You've got goals and ambitions and you're ready to make them happen. Here are some seemingly benign ideas that could be getting in your way.
#1 ALL OR NOTHING THINKING
You think that you're either crushing it or failing, there's no middle ground.
Let's say you haven't been exercising at all and you set a goal to exercise 5 days a week; a large, but well intentioned target. Now here's what actually happens:
Week 1 you're super motivated and do all 5 days.
Week 2 gets busy so you only do 3 days.
Week 3 you're tired and don't do any days.
Week 4 you try again and get in 3 days.
At the end of the month you feel like a failure, but bear with me and let's do some simple math. Before your attempt you had a 0% success rate in the exercise realm, after your attempt (11 days out of 20 desired) you had a 55% success rate!
In business, if you increase your revenue by 55% in one month, that's a home run, a huge success. Maybe you've heard the modern proverb, "If you aim for the stars, maybe at least you will hit the moon." ...you don't need to be disappointed about hitting the moon.
#2 UNQUESTIONED "TRUTHS"
Do any of these sound familiar or feel true to you?
No pain no gain.
Winners never quit and quitters never win.
Suffer the pain of discipline or suffer the pain of regret.
These quotes make me cringe because they're based on a misguided paradigm: you must feel bad now, so you can feel better later.
Many people are going after their goals because they want to feel better. Whether they feel inadequate compared to a neighbor, friend, or colleague, or just suffer from general insecurity, the idea is that once they've crossed a certain finish line, they will get the reward and feel better.
Wouldn't it be nicer to just feel better now and then go do the things that seem interesting? This is possible if you haven't attached your self-worth, or importance, to accomplishing your goals. There might be challenging moments, but trust me, the suffering is entirely optional.
#3 YOU MUST CREATE WINNING HABITS
I know people who spend so much time working on their daily habits that they never get to the thing they actually want to accomplish. Ask yourself, do you really need new habits to get where you want to go?
We've been brainwashed into "slow and steady wins the race." What if instead of a predictable 30 minutes a day of effort you did a hard two week push and then took a few weeks off? Some people are sprinters, some are marathoners, and that's okay — You can find a flow that works for you!
#4 THERE'S ONLY VALUE IN THE DIFFICULT
Nobody is interested in the person for whom success came easily. We want to hear the story of struggle and overcoming obstacles: the hero's journey.
These stories are great and give hope in difficult times, but be careful to not overlook, and under appreciate, the things that come easily to you just because you've been trained to value that which is challenging.
Sometimes, taking the easy path gets you to success more quickly, and certainly less painfully, than the heroic uphill climb.
#5 YOU NEED TO FIX YOURSELF
Many people pursue goals because they think they're broken, or insufficient, in some way.
What if right now, from this moment on, you consider yourself perfect? What if you gave yourself permission to never work on improving yourself again? How would you spend all that extra time, energy, and money?
#6 BELIEVING THERE'S A RIGHT WAY
Here are some things we've been told are true...
Mornings are the most productive time of day.
Your day will start better if you make your bed.
It's important to eat family dinner together.
Screen time is bad.
You have to wear special clothes in order to exercise.
You shouldn't check email first thing in the morning.
The lists from experts go on and on, and we make up our own rules too! Then we go running in circles trying to get it right and do everything. Of course perfection is a Herculean mission and we end up chastising ourselves, or others, when we can’t keep it all together.
It's important to remember that there are successful people all over the world who do life and work on their terms. Do your work your way.
*As a side note, did you know that there are genes which determine your circadian rhythm and whether you feel more awake in the morning or at night, and how much sleep you can function on?
#7 YOU THINK THE WORST OF YOURSELF
You assume that if you're not successful it's due to your own moral or personal failing.
For the longest time I thought I had no willpower and was addicted to sugar, specifically chocolate. In reality, after many, many years, I learned I had an iron deficiency and the rich chocolate I kept at home had 11% RDA iron per serving. My body was keeping me alive — it was working brilliantly faced with challenging circumstances!
I also believed that I hated running and didn't have the discipline necessary to become good at it. One day, out of the blue, it occurred to me that maybe I just didn't know how to run properly. I went to a physical therapist and it turns out that I didn't even know how to walk!
My legs are very long (35" inseam) and my body had compensated by engaging a bunch of smaller, inappropriate muscles to move them. It took me a year to learn to use and strengthen the correct muscles. Now, to my astonishment, I love to sprint.
If you're having a hard time, please don't take it personally — you are not a failure. Instead, spend some time exploring the question, "If I have all the willpower and discipline I need to accomplish my goal, and I'm not making progress, what factor might I be missing?"
#8 NEEDING TO KNOW THE OUTCOME BEFORE STARTING
Human beings have fantastic imaginations! From the Pyramids of Giza to self driving cars, the world is full of human made wonders, both big and small; however, we get into trouble when we believe we can use our imaginations to predict the future.
Just look at New Year's Eve 1999, people were terrified that the world would collapse as the clock ticked over to the new millennium, but there were only fireworks and crickets.
Then came New Year's Eve 2019 when everyone was excited for 2020, it was predicted to be a fabulous year, and we all know how that turned out.
Some admired people in history have understood this well. Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children's Defense Fund, said of Martin Luther King Jr., "He introduced me to the idea of taking one step, even if you can’t see the whole stairway when you start."
My hope for you is that when your next step, no matter how big or small, reveals itself, you are ready to take it — fearlessly!