It is only through structure and discipline that goals are achieved. Give it a try.
People define success in many ways. Some think it is making a lot of money. Others say it is finding love and happiness. A contingent will say success is related to your job title or education. There are almost as many definitions of success as there are people searching for it. Oftentimes, the search is a years-long and stress filled journey crammed with obstacles seemingly at every turn. I don’t know about you but I was not one of the few who knew what they wanted to do at a tender age and achieved it fairly quickly or easily. I took the long road.
It was not an unfair hand dealt or the world stacked against me. Or a conspiracy that mandated either you know “someone” or come from wealth or you don’t succeed. Those are popular excuses that people use when they fail or let fear dictate their course in life. It is always something beyond their control. My experience is different. The thing that made reaching my goals so infuriatingly difficult was me. You heard that right. It was me. I couldn’t get out of my own way. I’d bet you know someone who can’t get out of their own way.
I can’t go into all of the reasons because I don’t know them all. But I do know that I lacked discipline and structure. I relied heavily on my historically long memory to get things done. I once heard a friend repurpose a quote. I have not been able to trace it, but what she said was “A pen and paper are a crutch of the mind.”
Challenge accepted. Foolishly, the pride I had for my elephant’s memory outweighed common sense. Rather than practicing the discipline of writing things down and making a plan for the life I wanted, I instead relied exclusively on my brain to remember everything that needed to get done and every thought and moment I wanted to capture. It took me many years to willingly reach for that crutch. Thankfully it was still there when I needed it. Once I added structure, I had more space in my brain and less clutter, which meant I had more energy and became more productive.
Another way that we tend to get in our own way is by wishing and hoping things will come our way. You know the feeling. You get excited to start chasing a dream. You take steps in that direction. And then it gets hard or you get stuck or life just gets busy. So we stop. The forward momentum is gone, along with the energy and excitement. After a short time, we start hoping that things will somehow move forward despite the fact that we put a halt to our endeavor. It gets worse when The Inner Critic invades our speech. Excuses get made, fingers get pointed at something else.
Now that the inner critic has made its entrance the work it takes to get restarted and moving forward again becomes a monumental task. We might be too busy or weary to take on that mountain. So what happens? The thing that is least productive– we let more time slip and beat ourselves up. The cycle continues until we’ve reached our breaking point. That could be weeks or years depending on the individual. Sadly, many people go to their earthly graves clutching the regret of giving up. Making excuses. Settling. Refusing to believe that they had the potential to live the life they dreamed of. This world will never know what might have been.
Many times, we don’t make the sacrifices necessary to achieve what we want in life. The word “sacrifice” scares people away. Life becomes a whirlwind and there is not enough time to do what we want. It’s understandable. Coming home after another long day at work when energy levels are low and spouses and kids are deserving of time. When morale has been beaten up by another day working for someone else while your aging dreams sit covered in dust on the shelf. Perhaps it’s a second job or school work–there are dozens of things that usurp the time needed to pursue dreams. The crime about it is that the dream dissolves into just a fantasy, something you know you’ll never obtain but still flirts with your thoughts.
If you are willing to let your one chance on this planet end like that, it’s your right to do so. If you choose that, understand that you made the decision. Not some VIP or the financial status of your family. If you’re willing to make some changes and rid yourself of unproductive, time stealing activities, then I propose a better way. It starts simple enough. No need to get up at 5 am, or stay up late or make any kind of sacrifice. Remember, that words scares people away. If you feel your inner calling screaming out day after day after day but you are not where you want to be, then an effective solution that takes almost no time is to ask yourself three questions with everything that you do:
- Is this in alignment with my purpose?
- Will this help me get to where I want to go in life?
- What is one thing I can do today to get closer to my goals?
Ask yourself these questions when you go to work, while habitually checking email or mindlessly browsing the internet, while entranced in watching television or conversing on social media. Three simple questions, that’s it. The answers will help you identify what you’re doing that is not in harmony with your existence and not a productive use of your time. When you identify them, you can free up time to do the things that matter.
Let me be clear. I’m not suggesting that you don’t have fun or that you deprive yourself of pleasure. For example, if you are trying to lose weight and you’re eating a burger and fries, the answer to the questions appears to be “no”. However, if you are successfully losing weight and eating healthily all week and this is your one cheat meal, then the answers are clearly “yes”. It is helping you achieve your goals because you are rewarding yourself in a manner that is keeping cravings in check. You’re not depriving yourself and so your chances at success increase.
Regardless of who you know or your socioeconomic status, there is nothing stopping you from asking yourself three quick questions every day. It doesn’t cost a dime and doesn’t take much time. Take a few days to ask yourself the questions with each decision you make. Keep a tally of what you are doing that is in line with your goals and what isn’t. After a couple of days, you’ll have a clear picture of exactly how you spend your time. Then you can make adjustments. If you do as question number three asks, you’re going to start building momentum again quickly. It is only through structure and discipline that goals are achieved. Give it a try.