You work for a reason. You believe you can make a difference.
You want your work to be believed in, for someone to send you a grateful email saying how you’ve impacted their lives. People to recognise you at a conference. People to tell you that they loved what you said, that they feel inspired.
Yet, it’s really hard.
There are shadows beneath your eyes. Your strategic approach to the Internet turned into an hour of reading nonsense. Your resolution to exercise more is best not mentioned, and you’d much rather collapse on the sofa at the end of the day than take an evening class or read a book.
It’s not your fault. Each of us is torn by our instincts. The battle between comfort and hard work is a gift of our genes. Self-preservation vs. curiosity.
Say you want to reach Everest Base Camp. You promise yourself that if you get down to the gym before work each day and spend your holidays hiking you’ll be fit enough to give it a shot.
6am arrives and the warmth of the duvet feels like heaven.
Short term comfort is the Achilles heel of achieving our goals. Your diet is messed-up by the chocolate bar you gorge after a stressful meeting. Your exercise regime is sabotaged by a warm invitation to the pub when it’s grey and damp outside.
Your body knows and loves comfort.
And yet it’s also driven by a keen curiosity. You want to know more, learn more.
Once in a while, you throw yourself wholeheartedly at your dream. But like a yo-yo dieter, you fall heavier when you burnout. Most people need small steps, habitual changes that keep them brushing up against the edge of their comfort zone.
Keep pushing yourself a little more each day, and slowly the discomfort of the morning run doesn’t seem so immense.
The best way to improving your diet is to eat with your appetite, rather than fight against it; the best way to get yourself up in the morning is to work with your body.
Gently increase the lighting, or have the radio start up quietly, a little while before you have to be awake. Make it easier to get to the gym by packing your bag the night before.
Practise routine. And slowly it will get easier.
2. You’re keeping your dreams to yourself
Are you really willing to admit why you want to change?
If you’re reading an article like this, you probably have specific goals you want to achieve.
But why have you chosen the goals you have? Will they make you happier? Improve your social standing? Bring you a more luxurious lifestyle?
We prefer explaining our goals with sociably palatable reasoning.
I explain my running as a desire to be fit and healthy. But it’s not that simple. I’m also scared of not fitting in with my peers? Scared of my partner not thinking I’m beautiful?
I’m driven by the desire for attention and appreciation.
Even when it looks like altruistic generosity.
Fundamentally, we crave a sense of importance. It’s an underlying need we have, but that we’d prefer not to admit.
Nobody’s explained this better to me than Dale Carnegie in his infamous book “˜How to Win Friends and Influence People’.
“There is one longing ““ almost as deep, almost as imperious, as the desire for food or sleep ““ which is seldom gratified. It’s what Freud calls ‘the desire to be great’. It is what Dewey calls the ‘desire to be important’.”
Make use of it.
Finishing projects and shipping results gives you a valuable sense of achievement. Share your successes and take pride in your work to keep the momentum flowing. Recognise a series of achievable goals rather than just a trophy raising finale.
Follow it up by celebrating with friends and family.
Accept, with gratitude, when people take the time to appreciate you.
3. You’re not taking action
We’re amused when we see someone else’s grammatical mistake, and embarrassed when we see our own. Our expectations are distorted. Our reactions to our own imperfections are out of proportion to mistakes made by others.
Our idols are surgically enhanced and their image photoshopped. Films and TV are filled with special effects and impossible feats.
Social profiles entertain like movie trailers that save none of the best jokes for the film.
On Facebook we share the holiday snaps that show perfect weather, grinning faces and exotic cocktails. LinkedIn highlights our career achievements. Our websites share testimonials in which we’re the heroes.
We want magic, but feel like we’re stagnating in mediocrity.
Don’t be deceived.
There’s no such thing as perfect. Everybody worries, everyone feels insecure when they tackle something new. Everyone screws up.
People struggle. People hope and dream, and fail. They bawl their eyes out, raise their voice in defence and will keep fighting battle long lost just to avoid admitting they took a risk and made a mistake.
Yes, it’s painful asking for help or admitting you got it wrong. We’re not used to hearing real apologies and genuine modesty.
Give people a little of that importance we all crave by asking for their wisdom and guidance and they’ll inundate you with more help than you can act on.
It’s daunting trying to live up to our dreams, but without them, we remain curled up on the sofa, unable to take pride in what we’ve done and who we are.
What small habit will lead you to greater success?
Who can you share your dreams with, who can you rely on to support you?
What action can you take? Who can you ask for help?
Imagine you’re achieving your goal. You reach Everest Base Camp, or take control of your diet. You get that promotion or publish your book.
Wasn’t the hard work worth it?