How do you sprint through life, not with the phone company but with your personality? Here's how to spell sprint:
Get Specific. Life is not lived in general. Life is lived very specifically. You have to decide exactly what you are going to do. You can say that in the next year you're going to have a better marriage. Guess what? You won't have a better marriage. You have to be specific. You have to decide what will give you a better marriage - like spending twenty minutes talking to your mate every night and having a date every other Thursday. If you want your dreams to come true, then wake up and do something specific.
Be Positive. You cannot not do anything. It seems the more you try to stop something, the worse it gets. The things that you resist persist. The more you try to stop a habit, the more you want to do it because you think more about the habit. In order to stop something, it helps to start something in its place. You must erase and replace.
A peddler went through a western town selling a white powder. He told the people that if they mixed the powder with water it would make gold. However, when they mixed it they could not think of red monkeys. He made a lot of money because when they asked for their money back after the powder didn't turn to gold, he asked if they had thought of red monkeys. You have to replace the negative with the positive or you will end up like the Australian Aborigine who got a new boomerang but spent the rest of his life trying to throw away the old one. By the way, what do you call a boomerang that doesn't come back? A stick.
Let's relate that to the world. Let's say you have a problem with anger. So this year you decide to control your temper and not get angry anymore. First of all, that's too general. It is also negative. What are you going to do instead of getting angry? An example would be, "When I get angry this year, I'm going to count to ten, take a few deep breaths, and hum some silly song that makes me smile." Now you have a strategy that is specific and positive.
Be Realistic. Many people get discouraged because they set unrealistic goals. One time my goal was to play in the NBA. Since I was short and slow I had to change the goal to playing college basketball. When I was in private practice in Dallas I saw guys who were stressed out about the traffic. When I asked them what they expected every morning, they described a perfect trip: no traffic jams and no crazy people cutting them off. That's very unrealistic. There are no perfect trips in a big city. There are benefits, but traffic is not one of them. So I told them to be realistic about their drive. When they got into the car they should expect two traffic jams and five crazy people. It was amazing how their attitude changed. They called and said they were having a great day: one traffic jam and two crazy people.
Be specific, be positive, be realistic, and Involve Others. If you are making a change, you need someone who knows what you're changing, someone to encourage you and hold you accountable and to let you know how you're doing. There's something about going public that puts positive pressure on your performance - just like sprinting alone is more difficult than sprinting with people cheering for you.
That brings us to the next word, which is Nice Reward. Sprinting for a touchdown is easy because there is an immediate reward. Overall, people do what is rewarding. A grandmother who sang in the church choir told her grandson that she would pay him fifty cents if he would poke his grandpa every time he went to sleep in church. Grandpa dozed off and slept through the whole service. After church she asked her grandson why he didn't do what he was supposed to do, especially since she paid him fifty cents. His response was that grandpa had paid him one dollar to let him sleep.
Decide in advance a nice reward for changed behavior. Be careful about rewarding yourself with what you're trying to change. If you're changing your eating habits, do not reward yourself after four weeks of good eating with a trip to the donut palace.
Finally, set a Time Deadline for your accomplishment. In other words, a dream without a deadline can become a nightmare. If you have a dream, you need discipline and a deadline to accomplish it. Your accountability person should know when to expect your changed behavior.
Spell S.P.R.I.N.T. the way I've taught you: Specific, Positive, Realistic, Involve Others, Nice Reward, and Time Deadline, and you'll discover that it can be an enjoyable way of making progress in life.
Charles Lowery is pastor of Hoffmantown Baptist Church, Albuquerque, N.M.