Pivot Points

A lifetime is filled with many experiences that become “pivot points” in a person’s destiny. Sometimes these “pivot points” can take a person down a pathway of blessing that he could never have imagined when he started the journey. But at other times, life can take a person down a highway that leads to disappointment and tragedy. That is why all of us need a second shot at life. In some area of your life, you need an opportunity to make something right that has gone wrong.

In the short-run, these devastating defeats are the times in life that are difficult and painful. But in the long run, these are the times that build character and impart the wisdom that we need for the road ahead. So in a way, our times of failure are the best times for us, because these are the times that clarify our vision and nurture our resolve. These are the times that make us strong and point us in the right direction.

The difference between allowing our setbacks to destroy us, and letting them strengthen us is found in the way we respond to them. When a person allows his worst disappointments to better clarify his purpose in life or when a person allows his temporary setbacks to ignite a passion in his heart for the things that truly matter to him, then these moments of difficulty can become the watershed moments when we learn to take control of ourselves and learn to take control of those things we have the power to influence. They also are the times when we can learn the wisdom of releasing those things that we cannot control, those things that are beyond our command.

Have you ever tried to learn a sport? I’m not talking about learning the rules of the sport so you can follow the game on television. I’m talking about learning the sport itself. Have you ever tried to actually learn to play a competitive sport?

If so, you know that every sport is more difficult than it appears. You also know that the proper way to play the sport is not the way that seems right at first. The proper way to swing a tennis racket is not the way we tend to swing it instinctively. The proper way to roll a bowling ball is not the way that feels most natural. And a proper golf swing is extremely uncomfortable. Therefore, the best way to learn to play a sport is to learn it incrementally, a little at the time. As you become comfortable with one process, you can move on to the next process, and eventually, you will improve.

Life is the same way. People don’t go from obscurity to success simply by getting up one morning and deciding to do so. To master the skills that go into success, a person must hone those skills slowly over time. He must work toward a goal a little each day, nurturing the processes of achievement a little bit here and a little bit there until excellence is finally attained.

Particularly in times of crisis, a person who wants to succeed must work toward his goals a little bit each day. He must make small daily deposits into the reservoir of knowledge and experience that will be needed when the time comes to take his crucial shot. Learn to do the things that are necessary every day to move your life forward just an inch or two.

Achieving greatness requires self-control. Your ability to overcome your setbacks is dependent on your willingness to accept this harsh reality, your willingness to take responsibility for yourself.

Obviously, there are a lot of things you won’t be able to control as you take another shot at your goals. You won’t be able to control the economy. You won’t be able to control the weather. You won’t be able to control what your enemies do, or even what your friends choose to do. But the tides of life can turn for you once you learn to control yourself because, in the end, you are responsible for the outcome of your own life.

Unfortunately, if there is a flaw that is common today, it is the tendency to blame others for the circumstances of our lives. It is the tendency to see ourselves as victims of other people’s decisions, other people’s actions, and the circumstances created by other people’s deeds. But if you have failed in the past, you need to understand the role that you played in your own demise, and you need to be ready to master your own weaknesses as you prepare to try again.

Reinhold Niebuhr wrote one of the most famous prayers in the history of the church, the “Prayer of Serenity.” Niebuhr prayed, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” Can you pray this prayer with Neibuhr? Can you honestly ask the Lord to give you these same three qualities?

Neibuhr prayed for serenity, but he did not pray for serenity in every situation. Serenity, like most qualities, is only useful in the appropriate context. So when Neibuhr prayed for serenity, he prayed for it in those situations that proved to be beyond his control. He wanted to maintain an inner peace and calm when there was nothing he could do to change the circumstances affecting him.

Neibuhr also prayed for courage. When faced with things he could not control, Neibuhr wanted serenity. But when faced with things that he could control, Neibuhr wanted valor and nerve. When the heat is on and the battle is raging, the proper response is one of bravery, not contentment. The proper stance is one of audacity, not mellowness. So God will give us courage to do the things we must do if we are willing to ask him for it. He will give us courage if we will show ourselves willing to fight the battles we must fight to move our lives forward.

Neibuhr prayed for wisdom. The key to success is to know the difference between serenity and courage and to know the difference between those times when one is appropriate and when the other one isn’t. So ask God for serenity, and ask him for courage. But most of all, ask him for wisdom. The ability to tell the difference between what is appropriate and what is inappropriate is the foundation of a good life.

With daily installments, controlling what you can, releasing what you can’t, and knowing the difference between them, not only will you bounce back from failure but you will be well on your way to achieving your goals and you will eventually find yourself at the finish line.


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