Your Struggles Give You Character

A goal isn’t a goal if it is easy to accomplish.  A goal is something that you have to work at.  A goal means challenging yourself, facing a fear, overcoming disadvantage, taking charge, living proactively instead of reactively.  Goals require hard work and perseverance.  At times, you will falter.  You will struggle.  You may fail.  Through it all, it isn’t the accomplishment that is important but that you pushed yourself through the challenges in order to succeed.

It is easy to stand on the sideline and watch the world move around you while you wish away your life.  I know, I’ve done it.  A large portion of my teenage years were spent smoking pot, listening to rock n’ roll and sleeping.  While none of these things individually are the reason why I was unmotivated to be successful, they were my escape from reality.  It was my way of ignoring the fact that I was failing to live up to my potential.  I was insecure, I doubted my ability, I was afraid.  Worst of all, I was comfortable.  I had become complacent and accepted my mediocre existence.

It took a long time for me to realize that life has so many opportunities to offer and that I was missing out.  Getting thrown in jail really helped me to understand the path that my life was taking.  In many ways, sitting in a jail cell with no one to talk to, coming down from my high, was the best moment in my life.  I knew that I needed to change my life.

Just like people struggle to lose weight or struggle to finish running a marthon, I struggled to get away from drugs.  I lost all of my friends and it was hard to change my lifestyle.  I fell back into drugs a couple of times before finally walking away from it for good but the struggle was worth the effort.  I am able to reflect back on that moment of my life and appreciate the lessons I have learned.

It is easy to be discouraged when things don’t work out as we had planned or if results are not as immediate as we would like.  We forget that success isn’t something that happens overnight.  When we think about climbing a mountain, we envision ourselves standing at the summit, casting our gaze towards the distant horizon but forget about the six hour hike to the top.

Success comes to those who are willing to persist during moments of struggle and pain.  Our struggles and perseverance are what set us apart.  Those who stick it out will see the rewards of their efforts and those who don’t, won’t.  It is your struggles that give you character.  Your struggles make you who you are today.

What is Your Master Plan?

"Sail boat" by Nuno Vasco Rodrigues @ Flickr

Without goals, our lives are like a ship without sails.  The winds of potential blow strong against our mast but with no sail to capture the energy we are left stationary, floating quietly with no command over the direction the waves push us.

Having goals allows us to hoist our sails high into the air and in an instant we are skipping across the surface of the water.  Our sails are filled with energy from the wind and our eyes are focused on the sliver of land that has just peaked out from the ocean blue.  Our destination comes into focus and as we arrive upon the shore we have learned a powerful lesson; if we create goals and harness our ambition & passion, we will realize our dreams.

If we are ships upon the sea with no focus or direction, what can we do to raise our sails and capture the wind?

Something I don’t spend much time discussing is the power of long-term goals.  My list of 100 Goals consists mostly of milestone accomplishments, things that once accomplished can be crossed off the list.  Crossing a goal off the list is a moment of satisfaction; knowing that I’ve done something great and meaningful in my life but once that goal is crossed off, it is done.  The moment has passed & I am looking forward to the next milestone that I can work towards accomplishing.

While I wouldn’t change any of the experiences I’ve had in using this method to accomplish my goals, the question that begs to be answered is this: “What happens when I have accomplished everything I want to do in my life?  What will I be left with?”

The answer is to have a Master Plan; a series of successive goals that will ultimately lead to what we envision our Perfect Life to be.  A Master Plan requires knowing where you want your life to be and figuring out a way to get there from where you are today.   It requires you to be proactive and take intentional steps in order to make your plan a reality.  It requires discipline, determination and flexibility.

Creating Your Master Plan

Too often we find ourselves ignoring our dreams of a Perfect Life because we tell ourselves that they are not grounded in reality.  Before we allow our desires to blossom into anything more than a passing thought, we stifle ourselves.  We are blocking our own success and happiness.  There will always be a reason why we “can’t” do something and now it is time to ignore those excuses and begin to create your Master Plan.

