Most of us in America are familiar with General George Patton, the flamboyant hero of World War II’s Battle of the Bulge. His brash, no nonsense style often overshadowed the fact that he was a leader who genuinely loved those in his charge.
Though Patton is certainly a well-known iconic figure in military history, most people are unaware of the tragic end to his illustrious career. Not on the field of battle faced off against his enemy, mind you, but rather on a small side road in Germany after the conclusion of the war. He was the victim of a freak car accident that broke his neck and left him a quadriplegic; physical infirmities which effectively ended his career as a leader. This transformed a once extremely engaged, committed, and action-oriented leader into a bitter and broken man—a man who chose to subsequently retreat from the world for the remainder of his days.
Few (if any) reading this know of the circumstances and story of a different citizen-leader who, in his greatest moment of personal and professional adversity, chose not to allow his unexpected circumstances hinder his ability to continue to add value to his surroundings. His name is Dick Woodward and, wearing a smile of a pastor instead of sporting stars of a general, his writings and teachings reach millions of people across the globe every day. Not from a lecture hall, symposium stage, or pulpit, but from a bed in his home in Virginia.
Woodward, like Patton, was also crippled by a debilitating spinal cord injury. Though the result of an illness rather than a car accident that left him almost totally paralyzed in the prime of his life, Woodward has chosen not to allow his situation to deter him from leading the change he wants to see occur in people’s lives.
Armed not with pearl handled pistols reminiscent of Patton’s flamboyant personality but rather, a resilient spirit and unshakeable faith, the humble Woodward uses a voice-activated computer to dictate messages that ultimately reaches millions of people in scores of countries around the globe. Instead of allowing his illness to sideline him, Woodward has chosen instead to transform this setback into a cutback, “a pruning” as he calls it, even partnering with a successful local businessman named Dois Rosser to build over 5,000 orphanages and churches in 58 countries.
We live in a country where we have the freedom to make choices in everything we do. What a blessing. The problem is that all too often we make many of these choices unconsciously and as a result, hinder our own ability to accomplish our goals or fully pursue our dreams. Especially when we find ourselves facing sustained resistance or encountering daunting circumstances.
Robert Fritz, in his book The Path of Least Resistance, shares how the most successful people in life are those who learn to consistently make choices in line with their values. Regardless of the curve balls life may through their way. Yet he is quick to add how most people choose to move through life by default without a clear idea of what we really want. This helps to explain why so many opt to stick with the status quo, the proverbial “way we have always done it around here,” at the first hint of hardship, headache, or heartache.
Fritz explains that the first significant step in positioning ourselves to operate in line with who we really are, inside and out, is to understand there are effectively three types of choices in life: primary, secondary, and fundamental.
Primary choices are choices about the major results we want to achieve (think, I want to earn this particular rank, achieve this certain status, or accomplish this particular goal). Secondary choices help us step toward these results (think of them as waypoints along the path of achieving your aspirations, such as attending a class, learning a new skill, etc). A fundamental choice, however, is a choice in which we commit ourselves to a basic life orientation. Essentially, it’s what defines what we will stand and fight for and influences how we show up in the world, especially when facing adversity or hardship.
So ask yourself, if you faced a debilitating setback right now, would you be more like General Patton or Dick Woodward? Would you retreat to a life of bitterness and disappointment or would you use the opportunity to regroup and develop an alternative approach to achieve your goals and objectives?
Today, Dick Woodward, at age 85, is still going as strong as ever. His unexpected actions in the face of adversity confirmed he is a citizen leader with the strength of character to surrender indifference and make different, more empowering choices; choices that position him to rise above his own fears and limitations in order to deliver on his desire to be a force for good in his part of the world. He does this despite the inconvenient obstacles he may encounter in his path.
Are you willing to surrender indifference and lead the change that needs to happen in your surroundings?
Why not get started today?