working to incorporate those qualities into our day-to-day life, they can become part of our character too.
As long as you are still living, the story isn’t over. The character is not written in stone.
No matter who you are or what you are doing now, you have within yourself the ability to change your story, improve your character.
Investing time in improving your character is time well spent. We all have time. How we spend it comes down to what is most important to us.
Part of the character building process is realizing we can not go at it alone. Ask for advice, ask for help, and when you do you may be surprised at the outcome.
Looking back at the main character of my story, there were a lot of qualities I’m not proud of in the younger me. The good news is, I wasn’t doomed to stay that way forever. With commitment, time, hard work, help from others and a lot of help from God, I’ve changed. I’m still a work in progress, and my story isn’t over, but I’m here to let you know, you can change too if your character isn’t what you want it to be.
If you had a hard time coming up with a list of qualities that you have, the Bible is a great place to look. It has a whole lot to say about character traits. For every good character quality, there is a bad counterpart. Take a few minutes to glance through the list below. Pick a quality listed and see which side of the coin your character currently sits on.
Alertness vs. Unawareness
Being aware of that which is taking place around me so I can have the right response to it (Mark 14:38)
Attentiveness vs. Unconcern
Showing the worth of a person by giving undivided attention to his words and emotions (Hebrews 2:1)
Availability vs. Self-centeredness
Making my own schedule and priorities secondary to the wishes of those I am serving (Philippians 2:20–21
Contentment vs. Covetousness
Realizing that God has provided everything I need for my present happiness (I Timothy 6:8)
Creativity vs. Underachievement
Approaching a need, a task, an idea from a new perspective (Romans 12:2)
Decisiveness vs. Double-mindedness
The ability to finalize difficult decisions based on the will and ways of God (James 1:5)
Deference vs. Rudeness
Limiting my freedom in order not offend the tastes of those whom God has called me to serve (Romans 14:21)
Dependability vs. Inconsistency
Fulfilling what I consented to do even if it means unexpected sacrifice (Psalm 15:4)
Determination vs. Faintheartedness
Purposing to accomplish God’s goals in God’s time regardless of the opposition (II Timothy 4:7–8)
Diligence vs. Slothfulness
Visualizing each task as a special assignment from the Lord and using all my energies to accomplish it (Colossians 3:23)
Discretion vs. Simplemindedness
The ability to avoid words, actions, and attitudes which could result in undesirable consequences (Proverbs 22:3)
Endurance vs. Giving up
The inward strength to withstand stress to accomplish God’s best (Galatians 6:9)
Flexibility vs. Resistance
Not setting my affections on ideas or plans which could be changed by God or others (Colossians 3:2)
Forgiveness vs. Rejection
Clearing the record of those who have wronged me and allowing God to love them through me (Ephesians 4:32)
Generosity vs. Stinginess
Realizing that all I have belongs to God and using it for His purposes (II Corinthians 9:6)
Gentleness vs. Harshness
Showing personal care and concern in meeting the need of others (I Thessalonians 2:7)
Gratefulness vs. Unthankfulness
Making known to God and others in what ways they have benefited my life (I Corinthians 4:7)
Hospitality vs. Loneliness
Cheerfully sharing food, shelter, and spiritual refreshment with those whom God brings into my life (Hebrews 13:2)
Humility vs. Pride
Recognizing that it is actually God who is responsible for the achievements in my life (James 4:6)
Initiative vs. Unresponsiveness
Recognizing and doing what needs to be done before I am asked to do it (Romans 12:21)
Joyfulness vs. Self-pity
The spontaneous enthusiasm of my spirit when my soul is in fellowship with the Lord (Psalm 16:11)
Love vs. Selfishness
Giving to others’ basic needs without having as my motive personal reward (I Corinthians 13:3)
Loyalty vs. Unfaithfulness
Using difficult times to demonstrate my commitment to God and to those whom He has called me to serve (John 15:13)
Meekness vs. Anger
Yielding my personal rights and expectations to God (Psalm 62:5)
Orderliness vs. Disorganization
Preparing myself and my surroundings so I will achieve the greatest efficiency (I Corinthians 14:40)
Patience vs. Restlessness
Accepting a difficult situation from God without giving Him a deadline to remove it (Romans 5:3–4)
Punctuality vs. Tardiness
Showing high esteem for other people and their time (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Resourcefulness vs. Wastefulness