Close your eyes and envision your Perfect Life.  What do you see?  Are you working with panda bears in a sanctuary?  Are you backpacking the Appalachian Trail?  Maybe you are relaxing in your backyard drinking lemonade watching your children playing on the swing set.  No matter what you see, you have found your destination.  Now it is time to figure out how you will get there.

Usually at this point you would push your dreams aside with thoughts of “reality”, all the reasons why you are unable to pursue your dreams.  I want you to consider all of these excuses about why you can’t follow your dream but I need you to change your perspective.  Instead of using them as reasons why you can’t follow your dream, think of them as challenges to beat.  Don’t use them as an excuse any longer.  Use them as motivation.  Instead of feeling overwhelmed, find a way to overcome these challenges.  Your plan should be ambitious yet realistic.

The next phase in accomplishing your Master Plan is to figure out what steps you must take in order to position yourself to make your dream possible.  Will your Perfect Life require a career change?  Do you need to further your education? If your Perfect Life requires you to get a degree or certificate, enroll in classes, even if that means taking one class a semester for the time being.  If you need to change your career, start submitting resumes and begin networking with people who are in the field that you want to break into.  Prepare to Quit Your Job.

Ultimately, your Master Plan is about having a long-term goal to pursue while using short-term goals as a means for making progress towards your Perfect Life.  A Master Plan is not something that happens overnight.  My own Master Plan has been in the works for nearly 5 years, and I am only now really beginning to fully understand what it is that I want in my own life.  Progress is slow but steady and each day is a new opportunity.  Today is your opportunity to make a change in your life, an opportunity to start working towards your Perfect Life.  No more excuses, no more hesitation.  Today is the first day of the rest of your life.  You decide what that means for you.

Don’t Waste Your Life Dreaming

"winter's coming." by *whimsical @ FlickrThis website is devoted to following your dreams, chasing after your ambitions, and changing your life for the better.  The content of my articles is intended to inspire people, to help them focus inward on their desires, to reflect on where their path has led them & where they want to go from here.  Inspiration & introspection are only a fraction of what it takes to actually accomplish your goals.  It is not enough to be inspired.  It is not enough to admit your mistakes.  It is not enough to dream about a better life.

None of this will bring you any closer to accomplishing anything.  Yes, inspiration and dreaming are powerful motivators but they change nothing if you never push beyond them.  You can’t just dream about being successful.  It isn’t enough to daydream about laying on the beach in the south of Spain.  You cannot wish your body into becoming slim & fit.  Dreams require action in order to become reality.

One of my goals is to run a marathon.  I have never ran more than a few miles at one time in my entire life.  I have ran a mile or two once in a while but could I possibly complete a 26-mile marathon?  In my mind I feel anyone has the ability to do anything, it just takes dedication & a willingness to work towards that goal.  It is much easier to sit on my couch in front of the television & watch people run than it is for me to find the desire to pick myself up and go for a run.  The sweat and pain that comes with pushing our physical limitations can be unpleasant but I find my motivation in knowing that if I am willing to endure, someday I will run in a marathon & I will finish.

My friend Noah has been training for an upcoming mini-marathon for a little over a month.  In this time he has gone from being unable to run more than a mile to running more than 10 miles.  That is impressive!  It shows exactly how much a person can accomplish if they are motivated & willing to harness that energy.  I joined him today & ran further than I ever have before, six miles.  It isn’t marathon distance, but it is a beginning.  Even after running all of that distance, at the very end we both pushed ourselves to finish the last 100 yards in a sprint.  We were both sweating & exhausted but it was worth the effort.  I was filled with a sense of pride for having pushed myself to finish.

I know that without his encouragement I wouldn’t have gotten out of bed early to go for a run.  Hearing him talk about how much he has improved over the course of a month has made me realize that it takes effort, lots of it, to become a better person.  Whether you are training for a marathon or trying to get out of debt, it takes effort.  You have to make sacrifices at first.  You might feel like giving up, but as you wipe the sweat from your brow & look at how far you’ve come since the beginning, you dig deep within yourself to find the energy to push as hard as you can to the finish line.

Effort is what separates those who dream from those who are living a dream.  A dream is nothing more than a dream if you don’t chase after it.  A goal means nothing if you don’t strive to accomplish it.  Dream your dream, find your inspiration & make it a reality.