There’s a feeling you get when you decide to try to achieve a goal, no matter what that goal is. The great journeys in life normally don’t happen as story tellers describe them in the hero’s journey. Most people don’t have a single major epiphany that puts them on a determined path and there is no real dragon that they need to slay to live happily ever after. For every goal I’ve ever tried to achieve, the first feeling I felt when I set out to achieve it was something like regret. The regret came from deciding to leave my former life to try to create a new one, and it’s always been the scariest feeling I’ve ever felt in my life.
When I joined the Marine Corps and went to boot camp, there were many nights that I’d lie awake in my bed asking myself “why couldn’t I just be an accountant? I could spend a few years messing around in college, graduate, and put on that button up shirt and khakis and live an easy life.” But in all honesty, this does not compare to the sheer torture I’ve put myself through since I’ve gone into business. In the Marine Corps, my life was structured. I had people looking out for me and I became part of a new tribe that was invested in my success. But as a business owner, I’m alone and I need to constantly battle the nagging feeling that I should be doing something more comfortable and living an easier life. This doesn’t just happen to entrepreneurs. It happens to anyone trying to reach a life changing goal.
This article will explain how I’ve dealt with walking the path to my dreams, and it will hopefully give you some tips for walking your own path. It’s important for me to tell you that I do not write this with any feeling that I’ve quieted these demons or that I think of myself as successful. Rather, I want you to know that I’m still in the midst of this battle, and that you should consider this advice as coming from regular person who has not yet been colored by fame or fortune. I’m simply a fellow traveler who’s just a few steps ahead in taking the leaps toward his goals, and who’s witnessed many others who fell victim to what I am about to describe. With that said, let’s get into the reasons why chasing your dreams is so difficult and what you need to do if you ever want to achieve them.
The Problem with Dreams and Goals
For anyone out there with big dreams, you need to realize something right off the bat: the second you decide to act on those dreams you are pretty much alone. There will be people who support you and help you, but you need to understand that there is no one on this planet who is as invested in those dreams as you are. The rest of the world has its own schedule, and that schedule does not stop because you want to open a business, become a pro athlete, or even because your doctor told you that you need to lose 10 pounds before your next physical.
When you create goals, they are yours to own and your job is to protect the vision you have for achieving them against the adversity. But adversity doesn’t happen like it does in the movies. There’s not usually some muscle bound Russian that you need to fight, or an actual mountain that you need to summit. Your greatest obstacles are far more mundane, and you face them everyday. In many cases, they appear to you as life lines that will take you away from the pain you’re currently experiencing: A text from a friend that will set you off on a 20 minute texting conversation. A link to a funny video about cats that will lead you to 30 minutes on YouTube. A dozen donuts a coworker brought to the office that will take you off of your bland diet. A call from a buddy asking you out for a night of beers. A comment from a relative telling you you’d have a much easier life in a corporate job.
As human beings, it is in our nature to want to be part of a tribe and to conform to the nature of that tribe. Going off to fulfill your own dreams immediately takes you out of that tribal context and it puts you at odds with anyone who expects you to live a normal life or to follow a normal routine because the people who love and care about you do not want you to leave that tribe. They want you to conform and follow their schedule and that’s why they throw you these life lines to hook you back in. When you don’t respond to a call from a friend, an offer of beers or donuts, or your Uncle’s desire to see you become a lawyer, it puts you on the painful path away from the tribe and it often takes every fiber of your being to resist and keep going.
So What’s the Solution?
The truth is that there is no easy solution to fighting for your dreams. There is no advice I can give in this single blog that will magically make it all go away. But remember that some people do reach their goals and dreams, so what’s important is to realize how they do it. Here are some tips on better understanding how.
- Find a new tribe. I’m not telling you to leave your spouse or your family or to shun all of your friends. But Jim Rohn’s assertion that you are the average of the five people you hang out with the most rings scarily true. As I wrote before, the human urge to conform to tribal standards is almost irresistible, and the road to any big goal is a lonely path. You need to surround yourself with people who are in a similar struggle. Throughout time, this has never been easy and it still isn’t, but it is far easier to do so today in the internet age. There are online courses and master minds like the London Real Academy, for which I am one of the instructors. London Real’s process is brilliant because each course is centered around teams that you will have access to even when the course is over. Joining a new tribe can help you to break your own tribal norms and it will help you to break the cycle of loneliness on the path to your goals, reducing the temptation to return to comfort.
- Find a mentor. This one is pretty cliche. Every guru and his mother is telling people that they need mentors, but that doesn’t make it any less important. A mentor is someone who is at least five years ahead of you in being where you want to be. The problem is that most people look for mentors the wrong way. It doesn’t normally happen in some formal engagement or contract, and you don’t want to walk into someone’s office asking “will you be my mentor?” The key to getting mentors is in building relationships, and if you want to find a mentor, the key is in offering your prospective mentor some value. Do some work for them for free or help them in some way. Of course, the idea of doing free work scares most people, but you cannot expect anyone else to invest in you if you do not want to invest in them. The value you will get in return from a good mentor will far outweigh the hours you spend delivering the value.
- Read. One of the biggest problems with our educational system is that it is finite. Learning should never stop when you get a certificate or a diploma. It should continue for the rest of your life. Reading gives you access to some of the greatest minds in the world. You may not be able to get Arnold Schwarzenegger as a mentor, but you can read about how he became successful in Total Recall. You might not be able to afford to go to a Tony Robbins event, but you can read any number of his books and learn about his advice.
- Never complain. When you complain, you are basically telling the universe that you don’t want to be doing what you’re doing. This is different than asking for help. When you ask for help, that is an act of humility in understanding that you don’t know everything you need to know yet to get done what you want to get done. When you complain, it is an act of ego, and you’re saying that the world has some how come together in a unified act to keep you away from your goals. This is where doubt starts to creep in, and other people begin telling you that you should probably be on a different path. They aren’t telling you this because they conjured up the idea that you aren’t good enough. They’re telling you this because you signaled it to them through your own complaints. Seek help, seek education, and seek development, but never seek sympathy unless you’re looking to quit.
- Make time. You’re never going to have enough time to do everything you need to do, so you need to make time. If you know that you’re going to have a crazy day where you’re dealing with constant emails and chores that other people want you to do, then wake up a few hours early to do what’s important to you. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, I get more work done between the hours of 4AM and 8AM than I do during the rest of the day. This is what works for me, and you need to find what works for you, but I do know one truth that you need to consider: if you want an extraordinary life, you cannot have an ordinary daily routine.
The path to any goal is scary, lonely, and hard, but it is not impossible to travel. Remember that many people with far harder lives than yours or mine have accomplished great things. I’ve laid out my own list of tips in this article, but this list is by no means exhaustive. There are many more things you could do, and volumes could be written on any of these tips. So take this article as a call to keep learning.
If you would like to learn more from me, you can learn a great deal from my approach to fitness and goals laid out in my free ebook, Fitness is Freedom. It takes you through my own process of setting a vision and laying out goals and it is available when you sign up for my free fitness newsletter here. When you do so, you will also get access to my free fitness academy where I deliver daily workout programs and nutrition advice.
And regardless of where you are or what you’re doing, travel on, keep working, and always resist the urge to be normal.