“Efficiency is enhanced not by what we accomplish but more often by what we relinquish” (Charles R. Swindoll).
THE TRUTH ALLUDED TO IN THIS QUOTATION IS ONE OF LIFE’S HARDEST, BUT MOST IMPORTANT, PRINCIPLES. And while “efficiency” and “effectiveness” are not exactly the same thing, they do have this idea in common: success requires letting go of the good (and even the better) in order to pursue the best. To sculpt a David, Michelangelo had to chip away a lot of very good marble — marble that might have worked extremely well for some other statue.
How, then, shall we define “effectiveness”? Strictly speaking, anything is “effective” if it produces an “effect.” But normally we have in mind the production of an intended or desired effect. The effective person (a) has ideas, and (b) knows how to implement them. He has the habit of achieving what he sets out to achieve.
Looking at it this way, we would have to say that effectiveness is not necessarily a good thing. Whether it is good or evil depends on the moral quality of the goal being sought. It is not enough to say, “I want to be effective.” We have to think carefully and identify which effect we desire to produce, understanding that this is a matter of choice on our part. Ultimately, you and I must decide what our vision of effectiveness is. Since we only have one life, we can’t run away from these questions: what are our goals, our values, our principles . . . and our priorities?
Priorities are always limiting. To choose one thing is to let go of other things, some of which might have been excellent objects to pursue. Effective people have the courage to make hard choices between attractive alternatives. They understand the concept of sacrifice.
It is not enough, of course, to have a principled vision. We also have to acquire the knowledge and skills that our goal requires. Being “willing” may be easy, but learning to be “able” usually requires work. And even after we’ve acquired sufficient ability, we won’t be effective if we don’t have the self-discipline to keep working until we reach the goal.
So you must choose your passion and pursue it effectively. But as you make your choice, understand this: whatever it means for others, effectiveness for you will mean serving where you can serve best.
“Nobody can be you as effectively as you can” (Norman Vincent Peale).