There are times when you find yourself in a pretty good situation. You’re in a job you don’t hate. The pay is good. The hours are good. You really have nothing to complain about. You have benefits, adequate vacation time.
The problem is, you know you’re capable of more. You always expected a more from yourself. For some people it’s a no brainer. Comfort and predictability win. The deal is done. However if you’re no longer comfortable being comfortable then it’s time to get moving.
Complacency is the enemy of greatness
Fear is often sited as the reason people don’t pursue their dreams and fear is definitely part of it. It’s easy to identify fear. What if I don’t succeed? What if I’m not good enough? Valid questions.
Complacency is a little harder to get our heads around. I’m pretty comfortable right now. I’ll just put off my ambitions till tomorrow. They’re not going anywhere. If you have ambitions comfort and complacency are as much your enemies as fear. They will encourage you to stay where you are for just a little longer.
When a little longer turns into forever
The thing is, left unchecked a little longer will get longer and longer and will often stretch into forever. The longer you put off change, the harder it gets to make. If you want to make a change the time to start is today. Not tomorrow or next week.
Identify one concrete thing you can do today to get the ball rolling and do it. Tomorrow do another thing. With daily effort change will build its own momentum. Do that thing even if you are worried about failure because even if you don’t succeed at least you tried. You don’t want to come to the end of your life wondering – what if? Do you best today and when tomorrow comes you will know your life was as good as it could be. By that standard it was great.
I can’t face it
My workload is overwhelming. I can’t face it. When something is difficult or painful do you run toward it with open arms? Most likely you turn away, either physically or psychologically. That’s why we find the phrase “I can’t face it” in just about every language.
Imagine the biggest problem you’ve got right now. Now turn away from it. A vague sense of relief. Turning away from the problem can provide some emotional relief in the short term but eventually you have to turn your head back. Do that now. Has the problem moved, crept away on its own maybe? Nope. It’s still there staring you in the face. You might even feel worse than the last time you looked at it because the problem has grown in your head in the interim.
Close examination brings perspective
This time, instead of turning away from the problem take a deep breath and have a closer look. Imagine this isn’t actually your problem, but that it belongs to someone else. Sit with it. Take a walk around it. Examine it from all angles. Get right in there and probe its innards. Do you see any small chink in the problem? Any way you could make some inroads? Not looking at a problem makes it grow. Looking closely helps shrink it.
Yes the problem presents challenges. Rather than shrink from them, embrace them. On close examination you found chinks where you could make inroads on your problem. Even if those inroads are difficult, figure out a way to take action. Dedicated action leads invariably to more action.
Make a step by step plan for how you can overcome this problem and begin. Not only will the problem shrink and hopefully eventually resolve, you may even find your actions lead you to a better place than where you started.
Once you’ve decided on the career of your dreams you will probably look to others that came before for inspiration. If you are a writer you will read as much as you can. You’ll concentrate on everything by your favorites; Charles Dickens and JK Rowlings. If you are an entrepreneur you will want to learn everything there is to know about Richard Branson and Elon Musk. If architecture is your thing you my look to Frank Lloyd Wright for inspiration.
When inspiration turns to desperation
Immersing yourself in the works and incredible career trajectories of your professional heroes is a great way to get inspired. Unless the search for inspiration leads instead to the brick wall of existential crisis. How can I ever create anything that could compare with the perfect harmony of a Frank Lloyd Wright? you might lament. How could I possibly have thought I had a shot at this? Trying is a waste of time.
Recognize your individual worth
It is true, you will never be Frank Lloyd Wright or JK Rowlings or Richard Branson. They are all already taken. But they too cannot by you. You have perspectives and ideas that no one else has and there is great value in that.
There are valuable contributions only you can make
You chose this field, or as is often the case, the field chose you. You don’t need to be someone else to make a strong, valid contribution. The only person you need to be is you. Putting others in the field aside, what inspired you to want to pursue this endeavor? When you feel intimidated by the success of others, bring yourself back to your starting point. Get re-inspired by you.
Take a step everyday toward your goal. Remember, ultimately the only person you ever have to measure up against is yourself. Along the way never know who your work will touch.
Someone has made a huge impact on your life. You are so grateful for their help and their advice. You decide to thank them with the perfect gift. Imagining how happy they’ll be when they receive it, you wrap it up with a beautiful bow. Then you put the perfect gift on the top shelf of your closet until such a time when you will deliver it. Time passes and the gift languishes unopened and unknown. You forget all about it until you clean out the closet years later and wonder why you never gave it.
The gift of words
You can certainly show your gratitude with a gift, but remember a gift is only icing on the cake. The best way to let someone know how much they mean to you or how much their actions impacted you is to tell them. The person who helped you probably didn’t do it with expectations of any kind. Hearing about how they impacted you is the icing on their cake.
