This time every year, many of us are pondering over our life’s next step for the upcoming new one. The New Year is knocking on our door and we are dreaming of change. Most of us want to improve on an economic, social and personal level. So we set goals to achieve this.
Some goals are about improving our current everyday life. We may want to become more proficient in our current job or take our physical activity to the next level. Other goals are about adopting a new lifestyle. We may want to change profession, start a new hobby or move to another city. Whatever the case may be, when we set new goals, we define success upon the level of our future achievement.
There are numerous tactics that can lead you to success. All of us are unique human beings. That means that the tactics utilized by each one of us will be unique. However, the overall strategy for applying those tactics seems to be always similar for (almost) every human being.
Before you realize what tactics you need to utilize in order to achieve your goals, you need a well-planned strategy that will help you start moving forward and maintain yourself on a successful path.
A positive attitude towards life is more than just a cliché. It is about capturing the bigger picture in all things. Being able to identify opportunities in unfortunate events is a difficult skill that takes time to develop.
One of my favorite stories related to this is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s efforts to become a leading actor in Hollywood. All the so-called “experts”, managers, agents etc, rejected his dream. His Austrian accent and his excessively muscular body were not considered suitable traits for a Hollywood star, at the time. Yet, Schwarzenegger managed to use those traits to his advantage. One example indicating this incident was “Conan the Barbarian” director’s statement: “if we didn’t have Schwarzenegger, with those huge muscles, we would have had to build one.”
Most of us have experienced at least one unpleasant incident in our lives that we wished hadn’t occurred at that moment. It may have been a dismissal, a divorce, the ending of a partnership etc. When that incident occurred, we wished we had avoided it. But we didn’t and we had to adjust to the new reality. In the aftermath of that incident, we spent some time reflecting on the past, the present and the future. We made some decisions, set new goals and moved on with our lives. Then, at some random point in the future, we took a break and relived that incident, under a new viewpoint. It was then that we ultimately felt that everything happened for a good reason after all. We felt that, if we now had the choice of going back in time to undo that incident, we wouldn’t. This is because we were not the same anymore. We had rediscovered ourselves and set upon a new journey.
The next time something unfortunate happens, always try to see potential benefits when others only see drawbacks. Look for opportunities in unfortunate situations and take advantage of them. You will usually find more than you are looking for.
Seek proper advice
All of us are born into a society with specific rules, stereotypes, and expectations. The older we get, the more we try to adapt to the “system”. It is in our nature to mimic others, in order to fit in social groups. We are more prone to blend in than to stand out.
If you dare to think outside the box and pursue an unusual goal, you are a “Maverick”. You are signing up for a lonely journey full of risks. The journey is lonely because very few people are familiar with what you are trying to accomplish and far fewer can support you. The journey is also full of risks because you are walking in “uncharted territory”. You have no idea of what lies ahead.
When you decide to go after that unusual goal, more often than not, you will find little support from friends and family members. It is difficult to make others believe in your vision. And, while most of us need some approval from our social circles, you must always remember that it is not their initial reaction that counts the most. What matters is their final impression based on where the road will take you.
Pay attention to those who try to discourage you. Maybe they are doing it for your own good because they genuinely do not believe in your vision and don’t want to see you fail. But maybe other deeper feelings play at hand.
When you embark on a journey to accomplish your goals and achieve them, you end up not being the same person anymore. Your everyday life has changed. You have developed new habits, new social circles, and a new lifestyle. Someone dear to you, who is part of your current everyday life may see that journey as a threat. A parent may not like that his children are going after their own goals because it means them moving to another city or another country.
A close friend may have even “darker” reasons to discourage you. When you move forward and your friends do not, some will be forced to acknowledge their own lack of effort of going after their own dreams. Social comparisons occur all the time. If we do not achieve our goals, we feel better when others around us do not as well. But if we see one of our friends daring to go after his dreams and we do not, we find ourselves in an uncomfortable situation.
