Want more out of life? Scott Sonnon has a map.
Do you truly want to reach your fitness and nutrition goals? What about your career and financial goals? And your goals for your relationships; do you want to meet them too? What kind of man or woman do you want to be? I’m no prophet. After working with thousands of people from around the world, I have observed that we each undergo a common “climb” – a path which forms a map of sorts. (Don’t worry, I’m not selling anything. It’s all here in the article.)
How you do one thing is how you do anything. Understanding the non-linear mountain climb of real goals gives you an opportunity to recognize the moments on your way toward a goal that you may have, in the past, given up; and by acknowledging their place in the journey… Succeed.
Major goals (aspirations or dreams) aren’t linear. We imagine that we will have steady progress and inevitably cross the victory line. But it never happens that way. Anything that holds such simple, effort-free outcome wasn’t a major goal. They were only menial tasks. Tasks rarely have significant challenge. Dreams always will, which is why we often quit.
When you go on your journey toward a major goal, you face doubts and hesitations, mistakes and setbacks, trials and tribulations, fears and frustrations, and ultimately questions on your belief in yourself and your cause. We don’t usually quit because of these challenges. We surrender because we associate these challenges with futility, with an inevitable failure to which we must succumb. If you expect these on the front end, and prepare for when they appear, you can take a moment to exhale, nod in acknowledgement, and take the appropriate measures to continue.
I didn’t recognize the hero’s journey during my athletic competitions. I had so tied up my ego’s validation, in justifying the trauma and violence of my youth by becoming a champion, that when I’d face my challenges, my fears and anxieties would overwhelm me. This would cause me to lack awareness of my opponents as my attention had turned inward to my doubts, rather than outward onto the performance. My internal concerns fogged my ability to be present in the fight, leading me to hesitate, and ultimately sabotage my chance at victory.
I’d lose and think, “See? You’re no champion. You don’t belong on this mat with these real fighters. You’re an imposter, and you’re revealing to everyone that you’re just a poseur.” These thoughts would strengthen the challenges for the next time, in a downward spiraling, self-fulfilling travesty. Even when I became a champion of one sport after another, I still thought, “Yeah, but that wasn’t a REAL championship. If you faced a real championship, you’d lose like before.” So, I kept going.
The same sabotage and surrender would happen when I attempted to change my fitness and physique after an illness or injury. The same when I would try to overcome my sugar and other addictions. The same when I would attempt to deepen a relationship and have a higher quality experience as a couple.
But then in my career, these steps revealed themselves. I’ve written so many books and produced such a prolific number of DVD systems and equipment designs, that I was able to objectively observe certain phenomena repeatedly occur.
In every major goal, I expected the “monkey wrench” to be thrown in the machinery; and by anticipating it, I gained the ability to adapt to it with less hesitation and more grace with each project. Now, I actually craft my project development AROUND these steps; if it is significant enough, I program my schedule on the rolling waves of the hero’s journey, so I build up and prepare for each of its unique challenges and the opportunities they present my growth.
Sometimes, they happen in slightly different order. They can hold deeper valleys or higher peaks. And sometimes not all the steps may be present. But in my experience, the journey includes the following:
1. You begin with a wish: a dream without a plan and without action. But then…
2. You muster the courage to take a risk, make a plan, and begin to act upon it.
3. You soon encounter the initial resistance, causing you to expand and refine your plan as you realize the trip ahead may be much longer than you had thought; like when you first go out on a run, and your body resists you with symptoms of phantom distress. The distant horizon can lead to frustration, but with compassion and patience, you continue anyway by focusing on one baby step at a time.
4. With such a long journey, you get distracted and miss steps, and even consider cheating and try to skip steps. This could make you fall back and begin completely over but farther behind than when you had started. So, you put it all out there visibly, and find someone or something to hold yourself accountable, and make all of your steps transparent to scrutiny.
5. By being accountable, you empower yourself to resist distractions, which allows you to truly focus and be authentically true to yourself and your passion for your mission.
6. Then come the “monkey wrenches thrown into the works” – what appear to be misfortune, opposition and insufficient internal and external resources – which threaten to convince you to give up. But despite feeling like you’re constantly putting out small fires everywhere, and facing overwhelming flames, you just keep taking one step after another.
7. With each step you take through the “suck” you gain more and more confidence in your ability to continue. Suddenly, the suck evaporates, and you look up to realize you no longer experience the illusion of resistance; like a euphoria of a runner’s second wind.
8. But despite your elation which you expect to propel you to the summit of your goal, you suddenly encounter a huge, dark chasm which threatens to END YOUR JOURNEY RIGHT NOW! Unlike the monkey wrenches, you can’t fix this. You can only have faith, run right toward it and jump. The universe asks you, “Do you REALLY want this?” If you do, then everyone and everything will benefit from your faith.
This is stronger than courage; courage is a merely a temporary emotion. This is deeper than confidence; confidence is only the accumulation of evidence that you can be successful. Faith is an intense belief that your purpose is about to be fulfilled by stepping out over the bottomless pit.
9. When you do, the ground not only appears beneath your feet through the fog, but it lifts you up above the clouds. You realize you’ve always been supported through your journey, that the universe has always been secretly conspiring toward your success so long as you remained true to yourself. The gratitude for this divine, unconditional support drops you to your knee in gratitude.
10. Unfortunately, though it would seem that undergoing one hero’s journey should suffice, we must go through this process every time we engage with a substantial goal and worthy cause, but every time we do, we become less distracted, and we increase the speed at which we cycle through its steps. We stay more AWARE OF THE JOURNEY as it happens.
Everything you face has a purpose. Prepare yourself for your journey, so you’re not surprised by the steps. You will act more swiftly to address them, recover more rapidly from misperceiving them as failure, and prevent yourself from giving up, by realizing these are only part of your process. You cannot fail if you don’t give up.
Honor the Legion,
Chief Operations Officer