There’s no shortage in the world of people who are willing to settle for less than they’re capable of achieving, and our culture seems designed to make this settling not only accepted, but the norm. Advice like “Take it easy” and “Don’t work too hard” are meant to be friendly sentiments, but the message behind those phrases can derail our efforts to attain success if we take them to heart.
It’s easier to go along with the flow than to put in the extra work. The path of least resistance is much easier to take but it leads to only one destination: THE WORLD OF THE AVERAGE.
We Don’t Want to Be Average.
The 3 Factors that Separate Participants from Spectators
Only by challenging ourselves can we learn what we’re truly capable of achieving. Only by pushing ourselves past what we think we can do will we see true growth. When we live an “average” life, getting “average” results, we are leaving so much on the table. Our potential will be wasted, and we — and the world — will never know what we could have accomplished.
In speaking to my mentors about this thought, there was a recurring fear we all have: the fear of regret. When we look back on our lives, the last thing we want to see are missed opportunities we were too fearful or lazy to take. We don’t want to say, “I could have,” or “I should have.” There may be disappointments and failures along the way, but if our mistakes were made while trying to accomplish something that would make a difference in our lives or the lives of those around us, they won’t be mistakes. They were opportunities to learn. They were first steps into a larger world. They will not be regrets.
So, what makes the difference between “Average” and “Excellence”? My mentors and I believe three elements allow us to rise above mediocre results: It takes training, effort and mindset.
Think about your favorite sports team or athlete. When game day comes, do you think they’ve sat around hoping they’re going to win? Of course not. They have Practiced, Learned Strategies and put in the Effort to be champions.
No matter what we’re attempting to do, we need to train our minds, bodies and hearts to be ready for challenges. One of the differences between those who achieve and those who cling to the sidelines is that active participants have prepared themselves long before the opportunity arises. They’ve done the research. They’ve gathered and inventoried their resources. They’ve asked themselves tough questions and have come up with high-quality answers. They’ve got a plan. They know what their made of. They’ve discovered their weaknesses, worked around them and turned them into strengths. They’ve received coaching from mentors and other trusted sources. They are ready because they’ve trained. When the time comes to put in the work, they know that energy will not be wasted, but will be put to its best use.
There’s truth to the phrase, “Work smarter, not harder.” That’s part of what training is all about.
But how much more can we accomplish if we work smarter and harder?
People who achieve great things are almost always the hardest workers in the room. They have a plan and they’ve done their research, but when it comes time to meet the challenge, they put their heads down and push forward with the grit needed to excel. They put in the hours. They put in the effort. They put their heart, mind, soul, blood, sweat and muscle into the task at hands and don’t stop until they see the results they desire.
Win or lose, fail or succeed, when we leave it all out on the field, we can rest at the end of the day with the knowledge that we gave our all. There’s no substitute for giving something 100 percent of our effort. Anything less and we will have regrets, wondering what our results could have been if we’d tried just a little harder every day.
When we set out to do something, especially if it’s an endeavor or activity we’ve never done before, there’s an element of risk involved. What at stake might be different depending on the activity — we could be putting our money, time, energy, and/or reputation on the line — but at the root level there’s always an emotional component. If there’s a possibility of failure — meaning we might not achieve what we’ve set out to do — then there’s the chance our self-esteem might take a hit. We’ll risk looking foolish. We’ll worry that people will lose respect for us. We’ll fear losing what we have if we try for something more.
People who excel in life Fight that Fear.
“Playing it safe” can sound like good advice, but when we fear risks, we’re setting a path toward “average.” When we enter into what can be an uncertain plan of action, it pays to have thought things through as best as we can and educate ourselves to what we might face — we don’t want to jump out of a plane hoping we have a parachute. However, if we only act when there’s a 100 percent chance of success, we won’t be doing much with our time, and we won’t achieve much with our lives.
The best way to defeat fear is to face it. We often dread the idea of failure to the point that the fear of it becomes worse than the failure itself. If the worst happens, the vast majority of the time we can learn from the experience, dust ourselves off and try again. The more we put ourselves out there, the easier it becomes to move past the fear and get on with the business of living.
