You are not separated from your goals by a number of years. You are separated from your goals by a number of actions.
We like to speak about our five-year plans and ten-year plans, and it’s good that we have them. But thinking in terms of years creates the illusion that your dreams will happen one way or another, provided sufficient time goes by.
Thinking in terms of actions is very different. It hands responsibility back to us, with the implication: You can have it as soon as you do it.
If you are of the ‘one day I will start my company / climb the mountain / follow my dreams’ persuasion, how about trying a different approach? Break your goal down into its smallest parts, until you are able to find a logical starting point. That will be Step One. Now go ahead and take it.
Typically, there are three invisible forces that hold us back from ever trying. Here’s why they shouldn’t stop you:
The stomach of the average human being is a bubbling cauldron of emotional responses. We fear failing, we fear succeeding, we fear standing out and being laughed at. What’s odd is that we don’t simply realize that everyone feels this way, and choose to act despite the fear.
The next time this great slayer of dreams – fear – casts its shadow over your goal, consider this: The more willing you are to take strategic risks, the more safe you will ultimately be. Why? Because a person who never risks anything never gains anything. The person who risks often, occasionally surprises themselves by succeeding. And the more small successes you have, the greater your total security. Becoming comfortable with a culture of strategic risk-taking ultimately creates a safer life. More risk = more security.
You are likely to be about as successful, about as wealthy, and about as willing to take risks as the average of the five people closest to you. So, how driven are they?
These people form the thought-culture in which you live. They will encourage or discourage you according to their own view of the world. If they dream big and understand what is possible, chances are they will lift you up and prompt you to try. If they are small-minded, negative and pessimistic, the reverse will apply.
Sometimes, in order to achieve great things, our first step must be to leave the thought-swamp that surrounds us. We need to go where the energy is, and be surrounded by the right type of thinking.
We don’t have to start off by having all the answers. We simply need to go where the energy is, and meet the people who do have the answers.
Curiously, comfort poses a greater risk to our dreams of achievement than the first two invisible forces. A terrified, desperate person may still summon their courage, steel their will and try. A comfortable person whose needs are met will generally watch TV instead.
It’s true; the enemy of ‘Great’ really is ‘Good Enough.’
Sometimes, we need to create intentional discomfort by comparing our current progress to that of people we admire. For example, an amateur bodybuilder might be perfectly happy with his mediocre progress…until he compares himself to multiple Mr Olympia winner, Jay Cutler. Then the sense of satisfaction disappears, and the more useful sense of yearning and desire is re-ignited.
Yes, we do need to be uncomfortable. We need to be sufficiently dissatisfied that we generate the energy to act. The more actions we take, the closer we come to our goals.
It’s not about years. It’s about actions. Don’t let the ghosts in your head stop you from trying.
Douglas Kruger has won the SA Championships in both a sporting pursuit and an intellectual one. He is a 3 x winner of the SA National Skateboarding Championships, and a 5 x winner of the Southern African Championships for Public Speaking. He is also the author of three books.