I've been working out recently in preparation for running a 1/2 marathon. To help myself not have a miserable experience for those 13.1 miles, I found a generic (read 'free') plan for getting in shape to run a 1/2 marathon. I've been working that plan for about 9 weeks, and through that process I've realized something about myself ~ namely, that if there's something external to myself that holds me accountable for getting something done, it's more likely that the thing will get done; to wit, if I didn't have a downloaded .pdf telling me when and how far to run each week, I'd probably be about ready to run a 10k on race day. For those who aren't familiar with these distances, a 10k is less than 1/2 the distance I should be ready to run.
The training has been going well, as I've followed the training plan. I certainly won't be fast, but if the progression I've noticed so far continues, I fully expect to finish the race in good condition. By following the rules, the directions, the guidelines laid out by someone else, I can almost guarantee myself success in the venture I'm undertaking.
Sometimes I wish the same formula (follow the directions, live by the rules, stick to the guidelines laid out by someone else) would work as well in our faith life.