After reading Developing the Leaders Around You last month, I got a little excited about reading more from leadership author John C. Maxwell. I found Today Matters as an audio book online, so I’m not able to pull as many quotes from this book as I could from his other works. Nevertheless, I found this to be an encouraging read, as Maxwell lays our twelve daily decisions every person ought to make in order to use his time most wisely and in order to become the most useful, most successful person he can be.
The twelve daily decision, what he calls his “Daily Dozen,” are simple things individually, yet would require a great commitment of time and energy to practice sufficiently each day. If done well, however, each day could become a person’s “masterpiece,” and life down the road would absolutely show the fruit one’s labors. The “Daily Dozen” are as follows:
- Attitude: Maxwell’s written entire books on the power of a positive attitude, so this one comes as no surprise. He encourages his readers to evaluate their lives and how they approach each new circumstance. I know that this one is important for me, because like Garfield before me, I hate Mondays, and when I approach the beginning of the week with an attitude like that, I shade my entire outlook in a pessimistic shadow.
- Priorities: He reminds his readers of the four-square approach to one’s “To Do List”:
a. Important and Urgent
b. Important and not Urgent
c. Unimportant and Urgent
d. Unimportant and not Urgent
Why is it that we so love to hang out in the fourth area when our priorities ought to be numbers one and two!? When I get home after a long day’s work, I like to sit on the couch and do a jigsaw puzzle while watching a cartoon with my kids. This is fine as a cool-down, but when I stretch that time out past 30 minutes, I’m proven myself to be a man who doesn’t have his priorities straight.
- Health: In this chapter, Maxwell gets serious and honest with his readers, admitting that this is an area where he has struggled for decades. He has been a go-go-go type of leader, never considering the impact his lifestyle would have on his health until he had a heart attack. I fear that I am the same way, except for the fact that while I thrive mentally under stress, my own body can’t generally cope with it very well. I owe it to my wife and kids to get back into the mode of proper health management, so this chapter was a real eye-opener for me.
- Family: He reminds his readers to not let this priority fall from the top line of the “To Do List.” Nothing is worth the sacrifice of your most vital relationships. I realize that this doesn’t mean merely “sit down and watch cartoons together,” which is why I try to prioritize my evenings after the kids go to bed to include my tough, focused brain-work, leaving plenty of playtime in the hours between school and bed.
- Thinking: He emphasizes the little breaks where we’re supposed to simply think, whether in a quiet spot in nature or in a crowded café. This thinking ought to include reflection, brainstorming, planning, and problem-solving. Such focused downtime is well worth the investment, for it’s like a de-frag of the mind. Personally, I do my best thinking on the road. I was a little shocked to find how much Maxwell praised James Allen’s As a Man Thinketh, which is more of a hijack of Jesus’ teachings by humanist philosophy than a good source of Christian information.
- Commitment: This one is all about being a loyal, dependable person who doesn’t need to be reminded of tasks to finish. It also involves completing what you’ve started, even if no one on your back about it.
- Finances: He tells his readers the importance of fiscal responsibility, something that—praise God—my father taught me at a very young age.
- Faith: Maxwell is a former Pastor, so this one comes naturally for him. While he says that he doesn’t want to push his faith on anyone, he does begin to share bit of Christian Truth, aiming specifically at the essential existence of God and the hope of having a purpose in life. For me, this would include my quiet time with the Lord, not to mention my opportunities to pray throughout the day.
- Relationships: Great leaders are people-people, even if they aren’t naturally so. When one comes to investing so much time on these Daily Dozens, it’s easy to become self-focused and self-enamored. Don’t let your self-growth deter you from reaching out and making connections with others! Everyone needs support and camaraderie, so Maxwell emphasizes the important habit of bridge-building.
- Generosity: Whether giving to charity or church, and whether giving money or time or gratitude, the focus here is on giving back to those around you.
- Values: These twelve practices are Maxwell’s own values, which is why he tries to review them every single day. He encourages everyone to find out what are their own personal values and to make sure that what they do each day aligns well with the things that their own hearts deem of utmost importance.
- Growth: I don’t think there’s a single Maxwell book that doesn’t recommend that the reader develop his own Personal Growth Plan. If you don’t plan, it won’t happen. He recalls that in childhood, physical growth and mental learning seemed natural and occurred with very little effort. But as he gets older, my, how times have changed!
Maxwell then ends his book by recommending that his readers rate these twelve choices into the order of their own personal best and worst, from top to bottom. He suggests that each reader then choose two practices from his top 6 and one from his bottom 6, in order to spend time specifically on these during a week. As the reader perfects or improves upon these first three areas, he should then add another and then another, until all twelve are represented in a single daily routine.
Certainly, this seems like whole lot of work, but one has to ask himself: how much am I willing to invest in order to become a successful person? A better father? A more worthy husband? A more faithful steward of the Lord? If I can’t take an extra hour each day to improve myself, then perhaps I don’t have the commitment to be these things and should just give up now. How horrible that would be!
While at times, this book sounded a bit like any other self-help book, I came to realize how important it would be to make the daily decisions in my own life. I plan to choose three areas to begin working on now, and since commitment would be my first weakness to improve, hopefully I’ll grow into all twelve over the next several weeks!