“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
- Marianne Williamson
In every person there is a kernel, a seed of an idea, or an ambition to achieve something great. For every person, this ambition will be different: to write the next great book, to run a marathon, to be a better parent, or climb the career ladder. However, for whatever reason, a lot of people short-change themselves. They believe either there are too many obstacles in their way, or they are afraid of failure in pursuit of their dream.
If you’ve read this far, you probably already have an idea of what your dream is. If you’re not sure, ask yourself: ‘What makes you come alive? What gives you a sense of burning desire? And what is it about that dream that is so compelling?’ Your dream is yours, and everyone’s will be different. You will know you have found it when you feel that excitement.
The next step is important: Write It Down. Put it on your fridge or on your desk and share it with your loved ones. For some people, it could be completing an Ironman, or running a marathon in under 4 hours. For others, it could be losing 10kg, or building the body they’ve always dreamed of. Whatever it is, it is yours, and it has just become your north-star for 2024. Congratulations: by writing it down, and sharing it with those around you, it has now become real, and pushed out of your dreams into reality.
Now, what next?
1. IDENTIFY THE BLOCKERS
Don’t worry if the goal still feels too big or out of reach. Like anything in life, we’re going to make things easier by breaking it down into small, manageable chunks. I like to start this process by undertaking a ‘pre-mortem’. Everyone is aware of what a post-mortem is: a review process done after the fact, reviewing what went well, and what didn’t. A pre-mortem works much the same way, except it is done in advance of the event. Ask yourself, ‘if I am not going to achieve this goal, why? What would stop me?’ It is important that you do not limit yourself with this list. Write down any anticipated obstacle or challenge you see in your way, whether they are practical, outlandish, small or completely unavoidable.
As an example, here are a few of my obstacles I wrote down in the way of achieving my goal of completing an Ironman:
- I’m a terrible runner
- No time to do all the training required
- No races on the horizon because of Covid restrictions
- Very inexperienced/never done a triathlon - will I just embarrass myself?
- Not sure how to train properly for such a big event
- I’m not sure I can afford the high price of an Ironman event sign-up.
Now, look through your list, and highlight those that are in your control, and those that aren’t. In my example list above, I am not in control of Covid restrictions. And therefore, this is not an area I should focus on – there is literally nothing I can do about it. Worrying about it will not change the fact, so why not focus on the other areas, the items that you can have an impact on? Should the whole dream be discarded for this one impediment in the way? Of course not. Discard these blockers that are out of your control, and revisit them once you have worked on the other challenges in your way. You may find they are not as big as you once thought at that point, or you may find that life has found a strange way of putting opportunity in your path to overcome these obstacles.
So what about the other ‘challenges’ identified in your pre-mortem? Now is the time to pull up your positive pants, and get proactive about your dream. Identify the strategies you can put in place to start taking small steps towards your goal. For every ‘challenge’ that is within your control above, write down 1-2 steps you can take towards negating that obstacle. Let’s use my Ironman goal as our example again:
Challenge 1: I’m a terrible runner
- Strategy 1: Find a suitable beginners running program online and stick to it!
- Strategy 2: Find a running group that caters to beginners to help keep me motivated
Challenge 2: No time to do all the training involved
- Strategy 1: Start carving out time during my week that I know I will be free: early mornings.
- Strategy 2: Join a running club/session and keep that slot free in my week - say no to work obligations.
Challenge 3: The price of Ironman races
- Strategy 1: Start saving into an Ironman kitty, so that by the time race registration comes around, I have the finances ready.
- Strategy 2: Aim for an Ironman closer to home to limit travel costs
If you’re struggling, imagine what you would say to a friend if they came to you with this problem – we are much better at giving out advice to others than taking our own advice! Often, as you actually think about each challenge and potential solutions, you will find that the pathway is not as arduous as you once believed. It’s more a case of inertia limiting your progress than anything else!
3. PLAN SMALL
“The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”
- Lao Tzu
So how do we overcome this inertia, and begin striving towards our lofty goals and dreams? It may be a cliche, but it really does start with taking those small, manageable steps. If you followed all the steps above, you should now have a list of 8-10 simple strategies to kick-start your journey to achieving your goal by overcoming the challenges in the way. Choose two of them now, and commit to starting both of them in the next week. For example, looking at my list, I will commit to a running program, as well as pre-planning to know when in my week I will actually do the prescribed runs to make sure I have time to do them (early morning before everyone else wakes up). Like a snowball, these strategies will turn into habits, which will gather pace until I begin steamrolling through the other obstacles in my way of achieving my goal!
4. KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.”
- Amelia Earhart
My final advice would be to keep that north-star in mind: the original goal or dream. People often begin with the best intentions, but fall off the wagon for many different reasons, and never find their way back again. As I said earlier, keep this goal displayed somewhere prominent to keep it front of mind. And if you feel like the obstacles are becoming insurmountable again, just review the process – create your pre-mortem list, then coach yourself through the solutions, and pick the easy, small manageable changes to make, and get back on your plan. And as Amelia Earhart says above, enjoy the process – striving for a goal with purpose really is its own reward, and the harder it is, the sweeter the achievement will be!
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