Our church staff is reading an incredible book suggesting tiny changes can produce remarkable results. In Atomic Habits, James Clear combines fascinating research with interesting principles that encourage us to live meaningful lives.

I was captivated by an amazing story Clear shared about Laszlo Polgar, a Hungarian man who thought hard work was always more powerful than talent. He believed “a child could become a genius in any field. His mantra was, ‘A genius is not born, but is educated and trained.’”

While I do not entirely agree with his premise, no one can argue with the remarkable results of an experiment he conducted. Polgar convinced a teacher named Klara to marry him. The two agreed to raise their children as chess prodigies. The couple planned to fill their home with chess books and have pictures of chess masters on the walls. They would constantly play chess with their children and enter them in the most challenging chess tournaments. Detailed records of the tournament history of every player their children might play would be kept. In short, their lives would focus entirely on chess and demonstrate the incredible power of laser-sharp focus.

The couple was blessed with three daughters; the first, Susan, started playing chess at four, and she could beat some adults within six months. Their next child, Sofia, was even more exceptional at the game, becoming a world champion at 14 and a grandmaster a few years later. Their youngest, however, was the best chess player. She began beating her father at five and became the youngest person ever listed among the world’s top 100 chess players. At just 15, Judit became the youngest grandmaster in history, even younger than Bobby Fischer, who had previously held the record. She became the world’s number one-ranked female chess player and maintained that honor for 27 years. The sisters grew up in a home that prioritized chess over everything else.

While their achievements are undeniably impressive, it’s important to note that their single-minded focus on chess likely came at the expense of a more important aspect of life. The Bible challenges us to live with a far larger perspective; consider what the Apostle Paul wrote, “…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 3:13-14, NLT)

Paul’s profound statement challenges us to prioritize spiritual matters and ensure they align with what counts eternally. Concentrating on what matters for eternity makes more sense than focusing only on other’s recognition in the here and now.