He devised a one-armed throw/catch method, and when the other kids didn’t play with him, he practiced by throwing a baseball against a brick wall. Years later, that boy pitched in the Major Leagues and the United States Olympic team.
The musician who epitomized the rock-and-roll lifestyle, complete with frequent drug and alcohol use.
One morning, he put on a pair of running shoes for the first time and covered the miles back to his bike, which he had left at a bar the night before. He became a runner, and never touched alcohol or drugs again.
The junk-food addict who decided long ago her running days would never return.
Today, she is one of the fastest female marathoners in the world, participating in the US Olympic Trials this month.
What’s your excuse?
As we begin a new year, you’ve probably had your fill of the stories of change and inspiration that we like to roll out after the holidays. And yet by the time December comes around again, we usually look back and find that we’re pretty much the same as we were last year.
Maybe you set a goal but didn’t follow though. You focused on it for a few weeks, maybe a few months. But eventually you gave up — not because it was too much work, but because it didn’t hold your attention. It wasn’t exciting enough to become your obsession.
You see, the biggest mistake a person can make isn’t setting the bar too high — it’s not setting it high enough.
Haven’t you done it too? Think of something that would absolutely love to do, but that you’re certain you’ll never accomplish. Now ask yourself why it’s so damn impossible. Chances are, you’ll think of your barriers and sigh with resignation. You can’t. Even if you tried, it just wouldn’t happen.
But ask yourself one more question.
No matter how many names you rattle off, there’s only one thing ultimately stopping you from reaching their true potential: yourself.
You choose to listen to the naysayers. You choose to believe them. You choose to set up limitations. You water down your original goal to something that isn’t so hard or won’t take so long to achieve, because that’s what everyone else seems to do.
Stop blaming other people, things, or situations. What makes the difference isn’t what happens to you, but what you choose to do with it.
Change by choice or by force.
Choosing to change can be scary and hard, sure. There’s always a voice in your head reminding you that you might work really hard and still fail. People choose to focus so much on that possibility that they become blind to the chance of success.
The one-armed boy, the musician, and the runner could have stayed in their comfort zones. No one forced them to make a change. They faced their own roadblocks to success. And each of them had their fair share of critics. Yet in spite of it all, they realized none of that mattered.
Each one of them believed change was possible, and eventually, others began to believe it, too.
Get out of your own way.
It’s not easy to think like this. We’re conditioned to do the opposite — to aim low, to avoid risk, to keep our goals to ourselves so that we won’t look foolish when we fall short.
But with some practice, you learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Here are a few of my favorite small steps you can take to get yourself to think bigger, starting today.
- Make it public. Quitting is easy when you keep your goals to yourself. If you tell the world about it, you’ve made yourself accountable. And you’ll probably inspire someone.
- Use denial as a weapon for attacking doubt. (If you want to borrow my mantra: “I can, I will, and kiss my ass.”)
- Ignore what other people have to say. Especially if what they have to say starts with “You should…” The only person who knows what you “should” be doing is you.
- Know your reasons. Make a list of reasons why you want to accomplish whatever it is, and include painful ones like “If I don’t accomplish this I’ll feel ___ and I’ll let down ___.” Make your reasons detailed and emotional — you want to really feel it so that you’ll be motivated to act.
- Keep a journal of your progress. Focus on how far you’ve come, not how far you still have to go. (“I took two seconds off my average minutes per mile today. I’m a BAMF!”)
- Stop comparing yourself to others. Your goal should be about achieving the upper echelons of your awesomeness, not someone else’s.
- Mentor someone else. Whether it’s someone who wants to become a vegetarian or is training for the same 5K you did two years ago, mentoring is a great reminder that you accomplished something that, at one time, you thought was impossible.
- Refuse to settle for less. Don’t water down your goal because it’d be easier. Goals are supposed to be hard. If it isn’t hard, it’s not a goal — it’s a task.
- If you stumble, learn from your experience and try again – no one ever said you only had one shot.
It’s be uncomfortable at first, I promise. Take that as a sign that you’re pushing the boundaries. Soon you’ll begin to see less limitations and more possibilities, and you’ll start to realize something incredible:
You have far more potential than you’ve ever given yourself credit for.
Get out of your own way. You could be sharing your own success story next year.