Wise use of that which others would normally overlook or discard (Luke 16:10)
Responsibility vs. Unreliability
Knowing and doing what both God and others are expecting from me (Romans 14:12)
Security vs. Anxiety
Structuring my life around that which is eternal and cannot be destroyed or taken away (John 6:27)
Self-Control vs. Self-indulgence
Obedience to the promptings of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:24–25)
Sensitivity vs. Callousness
Exercising my senses so I can perceive the true spirit and emotions of those around me (Romans 12:15)
Sincerity vs. Hypocrisy
Eagerness to do what is right with transparent motives (I Peter 1:22)
Thoroughness vs. Incompleteness
Knowing what factors will diminish the effectiveness of my work or words if neglected (Proverbs 18:15)
Thriftiness vs. Extravagance
Not letting myself or others spend that which is not necessary (Luke 16:11)
Tolerance vs. Prejudice
Acceptance of others as unique expressions of specific character qualities in varying degrees of maturity (Philippians 2:2)
Truthfulness vs. Deception
Earning future trust by accurately reporting past facts (Ephesians 4:25)
Virtue vs. Impurity
The moral excellence and purity of spirit that radiate from my life as I obey God’s Word (II Peter 1:3)
List taken and edited from the one found at: http://graceonlinelibrary.org/home-family/christian-parenting/49-godly-character-qualities
If you watch the news or log onto Facebook, you have probably heard it said by now that nothing is your fault. Anything negative was brought upon you by an outside influence. Once you start the blame game, it’s easy to forget that we all have free will.
Personal responsibility has the potential to turn our nation around. We live with more freedoms than any citizens in the history of the world, which gives us more responsibility in determining our own futures. We have no nobility, no ruling class – each one of us has the potential to become whatever we wish in life.
As free people in a free society, our lives are the sum of the decisions we make. I know many people will disagree with me on that. Most will insist on pointing to one bad thing that happened to them, which they blame for changing their life. In reality, life is the culmination of many small decisions made over a long period of time that shape our lives. When we don’t like who we are, it can be very hard to accept that we are to blame.
Think about where you are at this moment in life and trace it backwards. If you are honest with yourself you will see that your past actions determine where you are today.
The great news is that nothing is permanent. You can change your life by changing the decisions you make on a daily basis.
It is up to you, and only you, to change the behaviors that have caused you to be where you are. When changes are made, the outcome will reflect those changes.
If you try to change everything at the same time you are less likely to change anything in the long run. Zero in on one thing you want to change, and start with that. Take baby steps, all aimed toward the same goal. Successful people know where they want to go, and what it takes to get there.
I see this concept of the importance of the small things in nature. This year I started to learn beekeeping as a beekeeper’s apprentice. We began in the spring with two hives. After a couple of months we got a phone call about some bees swarming at a nearby home, so we went and picked up a third swarm and put it in a hive. One of the three hives flourished and grew strong, but the other two were just getting by. We combined the two weak hives to make one bigger hive.
After the bees worked through the spring, summer and early fall, we checked on their progress. They need to have enough honey to last through the cold Illinois winter, so it would not be unusual if there was not enough extra honey to harvest any the first year of keeping bees.
Each hive is made of wooden boxes called supers and each super has eight frames hung in it. The bees make honeycomb on each frame and fill the honeycombs with honey. When we checked the hives, they had each produced and stored enough honey that there was enough extra to remove one super from each hive.
From the two supers, we ended up extracting 27 pounds of honey, which ended up being over two gallons. Each teaspoon of honey represents a dozen bee’s life of work. That means 18,432 bees devoted their lives to make the 1536 teaspoons of honey we harvested. That is a lot of small steps that add up to a big accomplishment.
My own life began to change when I stopped and thought about my long-term goals. What would be the honey harvest of my life? I used to make snap decisions without thinking. I would go off and do what looked exciting or fun. Once I directed my energy towards a long-term outcome and forgot about the short-term distractions, I began to see real change.
