How many years have you been trying to reach a goal that just never comes to pass? You’ve visualised it clearly, done you homework on what is required, worked so very hard, driven yourself insane pushing for it yet, it remains elusive. Like a bird flying around the cat’s head it’s always just out of reach.
There are a number of reasons you can chase and never achieve your goals. Here, I want to talk about one of those reasons and show one way you can find your answers.
Before we complete this exercise though, there’s a couple of things you’ll need to do.
Firstly, stop beating yourself up. When achieving a goal becomes a high priority in your life, you set your expectations high. If your inner talk includes berating yourself, you are going to slow your progress dramatically. So, sit for a minute and give yourself a break. Always remember Thomas Edison’s famous quote when working on the invention of the light bulb.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Secondly is to look at you and your goal from an objective point of view, like you’re looking down on a chess board with two pieces on it. When you’re down there on the board your emotions can get high. The thoughts, words and actions get dramatic and while you’re being a drama queen, you won’t be able to see the wood for the trees. So, take a deep breath, add a little smile and lift yourself off the board away from the piece that is you as we work here.
This exercise I am calling…
The Trade Off
One common reason we fail to achieve our goals is when the PURSUIT of it puts us in a position where we become sort of comfortable. If we sit in the same position for a while it becomes a silent agreement we keep with ourselves (eg – a struggling artist, forever single, never got the big break) and the people closest to us, whether they are supportive or critical, become part of that agreement too.
When others expect you to stay in the same position they, in effect, invest themselves in the idea. They are in agreement with where you are and that you will be staying there. They may even mould their own lives around you staying there so it might become inconvenient to them if you actually moved out of that agreement and achieved the goal.
What keeps you in that position?
You may not think it is comfortable and, to prove it, you have plenty to complain about in the status quo. But maybe it’s more comfortable than you think. Let’s look at an example I was working with recently to show you what I mean by a comfortable agreement. A trade off.
Joe (not his real name) is wanting desperately to achieve a big time job. He’s done the hours, has the experience, is well presented, has the education. He seems very comparable to other senior executives yet, he never quite gets the job. We explored The Trade Off to take an honest look at what is going on.
Question 1 – What is comfortable about where I sit?
- Free time after work
- Can do my sports in the evening
- No expectations
- No comparisons with other senior execs
- Easy low demand job
- Can’t let anyone down
- No stress
Question 2 – What is not comfortable about where I sit?
- Low income
- No purpose
- In debt
- No passion or drive
- Wasting my time and talents
- Not creative
- No connection with others
- No feedback or appreciation
- No progress
Question 3 – What do I get to avoid by staying here? (Add these to the first list)
- Avoid criticism
- Avoid failure
- Avoid being judged as strange
- Avoid being proven incapable
We created these two lists and, although he was hankering to beat himself up, he agreed that yes, this is the Trade Off and yes, it is comfortable.
Rather than immediately try to patch it up we felt it best that he sit with this list for a few days to see what insight arose from it. The reason for delaying action is that there is no one conclusion everyone comes to so we’re not going to assume the answer.
What I’ve seen in the past is that some realise achieving that goal puts them out of their comfort zone and they are only trying to reach it to match an idea of success other people have dictated to them.
We each have our own ideas of success. Big jobs, money, status, travel, big responsibility, a spouse and kids, fame are not what everyone is looking for. So we might fight for a goal very loudly and, when it’s actually offered to us on a plate, we either reject it or sabotage it and then beat ourselves up for years afterwards that we didn’t take it.
Something to think about….
What happened in this case though, was that Joe realised he was putting up with an enormous amount of uncomfortable living in order to avoid the fear of being judged strange or failing at the job. As we talked about this further he realised these fears were unfounded. Just an illusion. He is indeed very capable and would be expected to fail a certain amount as he learnt the extent of the job. Everyone fails. If you’re not failing, you’re not trying anything new.
In fact, he didn’t have to look very far to soon find a great example of a top executive who was very similar in style to him and was not just accepted but was PRIZED by the company for their strange, quirky techniques and personality.
So, what about you? What goal have you been trying to achieve that continues to remain out of reach? What’s the trade off?
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