To avoid getting misleading advice, seek it from like-minded people who have already taken a similar path in the past. More often than not, they will give you better guidance than your friends and family will.
Create an appropriate environment
If you live in a western country, chances are you were brought up learning about individual responsibility. You were taught that it is up to you to go after your dreams and that if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish everything. While this statement is not entirely false, it can often be very misleading.
If you think that you are solely responsible for your own success, read this small story about privilege. I think you will agree that, in many cases, Privilege can be way more powerful than individual responsibility. The presence or absence of privilege is part of the environment in which you are living, working and socializing. The environment plays a huge factor on who you are and what you can become. Not only does it matter who your parents are, but also your friends, your community, your co-workers, and sometimes, even your country.
A favorite quote from the movie “Rocky 2006” says “If you stay in one place long enough, you become that place.” To achieve your goals, make sure you put yourself in the right place with the right people. By doing so, you get to spend more time in the new environment which helps you become what you want.
Spending more time in a new environment means spending less in your existing one. Accept all the consequences that come with it. Understand that nothing new can be added to your life if you do not sacrifice something old. Everything in life has a price and so does change.
Read more books
Reading books may seem irrelevant to your goals if you want to start a diet or get a divorce, but it is not. Reading helps you grow and that helps you achieve your goals.
Try to read more books to strengthen your brain and expand your knowledge. Reading a book is more enjoyable and meaningful than thousands of Social Media posts. A book encourages you to focus and amplify your imagination. From a health perspective, it strengthens your memory, improves your psychology and fights dementia.
It has been well documented by many that social media have reduced our ability to concentrate on a specific task for a considerable amount of time. People, nowadays, read more tweets and fewer books. This is a huge trend that cannot go unnoticed. Losing our ability to focus has a detrimental impact on our overall way of thinking and acting.
If there has been some time since you last read a book, the concept of reading can cause you some stress. It is a skill we have unlearned due to heavy social media usage. The next time you start reading a book, try to resist the temptation of reading fast. Think of it as a Marathon race. In a marathon, we run at a slow and steady pace for some time. Same goes for reading.
If you start slowly and persist a little, you will quickly remember the satisfaction that derives from reading a book.
Exercise…even just a bit
Maintaining a physical level of activity is crucial to keep you moving forward in your life.
I have been exercising regularly since I was a kid. However, I am not the guy you will see at the gym for 3 hours in a single day, wearing the fanciest equipment and following the latest workout trends under the guidance of a personal trainer. I am the guy you will see almost every day in the park, training for about 30-45 minutes. I do not train until I get really tired. I save my energy so I can work out tomorrow and the day after.
Working out is beneficial at many levels. It clears your mind, fights off depression, improves your immune system and increases your overall confidence.
One of my coaches told me a few years ago: “Motion is life. If you move, you live”. It is ironic, for instance, that the rise of sedentary work resulted in increased symptoms of knee osteoarthritis. You would probably expect the opposite, but the truth is, lack of motion is more harmful than most kinds of motion.
So try to get up from your office as often as you can. Walk while you talk on the phone. Work out even for 15-20 minutes, even if you are at home. Remember, your workout does not have to be impressive, but if you make it a habit, the results will be.
It is important to spend some time reflecting on your life so far. This process helps us to grasp a bigger picture of our lives and make better decisions.
Think of how your life will be in the next 5 to 10 years if you keep doing what you are doing. Identify those things that you wish to change in your life. Decide on what steps you need to take to find yourself in your desired position during the next few months.
Always take time to pause, evaluate your tactics and modify your strategy if needed.
Pay the price
When you decide on your life’s next steps, you have to realize that this journey comes with a price. Understand that your life is like a book divided into chapters. No matter what you do, you can never “read” two chapters at the same time. Nor will you be able to move forward if you keep reading the same chapter.
Some people, some places and some habits stay with us as we move from one chapter to the next. Others come and go in a single chapter. We won’t see them again. This is the price we pay every time we move forward.
Or, as someone said, it is the privilege of growing up.
* Alex Iliopoulos specializes in Website Business