It begins simple enough. You have a mountain you dream of climbing. It might be climbing an actual mountain, writing a book, changing careers, or maybe going to graduate school – who knows. The goal seems possible, but terribly challenging.
The weight of the goal makes you hesitate. You delay. The monster is born. It dwells under your bed, watching you, waiting for the opportunity to maul your dreams.
Your life continues and to the typical observer, all is well, but you know better. The monster breathes so loud, you can’t ignore it. You try to deal with it by saying that soon you’ll be ready to commit to the goal. As soon as you finish that one thing! It becomes clear you’re just delaying. The monster continues to grow.
The noise under the bed cripples your ability to sleep. Fine! You get up in the middle of the night and resolve to get it done. You write the first draft of the first chapter or fill out the first few applications for graduate school. The monster falls silent, watching to see what you’ll do. You feel triumphant!
Quickly life encroaches, and you lose focus. Every day at work there are endless fires to fight. At home, a family who rightfully needs your attention. You don’t actually write chapter one, let alone a second or third chapter. The applications are never mailed. The monster howls, relishing its victory. It’s mocking you.
The truth is that in life it’s far easier to make excuses, than to work extra hard for an extended period of time. Your choice: make excuses or make progress. The trouble with excuses is that they are addicting. Like drugs, they are an easy answer. They might distract you, but they never solve the problem.
Here’s your call to action.
Realize that most of your constraints are imagined. They might pose a real challenge, but how you choose to view that challenge is entirely up to you. Whether or not the glass is half full is your call to make.
Next, realize that all big accomplishments are predicated on trying and failing. Any learning curve will result in mistakes, setbacks, and screw-ups. That’s just the natural process of learning. It’s time to stop living in fear of other people knowing you’ve failed or that you’re imperfect. Wear your learning moments like the badges of honor they are.
Be honest – what kind of life do you want to live? When you’re in your last year and looking back on life, how would you like to summarize the journey? There are two main choices. You can say, “Hey, I avoided risks, was always careful, and never really failed in any significant way. I survived.” Or, you can say, “I tried a lot of things. I enjoyed a few huge victories, and many defeats, but mostly I’m just happy I tried to chase my dreams. I survived.”
What kind of survivor do you want to be?
Here’s how to arm yourself to slay the monster. It starts with team planning. If you have significant others, they need to know about your intentions, support you, and accept a plan moving forward that allows you to be dedicated to the goal (financially and logistically). Very often, it takes a team to propel you forward.
Before you launch the plan, be sure you don’t try to re-invent the wheel. Use your network, a coach, a mentor. Go find people who have done what you’re dreaming of doing, or something similar. Ask them what they wish they would have known before they began. Ask for their wisdom.
Plan for failure.
If setbacks and mistakes are inevitable, plan for them. For example, when a difficult unexpected moment happens during the journey, it helps to have a go-to routine. Try some version of this: spend a little time alone, choose not to make fast rash decisions unless utterly necessary, say to yourself that you knew this would happen – that it’s normal, and that it will fuel learning once you check the emotions and get focused on learning.
Okay. Now you’re ready. It’s time to slay the monster.
Dr. Dewett is one of the world’s leading leadership personalities. Authenticity expert. Killer keynotes. TEDx speaker. Inc. Magazine Top 100 leadership speaker. Bestselling author at LinkedIn Learning. Over twenty million professionals can’t be wrong. Find out what all the fuss is about: www.drdewett.com.