Putting It All Together
It’s easy to be a bystander in life, watching others attempt to do the difficult or “impossible.” By taking the mindset that we are active participants in our own lives, however, and then training for success and putting in the effort, we set an example for those around us. We will win at times, and we will have setbacks, but our spirit won’t know the slow death of living the “average” life when we set out to achieve something spectacular.
Growing Through Life
Having well-defined goals gives us the focus we need to achieve our dreams; without that focus, living the lives we are capable of — a Theory of 5 life — is a near impossibility. Last month, we discussed the tangible benefits of setting goals as a way of mapping our life’s journey. Some of these benefits include:
Giving us daily focus on the actions and behaviors we need to succeed
Giving us a tool to more easily overcome procrastination
Giving us a framework for our time management needs
Giving us a sense of daily purpose and vision
These are the “whys” of goals. This month let’s examine some of the “hows” of goal setting.
I first became aware of the idea of “S.M.A.R.T.” goals when I worked with the Saturn Corporation and, since then, I’ve heard it used by several trainers, teachers and coaches. It has become a widespread philosophy because of one simple reason: It works.
In this concept, goals have five components:
Specific — Goals are detailed (“Five pounds off by the end of the month” rather than “lose weight”)
Measurable — Vague goals are hard to gauge; our goals should have some quantifiable element so we can determine how we are doing
Achievable — The goal must be something we can actually realize, but should also be a stretch so we can maintain the energy necessary to accomplish something worthwhile
Relevant — Our goal should have an impact on our lives, and feed into our daily purpose and vision; we should be better for having accomplished it
Timely — There should be a deadline on accomplishing this goal (“by the end of the month” rather than “someday”)
The strength of a S.M.A.R.T. goal is that it forces us to think specifically about what we’re trying to accomplish. Instead of a vague idea, a fully analyzed goal presents as a plan, with the steps necessary to achieve that plan clearly defined.
For example, say you want to lose weight. It’s a common desire, but most people fall short because “losing weight” isn’t much of a goal. It’s a wish and wishes rarely come true without work.
Apply S.M.A.R.T. thinking, however, and a plan starts to form:
How much do I want to lose? Ten pounds.
Can I measure this? Yes — the bathroom scale doesn’t lie.
Is this achievable? Certainly, but I’ll have to watch what I eat, how much I eat, and get physically active to burn calories and increase muscle tone.
Is this relevant to my life? Absolutely. I’ll feel better — both physically and mentally — and have more energy to accomplish the other tasks that will move my life forward.
When do I want to have this done? In six weeks, so I need to get started now.
Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals not only gives us the vision of what we want to accomplish but marks the path we’ll take to get us there.
Accomplishing our goals takes consistent action and the development of positive daily, weekly and monthly habits. When the everyday world clamors for our attention, however, it’s easy to delay the work we need for tomorrow’s goals because we need that energy to meet today’s challenges.
This is a mistake. Our goals are too important to set aside, because they’ll allow us to live a better, more productive, more fulfilling life. We need constant reminders of our targets. Hiding our goals in the pages of a journal won’t bring them to life. We must confront ourselves regularly to make our goals a reality.
My mentors have taught me to place written goals in places I’ll see every day. Some of these places might be the bathroom mirror, a post-it on my computer monitor, a note on the dash of my car or any other place that I know I’ll see it. When we do this, we’re challenging ourselves.
Are you up to the challenge?
If you’re committed to living a Theory of 5 life, the answer is “yes.”
Having Others Challenge Us
Keeping our goals to ourselves gives us an “out” if the going gets rough and our determination lags. When we share our goals with mentors and trusted friends, however, it’s much harder to give up. Because we know they want the best for us, slacking on our efforts to reach our ambitions isn’t only letting ourselves down — we’re letting them down, as well.
When we have external pressure added to our own internal pressure, we’ll generate extra inspiration, motivation and passion for those times when our energy lags. Used properly, peer pressure isn’t a negative thing; we want people we respect to be proud of us, and we’ll go that extra mile to earn it.
Make It Happen
The differences between a dream and a goal are simple: A dream is a wish, while achieving a goal requires planning and effort. We can accomplish what we set out to do, but we can only accomplish this through work, positive habits and clearly defined goals.
By using the above tools, we give ourselves the best chance of hitting these goals, thereby making our dreams come true.