I’ve had numerous speaking engagements over the past two weeks, and after each one several audience members told me that they wanted to do more presentations. When people tell me that they want to start doing something outside their normal routine, my first thought is “What’s stopping you?” and when I ask that question, I usually hear in response a litany of great reasons why they’ve been unable to focus on achieving their Big Goals.
Trust me—I get it. It’s hard to focus on future dreams when you’re buried in your day-to-day tasks and responsibilities. But just remember, time marches on whether or not you pursue your dreams. One year from now, don’t you want to look back and see some progress (even just a little bit) toward your goal rather than another twelve months spent yearning for something that hasn’t gotten any closer?
If you’re someone who makes New Year’s resolutions, dust off the promises you made to yourself at the start of 2015 and do a mid-year check-in to see how they’ve helped you get closer to one of your Big Goals. If resolutions aren’t your thing, no problem—just identify a Big Goal that’s been on your list for a while.
Write down your goal on a sticky note and post it somewhere easily visible wherever you spend the majority of your day. (Mine goes on something I stare at for at least eight hours daily: my computer monitor!) The idea is to put it where you’ll see it often—and therefore think about it frequently.
Right now, I’m not going to discuss the how-tos of achieving your goal (I’ve tackled that topic in an earlier post). Today, I’m focusing on the top five traits you’ll need to make your long-held dream a reality.
The word “tenacity” has its roots in tenacitas, Latin for “an act of holding fast.” And the ability to hold on tight to something you want is definitely a trait you’ll need in order to achieve Big Goals! It’s so easy to quit anything that requires an incredible amount of effort. Tenacity is what enables you to brace yourself for the challenge and keep on moving forward, even when you know that hard work (a lot of it) lies ahead.
Teddy Roosevelt was renowned for his tenacity (which no doubt played a role in his successful political career!), and he famously declared,
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.”
In other words, anything that’s worthwhile doesn’t come easy. I know the truth of that myself: in October I’ll realize my dream of publishing a book (Planes, Canes, and Automobiles: Connecting with Your Aging Parents through Travel)—a goal that’s been on my list since I was 15 and, once I committed to achieving it, one that took me three years of solid work. Was it easy? Definitely not. But I stuck with it, and now I’m about to reach my goal.
When I decided to quit my high-level corporate job and start my own consulting company a few years ago, my financial advisor told me I was “crazy” and said I would “be foolish to throw away a good-paying job.” (I replaced him three months later.) I knew I could succeed on my own, though, and I’ve clearly proved him wrong.
The point? When you decide to pursue a Big Goal, brace yourself for lots of negativity from peers and friends who will tell you “It can’t be done,” “It’s a dumb idea,” or “You can’t do that.” To steer your ship in a new direction requires belief in yourself and confidence that, indeed, you can achieve this. Just remember these words from the American professional tennis player Sloane Stephens:
“When you have confidence, you can do anything.”
You probably already know this: it’s hard to get fired up about a goal—particularly one that’s difficult to achieve—if you’re not passionate about it. So don’t focus on the easy buck or on goals that don’t have meaning for you or on what someone else wants you to do.
Steve Jobs said in his commencement address at Stanford University in 2005:
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking and don’t settle.”
So figure out your passion—and make that your Big Goal.
Lots of people have dreams, but few people actually realize them. Remember, the only place where “success” appears before “work” is in the dictionary. So if you’re not prepared to do the hard work associated with making your dreams a reality, you might as well just kick back and be satisfied with where you are right now.
If letting go of your dreams isn’t acceptable to you, though, then it’s time to recognize that you’ll have to take action to achieve the results you want. Ready to start down that path?
Then put on your Grownup Pants and get moving.
Finally, don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is a part of trying something new—without it, you just keep repeating what you’ve already done. Learn from what doesn’t go right, then have the courage to get up and try again. Basketball star Michael Jordan experienced plenty of failure on the court:
I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
When he missed those shots and lost those games, he never quit. He learned from his mistakes and kept going.
When I first pitched my book to publishers in early 2013, 100% of the responses I received were rejections. I was devastated for a bit, but then I regrouped and figured out what I could learn from that experience. I revised my proposal, started a blog (Travel with Aging Parents) to support my project, repitched the idea in 2014—and promptly signed on with a publisher.
Failure is just an opportunity to refine what you’re doing before going back out and trying again. “It is hard to fail,” said Teddy Roosevelt, “but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”
You Can Do This!
Are you ready to go beyond mere dreaming? Are you ready to start achieving? If you keep your eye on the prize and develop the right combination of traits—tenacity, confidence, passion, motivation, and resilience—you can push past your doubts, distractions, and failures and reach your Big Goals!