Lately, a friend and I have been studying the concept of diligence. It started when he read a book written by Steven K. Scott called “The Richest Man Who Ever Lived.” It’s a book about King Solomon from the Bible, who is widely regarded as one of the wisest men who ever lived. Among other related topics, Steven focuses on how diligence plays a huge roll in Solomon’s teachings. He argues that if we would truly understand and apply diligence to our affairs, that we would increase our effectiveness exponentially.
At my friends suggestion, I read the book. I agreed with the concept and was intrigued by it, but I felt that my search to understand diligence was still incomplete. While diligence has it’s own definition, it requires discernment to see how to apply it to different situations. Consider the following analogy to get a basic understanding.
You are driving in your vehicle, and you come upon a stop sign. You slow the vehicle as you approach the intersection, you look both ways, and you proceed through the intersection in the direction you need to go. The law requires you to bring the vehicle to a halt before proceeding through the intersection, but it is more common to bring the speed of the vehicle to a crawl and roll through the stop sign instead.
More often than not, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. As long as you almost stop you are not likely to get pulled over, or put anyone in danger. But what if our roll-though became a little quicker, and a little quicker yet the next time? Where is the point at which our roll-through is no longer safe? It would be impossible to apply a judgement call to every situation. It would depend on the visibility of the intersection, amount of traffic, etc. There is no practical way to enforce a judgement call such as this from one situation to the next, so the law says to stop.
Whether or not we choose to stop completely is a good example of understanding diligence. The diligent choice would be to stop the vehicle completely, even if there was no traffic, and even if there were no police watching. This would keep us off of the slippery-slope, and in total compliance with the law.
When we apply this line of thinking to other areas of our lives, we can see where diligence becomes extremely relevant. Think for a moment about a positive change that you desire in your life. This could be for better health, solid finances, or more meaningful relationships. If we want to see these desires come to fruition, then we need to change something about our lifestyle in order to get a different outcome. For example, to improve our health, we might decide to pack a lunch rather than eating out for lunch. This is a good choice, but what happens when a coworker invites you out to lunch? Do you stick to your plan and decline the invite? If you go to the restaurant, can you trust yourself to make a healthy choice?
In this example, similar to the stop sign analogy, we may not be able to trust our judgement in each new situation. When we don’t have a plan for a given situation, we default to our habits. Deviating from the plan is like rolling through the stop sign; one violation isn’t likely to derail the plan. However, if we are willing to deviate once, we are likely to deviate repeatedly. If we repeatedly deviate from the plan, then we aren’t really executing our plan at all.
I thought of the stop sign analogy while I was driving one day. After I first had the thought, I practiced diligence by coming to a complete stop at each stop sign or stop light I encountered. My mind eventually drifted away from diligence, and I went back into my normal driving habits. Apparently my new action didn’t stay top-of-mind long enough to become my new habit!
Those who are diligent know what needs to happen to get to a certain outcome, and they strictly adhere to it…everywhere, every time. Reflect on your successes and see if a high level of diligence was part of the recipe. Reflect on your struggles and see if a lack of diligence was part of the problem. If we are able to keep the concept diligence top-of-mind, we are more likely to recognize when it’s needed. If we apply diligence when we recognize that we need it, we will increase our effectiveness exponentially.
To your well-being,