Change is hard. That’s why it’s so important to keep your eyes on your goal, not on how you’re feeling at the moment. As Christians, we often quote the verse “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).” This can be taken out of context to give the impression that life is not hard with God is on our side. The truth is far from that. Paul, when he was writing that, was in prison.
God doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible that he won’t give you anything you can’t handle (as Pastor Arol preached so clearly this past Sunday at Minooka Bible in his sermon about Jonah). Life is tough. God promises he will be with us, but he never promises it won’t be hard.
This is not limited to changing yourself, although that is where it all begins. In order to transform the world, you have to transform yourself first.
22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self,which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness..
At 20 years old I believed I had life figured out. I knew how to put cash into my pocket and a roof over my head. I was able to do what I wanted whenever and wherever I wished.There was nothing I wanted from church, so in my mind, I didn’t need it. Same with God.
I determined to think positive, work hard and keep moving forward with my ultimate goals always in mind.
The formula was simple: get cash in whatever way possible, and keep it coming.
Why would I need God? I had science. I knew why the sky was blue and the sun came up every morning. I didn’t need to read a book that was thousands of years old and had no relevance to my modern life.
If you were to ask me how the world was created, I would have said the big bang. If you asked me what caused the big bang, I would have answered, “It just happened.”
That was my limited way of thinking because my world was so small. I had become a criminal at a young age. Organized crime is not just about committing crimes, it is a way of life that takes over. Everyone in the life looks at every situation through tinted glass: how can we benefit on a large scale. Everyone around me did the same. I cut my hair, shaved and dressed like I was told. Every person I was around was part of the life, or I didn’t consider them a friend.
I wanted to expand and become more successful which means I wanted more cash each week. I asked my capo, Jimmy, to put me with Mark – an older gambler who ran a sports book. In other words, Mark was a bookie. I had sold parlay cards and other sports gambling products so I knew the world. Mark showed me how to set up my book and balance it. I learned the lingo and the kind of bets gamblers would place.
The next year I was ready to go out on my own. My first year I did well because I had older guys like Mark helping me along. The next year I did even better and I expanded. Everyone gambles and it does not hurt anyone – this is what I told myself over and over again. This was a big lie because a person who is addicted to gambling will do anything to feel the thrill. Even when faced with ruin, these people kept gambling.
I soon swallowed up smaller bookies and they began working for me. The money came easily because I was the house and the house always makes 10% on any bet. I used the extra cash to loan out and gain more cash through loans. Gambling is unlike any other business because you are not out any real product, only figures on a sheet of paper.
After twelve years I couldn’t stand my life at all. I wanted out of the life, but I was not willing to go through the uncomfortable period it would take to change. The criminal’s dream is to find something that will bring in the same amount of cash that they are making except the profit becomes legal. Until I realized that my way of thinking was broken and had to change, I would go no place fast. It wasn’t until my dream became getting out of the life altogether, profit or not, that I would find the answer.
God’s timing is perfect, but I didn’t know that at the time. The FBI offered me a chance at a fresh start, and that was the turning point. I spent the next 8 years trying to undo what I spent my life before doing. While I was still a part of the criminal world for the next eight years, I was no longer there as a criminal but as an informant for the FBI.
God gave me a fresh start, but it took me almost another ten years of trying to start over on my own before I turned to Him.
The challenge for me was to let God guide me instead of trying to find my own way. It is a process that I am still going through and will be going through for the rest of my life. I know that everything I encounter is part of His plan, and I have to surrender my plans to His. When I look back at my life, I see a lot of mistakes. I also see God’s hand at work. Success, I have learned, is all relative to what you consider successful. The things our world considers success we learn in the Bible are very different from what early Christians, like Paul, considered most valuable – knowing Christ as our savior.
Philippians 3:7-14 (NIV)
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
I have learned some very hard lessons and all that I have learned about true success has helped me in two ways. The hard work and positive thinking is still a part of my life. I learned that I cannot be successful with doing what I feel is right, true success comes from knowing we are flawed and Christ bridged the gap between our flaws and God, offering himself as a sacrifice. All the success you think you have or aim for will never be enough until you ask God into your life and make knowing and serving Him your definition of success.