Life is full of challenges. It starts when we're newborns and then it continues throughout our lives. In this month's “The Hard Lesson – I Can Do This”, let's cover the question that we are facing on a daily basis: can I do this?
I remember talking to a man many years ago about his future. He was in his 50s at the time and had already made his plans for the rest of his life. “What are you going to do?”, I asked. Here was his response. “My career will be done at 65. I plan to move to Sun City, Arizona, buy a house, set up my TV, read my Louis L'Amour books, and rest. You know what? I've earned it – I'm tired.”
Does this sound familiar? Have you ever felt like this guy? Are you perpetually tired?
Maybe the more important question is this: are you indulging in this kind of thinking? Are you at that point in life where you want to retire? Age isn't a factor, by the way. I've met people who were ready to retire in their 20s – they were “burnt out” and done with life. Is that you? Are you at the point where you're maintaining the pace and thinking about when you're going to decide it “good enough” to call it quits?
Or maybe you're in a situation where you feel like you're in a “rat race” with no apparent way to get out it. You don't feel like you can do what you want to do, and it's happening fast. You want to head towards a life that is more rewarding and fulfilling, but you're just maintaining the pace right now. When you come home, you just don't feel like doing anything. You want to change things, but where do you start?
If either one of these areas resonate with you and describe what you're thinking, let me encourage you to consider the hard lesson that's in play: I can do this.
Here are some secrets that will get you out of your fears and concerns to allow you to say: I can do this.
Take a hard look at your friends – you may need to make some changes.
The saying “show me your five closest friends and I will show you your future” directly applies here. Are you friends encouraging you to achieve your best results? Do your friends help you knock down those barriers and doubts? Do they encourage you to see the hope in your future? Are they moving forward themselves, or are they simply maintaining a pace that isn't losing or gaining ground?
By making some changes, that's not to say that you need to abandon your current friends – although that may be a healthy and necessary choice. Instead, it means that you need to describe the friends you need – and then seek them out. If you are committed to finding friends that will encourage and push you to be better and to reach your goals, you will find that your outlook will change in a significant way. In many, many cases, I've seen how this one step has drastically changed someone's future.
Commit to dream so that you can do those dreams.
When you have nothing to shoot for, to try to achieve, to accomplish . . . you will find yourself stuck in one spot with nothing to live for. Call it personal momentum, the “want-to”, the “can do” attitude, your personal energy, whatever works for you – it dies when you have nothing you want to do. That is a sure-fire way to put you in the situation where you want to sit on that Barcalounger, watch TV, and read Western novels.
Sure, there are a lot of people who talk and teach about goal-setting and how to realize your biggest dreams. The reason that those people are mocked and criticized by others is because there are a lot more people who don't want to do it and are consumed by shame, guilt, and negativity – and they want to pull people down to their level. I've encountered a lot of people who have made goal-setting and goal-achieving the most important aspect of their lives – and they're living a whole lot happier and successful lives. Find someone or a system which resonates with you and be 100% committed to working on placing yourself on a track that will change your life for the better.
Quit overthinking your plans – just step out there.
The biggest barrier that people face is simply overthinking what could happen. There's nothing wrong to build contingency plans, but they're dangerous. If you're not careful and disciplined in your thinking, you will start finding yourself gravitating towards the “what if?” questions and not on the plans you will need in place to succeed.
It has been said that 70% of the possible outcomes you think about will never happen. I don't have any clear proof that this analysis is true, but what I do know is that it's probably close to accurate in my own life and research. Rather than working on the “what-if” questions for long, I focus on the action plans which motivate me to pursue the goals and objectives that I need to get done. Mistakes will be made. It's better to be moving forward as those mistakes happen than to be standing still and accomplishing nothing. Get rid of the excuses for possible failure by rejecting them or putting them away from you.
Maintain a short list of disciplines.
One of my roommates in college was a very successful student-athlete in high school. He maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA (there were no AP classes at that time) and was a state champion wrestler as well. When he came to college, he brought his record of success with him by maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA and achieving more successes in school. I asked him how he was able to do it. His answer was simple: “I just maintain a schedule – I can do what I do, and that's about it.” His schedule was really simple:
The Simple Schedule:
– Get up early in the morning to focus, organize the day, and meditate on what is important
– Eat a healthy breakfast and then head to the library
– Be “completely there” and focused in each class
– Eat lunch and enjoy the company of friends
– Go to the afternoon classes and be focused
– Go lift weights and complete a workout
– Take care of personal stuff- run errands, write letters, etc.
– Eat dinner
– Go back to the library and study
– Review today's accomplishments, make a to-do list for tomorrow and beyond, and check in with friends and roommates
– Get a good night's rest
He maintained this schedule Monday through Friday. On weekends, the schedule included time for some fun with friends, going to church, and to get away from campus – but it was very similar.
By maintaining these disciplines, my roommate became better and better at what he did. He got stronger in the gym and he was the smartest guy in his major that I knew on campus. When you needed some academic help, he was the one to ask – because he sought out all of the answers. What was crazy was that he didn't think what he did was difficult or hard to accomplish – but it made sense why he thought that way. He thought it was harder to do more which included those things that weren't relevant. Think about that for a moment. If you think about that point carefully enough, it may be the most profound thought in a long time.
Maintain laser-sharp focus.
Building on what I shared before, my roommate also maintained laser-sharp focus. I don't ever remember him watching a TV show (other than an occasional football game with the guys), or reading a magazine that wasn't related to his studies. He didn't read the newspaper or concern himself with current events and Hollywood gossip. He wasn't distracted because there was no room to allow distractions to creep in his schedule. If something didn't align with what he wanted to do, he eliminated it.
Frankly, simplicity works. If you can cut out a lot of the distractions and the “noise”, it'll work for you, too. Reject what doesn't fit into your framework for your goals.
So what happened to the man at the beginning of this story? The short version is that he failed to reach his goals. Shortly after he remarried, his wife told him she wasn't going to join him in his plans. Instead, she got him moving forward on a whole new set of goals and a whole new lifestyle. He is now seeing the world, learning how to build a house, tending a garden and spending time with family and friends. He's a much happier person now, simply because he has a plan and he has things he can do every day that leads to his fulfillment in life.
You can do this. Don't overthink it, don't overschedule it, don't let it compete against the noise around you. Align with what will keep you moving forward and making you better and stronger.
What do you think? Are you realizing your goals? Are you living the life you want?