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In my experience, the problems of a person's past impact them in one of two ways: they experience either a breakdown or a breakthrough. This month as we gear up for the New Year, take a moment to decide which path you will take. Are you heading toward a breakdown or a breakthrough?

Steps toward a Leadership Breakdown:

1. Comparison
No matter what you've experienced, remember this: there are people who've had it better than you and done worse; and there are people who've had it worse than you and done better. I've watched some very talented people miss opportunities because they were worried about what someone else was receiving or achieving.

If you prepare yourself to the best of your abilities and give your all in every situation, you will be successful. You may not always win, but you will be a winner.

One of my favorite thoughts about comparison comes from a young girl who was competing in a pageant. "There will always be someone prettier than me, more talented than me, and more graceful than me. I can only hope they aren't on the same stage as me."

2. Rationalization
In this day and age it seems that people can rationalize any situation. A cartoon which appeared a few years ago in the New Yorker showed two clean-shaven middle-aged men sitting together in a jail cell. One inmate turned to the other and said, "All along, I thought our level of corruption fell well within community standards." Taking responsibility instead of rationalizing is a matter of integrity. And integrity is the foundation of leadership.

3. Isolation
You can't be a leader if you're all alone. Leadership requires teamwork, and teamwork requires people. Trying to avoid a challenge or problem by isolating yourself from everyone always results in a larger problem. You may need to separate yourself from most of the group to solve a problem; however, you should always have contact with at least one other person who can mentor you and help you through the situation. Your mentor may not be able to help you find a solution quicker, but a mentor serves as an encourager, which is sometimes just as valuable.

4. Regret
Yesterday ended last night. As much as we would like to, we can't go back and change what has already happened. We can only move forward and do the best we can today. Regret merely drains our energy and makes it harder to move on.

5. Bitterness
Past hurts can make you bitter or better. If you hold onto disappointment you become bitter. If you learn from disappointment you have a better chance of not facing the same disappointment later on. I have found that grudges hurt me more than they will the other person; therefore, clinging to bitterness wastes time and energy.

In my book, "Failing Forward", I recount the story of Joseph of the ancient Hebrews. He was thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, falsely accused, and put in jail; however, he didn't hold a grudge against the people who wronged him. Joseph found the positive benefits in his negative experiences, and went on to be a powerful ruler in Egypt.

This article is used by permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell's free
monthly e-newsletter: Leadership Wired available at

Author Biography

John C. Maxwell
Web site: Injoy Group
John Maxwell grew up in the 1950s in the small Midwestern city of Circleville, Ohio. John's earliest childhood memory is of knowing that he would someday be a pastor. He professed faith in Christ at the age of three, and reaffirmed that commitment when he was 13. At age 17, John began preparing for the ministry. He attended Circleville Bible College, earning his bachelor's degree in 1969. In June of that same year, he married his sweetheart, Margaret, and moved to tiny Hillham, Indiana, where he began his first pastorate.

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