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The Keys to Successfully Realizing Your God Given Purpose
by Mark Shields
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A lot of times the things we think look good end up not being so good. The things we donít think will be good end up being whatís really good and useful. If the things of God are what we cherish, then we have all we need. Paraphrasing what my pastor, Steve Ramsdell once said in a sermon, ďOver the course of life, most good things don't happen magically or suddenly. They are the result of a predetermined request, an ongoing commitment to build momentum for lifeĒ.

Vince Lombardi once said, "I firmly believe that a man's finest hour - his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear is the moment when he works his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle ĖvictoriousĒ. The great thing about sports is that goals are defined. Everyone on the team has one common goal. In football, itís getting the ball across the goal line. In basketball, itís getting the ball in the basket. In baseball or softball, itís getting more teammates to home base than the other team. In sports and in life, there are keys to success and it all starts by planning to win.

A baseball coach once made the statement that hitting is about 90% mental. I remember a story my high school baseball coach told our team the day before a tournament. He gave a talk to the team about a golfer that was sick. He would lay in his bed dreaming about playing golf. In his dreams he would always see himself hitting the perfect shot. This went on for several weeks as he played rounds of golf in his head. When he got over his sickness several weeks later, he was able to go out to the golf course and shoot his best round of golf ever.

Many great Athletes practice in their minds before they compete in their sport. In baseball, a hitter might visualize the pitcher leaning, starting his wind up, rocking back and seeing his arm whip over his head. They might see the seams of the ball. It is bigger than usual and they stride into the pitch. The bat comes around and they swing through the ball. Then they feel the ball hitting the sweet part of the bat and how the ball jumps off the bat. The lesson to remember is that the mind has to see it and believe it before it will achieve it.

No one wants to look back on life and have to say, ďif only I had done this or that when I was youngerĒ. To step ahead, there needs to be a plan that meets values and needs. A person can make a list of dreams and use it as a blueprint in building a plan. Like athletes planning out their victory, we can plan out activities. Write out quotes, Bible verses, points made in sermons, and links to videos. They can be used to inspire and support a plan; providing a map to keep them on course. Itís also a good idea to plan out a timeline because deadlines are important. They act like the clock at a sporting event as the 4th quarter approaches and everyone becomes more focused before time runs out.

Desire is a force that leads champions. One of the reasons I think sports is so popular is that you can see examples of the desire to win. Michael Jordon was voted ESPN's athlete of the century in 1999. The teams he played on just won. He had a need to win and would find a way for his team to win. When Michael Jordan was in his early years of High School, he was told he was not tall enough and good enough to make the basketball team. Desire in him recognized no such word as impossible and accepted no such reality as failure. NCAA championship at North Carolina, All-American, Olympic gold medalist, perennial all-star, NBA most valuable player numerous times, and 6 NBA world championships are the result.

By writing out plans, confidence will grow with each action step accomplished. For plans not accomplished, some adjustments may be needed. Either habits or attitudes will need to be transformed or perhaps some feathers may need to be ruffled to get teammates moving in the right direction. As written about in It Takes Courage, sometimes courage is needed to get everyone going in the same direction.

Determination is needed to stick to plans and continue to pursue them. The Declaration of Independence was a written statement that continues to keep our country on course. In the same way, personal written statements, favorite inspirational videos, sermon notes, favorite Bible verses, and photos can build determination. They can inspire and help individuals stay focused.

Going the extra mile is needed to follow through on plans regardless of obstacles, criticism, or circumstances. In many cases, there is not much difference between 1st and 2nd place. The little extra effort makes a big difference. In success and in failure, we should not dwell on the past but should look at the present and future; always giving our best.

I once heard a story about a professor who gave an exam on English literature just before Christmas. One student handed in a very short paper reading, "God only knows the answer to this question; Merry Christmas!Ē The professor returned the paper after the Christmas break with this note: "God gets an A; you get an F. Happy New Year!"

In sports, there are certain points within a game when an individual or team either comes through or not. In baseball or softball, itís when runners are in scoring position and all that is needed is a clutch hit. Some batters are good at getting a hit at the right time. They seem to be able to turn it up a notch when needed most. In football, it may be taking advantage of a fumble recovery or interception and then scoring a touchdown. Itís the same in business. There are times when an individual can make a big difference for their company by going the extra mile for a customer because that customer may be the one that gets the business a major contract.

As individualís, we are not selling a product, but we are selling ourselves. Itís a personal brand we are selling and by doing whatís right, there is a strong possibility for rewards. We can learn from stories like the Eric Liddell story (depicted in the Oscar-winning 1981 film Chariots of Fire) who was a sprinter for Great Britain in 1924. He made the finals in the Olympic 100 meters but had a problem because the race was on a Sunday morning. He didnít run on Sundays because he believed that was a day to honor God. He made an adjustment and instead of running the 100 meters on Sunday, ran the 400 meters on Monday. He understood what was really important and what the real race in life was. He went the extra distance and won.

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