A Challenge Worth Embracing

Tim Richards   -  

A Challenge Worth Embracing

Our church staff has been reading James Clear’s fascinating book, Atomic Habits, Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results. The book began with the history of how the governing body of professional bicycling in Great Britain hired Dave Brailsford as its performance director in 2003. At the time, English cyclists had suffered a nearly 100-year slump. In 95 years, British riders had won only one Olympic gold medal, and in cycling’s biggest race, the Tour de France, no English rider had won in 110 years.

To improve their chances, Brailsford adopted a very different approach from that of previous coaches. He relentlessly pursued “…a tiny margin of improvement in everything you do.” The new coach attempted to improve individual parts of competitive cycling by 1%, and believed small changes to multiple areas would make a dramatic difference. Here are three of those changes: 1) redesigned bike seats to make riders more comfortable, 2) riders wearing electrically heated shorts kept leg muscles at the ideal temperature, and 3) racing suits made of a lighter, more aerodynamic material.

The British Cycling team’s minor changes in hundreds of areas produced astonishingly significant results, surpassing all expectations. They won a remarkable 60% of the gold medals in road and track cycling events at the 2008 Olympic Games. In the 2012 Olympics, they astounded the world by setting nine Olympic records and seven world records. That same year, Bradley Wiggins made history as the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France. The English team would go on to win the event five times in the next six years, a testament to the transformative power of small changes.

It might surprise you to know the Bible encourages a commitment to excellence. Scripture challenges us to be relentless in our pursuit of eternal values. The Apostle Paul put it this way, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (Philippians 3:12-14, NLT)

Far too often, we convince ourselves that change is impossible, that we are destined to repeat our mistakes, to lead unremarkable lives, to settle for the status quo, and to fall short of our potential. However, both Paul and Dave Brailsford challenge this mindset. We reach our God-given potential through faith and courage to make small changes. You may feel unequipped to make significant changes, but with God’s help, we can make the small changes that lead to a life of eternal significance. That is certainly a challenge worth embracing.