Think about your accomplishments so far. How have you achieved them? While I’ve accumulated a series of accomplishments in my college and post-college life, they have never come to fruition in the traditional sense (i.e. writing out a list of Things I’d Like To Do Before I Turn 30, and outlining the steps to reach them). Rather, I’ve actually acted with a lot of calculated spontaneity, if such a thing exists. What I mean by ‘calculated spontaneity’ is forming a firm understanding of what you want (the calculation) and throwing caution to the wind when an opportunity arises (the spontaneity).
Take my full-time job, for example: in college, I decided I wanted to help animals, but I knew with certainty that I needed the predictability and accessibility of a traditional office environment, not a farm sanctuary or an animal shelter. I also knew I liked to conduct research and write. If I saw an opportunity that met my very specific qualifications, I applied without thinking too much about the possible ramifications (i.e moving across the country, having no friends, leaving family, etc.). Surely, if I had considered these factors for too long, I would have been paralyzed with fear and anxiety. I’m a firm believer that, so long as you’re not in physical danger, calculated risks are the things that move us forward above all else. If you’re struggling with things you want to accomplish (who isn’t?), consider these steps that may help you achieve your goals.
1. See your end goal, but only focus on the step immediately in front of you.
This may sound pretty obvious, but it’s shockingly difficult to accomplish anything if you’re constantly overwhelmed by a behemoth end goal. Nothing was achieved in a day, so just take it one step at a time. If you focus on the task at hand, you’ll be more successful in the long run.
2. Become an expert.
One mistake many people make when working towards something–whether it’s material, academic, or otherwise–is that they don’t fully engross themselves in that particular endeavor. I’m not saying that you should divest yourself of extraneous activities that you enjoy, but you should dedicate a lot of time to learning, and learning some more, about whatever it is you’re striving toward. For example, I’m working toward running a half marathon next year. Instead of simply starting a training plan, I’ve immersed myself in books and articles about shoes, clothing, proper form, and fueling before and after a run. Becoming knowledgeable about your dream will make you work that much harder…or, it just might show you that you should seek an alternative path.
3. Be open to different opportunities and paths.
In general, we celebrate people who have overcome adversity to achieve something, but rarely do we champion those who tried, but failed anyway. There’s a lot to be said for someone who mustered up the courage to chase a dream, only to discover that, for whatever reason, it’s no longer something he or she wishes to pursue. For most of his youth, my dad aspired to enter the priesthood; however, over time, he realized that he no longer believed in the tenets of the Catholic church. Our success is not defined by how well our goals come to fruition. It is determined by how open and honest we are with ourselves, and how we approach new opportunities.
4. Stop making excuses.
There’s always an excuse not to do something. There’s always an inconvenience, impediment, or issue. Of course, we know that if we yielded to every minor road block, we would never accomplish anything in life. It’s always helpful to put an excuse in perspective. If you’re trying to get to the grocery store and reach a road that is blocked off, you will more than likely find an alternate road. Similarly, if your goal is to earn a master’s degree but you were rejected from a program, look into different schools or apply again in the future. Excuses are only as legitimate as you make them.
5. Expect that not everyone will agree with your choices.
There are many people in this world who like to play it safe, whether they are conscious of that choice or not. Your leap of faith might remind them of their own trepidation, and they may warn you against working toward your goals. Only you know what is best for you, and if you want to do something, don’t doubt yourself. Surround yourself with goal-oriented people, and rejoice in your collective perseverance.
6. Remember that it is normal to feel discouraged or want to quit.
No goal worth achieving is easy, and it is completely normal and okay to feel angry, sad, or hopeless during your journey. To me, achieving something that required little effort doesn’t really qualify as an accomplishment. Part of the journey is feeling a raft of emotions: miserable, happy, confused, indifferent. We aren’t making progress unless we are letting our guards down, so don’t let your spectrum of emotions tell you that you’re not capable of making things happen. You are!
What goals have you achieved in your life? How did you achieve them?
Also by Molly: Creamy Cauliflower and Millet Mash
Photo: Rémy SAGLIER via Flickr