The Pits of Progress

Every human being fights discouragement. Some fight it a day at a time, some fight it for years at a time. Regardless of the length of time, it is a fight we all face.

But I believe that leaders face this battle more often, just because they're leaders. Leaders by nature are on the front lines, that's what makes them a leader, and being in front usually means you take a lot more shots. While others generally face one or two pits of discouragement, I believe leaders face an additional challenge. I will call these the three pits of progress. Let me explain.

  1. The pits we slip into. Like I said earlier, everyone battles discouragement. However, leaders are more susceptible to discouragement because their role as a leader requires them to constantly give of themselves to others. The constant responsibility and the constant giving of ones self for others can easily drain a person. And if a leader isn't careful to refuel the tank, the tank eventually runs dry. When the tank gets below a certain point, we can easily slip into discouragement. This is why it is important to establish a habit of constantly refueling yourself through recreation and constant personal growth time. Even if you are faithful in refueling, there are times when you will simply fight discouragement, for no apparent reason. But I have found that I am most prone to fight discouragement when I'm tired and spent, so I have developed a personal growth plan that keeps me refueled. This plan includes regular exercise and workouts; healthy eating habits; proper sleep patterns; reading a book a week; listening to 3-5 podcast sermons per week; spending regular and scheduled quality time with my family; and of course a daily habit of private prayer and Bible study. All of these habits contribute to my being refueled and as such are important enough to block out these times in my weekly calendar. I know this because if I miss just one of these habits, I find myself getting tired more quickly, making more mistakes, and fighting bouts of discouragement more often. How do you refuel? What are your daily, weekly, monthly, yearly habits of personal growth?
  2. The pits we’re thrown into. The second pit is the one that others throw us into, or that our circumstances create for us. There are times when others treat us poorly or even abuse us and much like Joseph in the Bible, we end up in an undesirable place. While every human being at some point in their life faces a situation when another human being throws them into a pit of discouragement, I believe leaders are greater targets for this type of abuse. Why? Because leaders become leaders because they go against the flow and are generally out front doing things others are unwilling to do. Because of this, leaders are generally greater targets for insecure people to attack. Anytime we face an attack, whether warranted or not, it hurts. Any time we face criticism, whether we deserve it or not, it hurts. And being targeted with criticism, very often from the people we are trying to lead, can throw us into a pit of despair.Sometimes there are days when circumstances are simply stacked up against us and we feel like we're in over our head. (By the way, this is a normal feeling for a leader). This overwhelmed feeling can easily land us in a pit of despair. Regardless of how we end up in this pit, the best way out and the best way to safeguard yourself from this pit, is to surround yourself with trusted counselors and mentors. Solomon said there is safety in counsel. That is the truth. A leader can save himself a lot of grief if he has a group of people around him that support him, are honest with him, and will strengthen his resolve when he needs it. How is your counsel? Do you have people you can lean on, whom you trust to give you wise guidance?
  3. The pits we climb into. This is the pit that represents your greatest fear and at the same time your greatest opportunity. This is the pit that only leaders face. Others are too afraid to enter this pit. This is when you can take on battles purposefully for the sake of an opportunity. It's a risk every time, but you decide the struggle is worth the risk. This pit is like the one that one of King David's mighty men crawled into on a cold, winter day to kill a lion stuck in the snowy hole. Who in their right mind would go into a frozen pit where a lion is trapped? After all, the lion would probably eventually die anyway. Why pick a fight? It was a crazy notion, except that it represented a great opportunity to be remembered as one of King David's mighty men. And so, he climbed into the pit and took the risk, simply because it represented an opportunity too good to resist.Although, David's mighty man climbed into this pit by himself, I would not recommend any leader climb into this pit alone. It is wisest to take on these bold tasks with a trusted team. One is too small a number to achieve greatness. But with a quality team, a leader can accomplish almost anything. The only way to wisely climb into this pit is with a trusted team, and it is also the best way to get out of it as quickly as possible. In a team, when one battles discouragement, the others can hold him up with encouragement. Alone, these battles may be too much to face.

Question: Do you identify with any of these pits of progress? Tell us your story. How did you end up in the pit and how did you get out? Please comment in the "Leave a Reply" box below.