Gratitude is the gift that keeps giving
How do you feel when you are able to help someone? Probably pretty great. People helped you in the past, so when the opportunity to do the same for someone else comes up the repercussions flow two ways. Not only are you benefiting someone in the present, you are also acknowledging the help you received in the past. Gratitude is like a perpetual motion machine, the gift that keeps giving.
Acknowledgements big and small
Remember, gratitude isn’t only about the big things. It’s about all the little things that happen every day. Notice all the lovely things people do for you (for each other) all day long. You see someone give up their seat on the bus for the tired looking person beside you. You feel grateful there are such people in the world. Instead of keeping that thought in the top shelf of the closet of your head, go ahead and say something. Hey that was a really nice thing to do. You have just contributed to the happiness quotient of the world. Well done.
A flying machine you say? Impossible. If humans were meant to fly they would have been born with wings – like birds. Before we go any further let’s remember, back in their dinosaur days, birds didn’t start out with wings either.
Running a mile in under four minutes? The human body is not capable of that. Or it wasn’t until someone did it. The current record is 3:43:13 – in case anyone out there wants to do something impossible and beat it.
Landing on the moon, a computer you can carry in your pocket, a house that responds to verbal commands. We take all these things for granted because they are here. Before that they didn’t exist except as a spark in someone’s imagination.
Wonderful species, wonderful individuals
To someone from the past our society would appear to run my magic. At the breakneck speed things are changing now imagine what life will look like fifty years from now. We are a wonder as a species and also as individuals that make up the species.
Change your own world
Whether or not you are someone who is going to change the whole world, you certainly can change your own world. What do you consider impossible in your own sphere? Your ability to make it through medical school? The promotion you’re after? The chances that you’ll ever earn a six figure income?
The very first thing you need to do is get out of the impossible cage. Instead of thinking about what is impossible, think about what is possible. One step you can take that will lead in the direction you want to go. In the case of the promotion you want, what is a single thing you can do to bring you closer to your goal? Take a course? Go to a networking event? Work harder/later? Take that step. One step at a time, show impossible, exactly what is possible.
Limited or unlimited?
Most of the things people think of as impossible are actually just really difficult. One person imagines a different way of approaching the problem, cracks open the realm of possible and everyone else pours through.
Impossible is a limiting word. Possible removes the limitations. It is your life. Do you choose to live it under limited constraints or do you choose to embrace potential?
Wouldn’t winning the lottery be nice? Who doesn’t sometimes daydream about how sweet life would be with a couple of million dollars? Or, forget the lottery, wouldn’t a quick promotion or a great inventive idea be helpful? Maybe you wish that book you’ve been working on would just write itself and become a bestseller! Is it too much to ask for a little luck now and again?
Luck follows hard work
The quote above, from Samuel Goldwyn is similar to another, “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” This quote is often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, though there is no mention of it in any of his writings.
Samuel Goldwyn, was a pioneer of film and one of the people responsible for shooting the first movie in Hollywood. He’s the Goldwyn of the studio Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer, or MGM, still producing movies today.
No matter who originally paired luck with hard work, or exactly what words they used, the truth is that luck often does follow directly behind hard work. You can’t work hard at winning the lottery, but you can work hard at things you’re passionate about.
Be it professional or personal, the best way to catch a break is to work hard for your goals. Sitting around and waiting for something great to happen is a guaranteed way to make sure you never get a lucky break. Even when it comes to the lottery, you have to buy a ticket to have even the smallest chance.
Don’t feel bad about daydreaming what you might spend the money on. Just make sure you follow up those dreams with dedication and hard work. The breaks will follow.
The tortoise and the hare
We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare. Faster, more nimble, cockier than the tortoise, the hare is the odds-on favorite to win the race. And yet through dogged determination and steadfast persistence, the tortoise crosses the finish line first.
We are certainly not here to tell you to take forever to prepare yourself to meet your goals. Or that by driving in the slow lane you will reach your destination before someone in the fast lane. What we are saying is that consistent effort, even in the face of difficult circumstances will pull you through whatever obstacles life puts in your way.
Persistence pays off
What does the ability to keep coming back despite failure or setbacks say about a person? It says that person is confident enough in their abilities or their potential to not give up. That the person is willing to go back and learn what needs to be learned to succeed.
Imagine yourself in a race. If you keep moving forward and don’t opt out because of sore feet, or get lost on some alternate route, or listen to your friends who say it’s better to spend the race in a pub, you will eventually cross the finish line.
Beat your negative attitudes and limiting thoughts
This isn’t about the underdog winning against all odds. It isn’t actually even a race against anyone else. This is a single person, racing against their own inclinations to give up. The most important person any of us really has to ultimately beat is ourselves and our own negative attitudes and limiting thoughts. If you can get past those and motivate yourself to continue, you will do what it takes to move forward. As long as you’re moving forward you are getting closer to the finish line. Eventually you will get there.