I think that the best place to start is at the beginning – what missing piece finally fell into place that was the catalyst for this whole
process? It wasn’t just one thing; it was a series of events that in combination finally gave me the kick in the ass I needed to set my goals and take courageous action toward achieving them.
Generally speaking, we all have parts of our lives that we are dissatisfied with. But more often than not, we recognize them, complain about them, stress over them, but ultimately decide that we would rather tolerate them than make attempts at changing them because that would be too risky or too difficult. We decide that the outcome is desirable, but just not worth the work. I was no different. And, although I wasn’t really aware of it at the time, I just didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t think I was capable of being disciplined and consistent, so I didn’t want to even want to try because I was convinced it would become yet another black mark on my already spotty track record of goal setting. So, even though I was very aware of how discontent I was, I chose to perpetuate my mediocrity because changing it would have been uncomfortable, and I didn’t believe in myself.
The journey for me to get to where I am now has been ongoing for some time. A series of events brought me psychologically to the point of being ready to commit to the competition process. Yes, I had always wanted to be a figure competitor. But, I had not wanted it bad enough to do the work and make the necessary sacrifices. I’ve found that you can be discontent with something, but it generally takes something personal to really light a fire under you to make a courageous change. You might be 70% of the way there to being ready to change, but you need a jump-start to push you the remaining 30%.
I’ve been trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do with my life for 8 years. I’ve had a lot of ideas and created a lot of plans, but I never saw any of them through because I would over think them, decide it wasn’t “the right thing” or “the right timing,” and I would get scared and back out. I read a book (my solution to most problems!) called What Should I Do With My Life? The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question by Po Bronson. One passage in particular resonated with me:
“Failure’s hard, but success is far more dangerous. If you’re successful at the wrong thing, the mix of praise and money and opportunity can lock you in forever. It is so, so much harder to leave a good thing.”
I read this quote and immediately felt it perfectly described the situation I was in. I also realized that I have poured the majority of my time and energy into my job over the last four and a half years and have not done much for myself. My personal identity was becoming obscured by my professional one. I thought about my upcoming birthday, what I’d accomplished to date, and what I wanted to accomplish in the next five years. I gave a lot of consideration to what my ideal life would look like and what steps I would have to take to achieve it. I became convinced that competing in figure was a key step in that process. I decided just to go for it, and signed up for competition prep with a pro figure competitor whom I’ve always looked up to (Nicole Wilkins). I also took a week off from work for my first week of competition prep. I disconnected myself from work and my professional self, focused on training hard, eating right, resting, and reconnecting with my true self – who I really am inside, not the professional persona I put on day-to-day to earn a paycheck. I felt amazing; I still feel amazing. That feeling every day gives me confidence and the drive I need to continue pushing forward.
I don’t know how much my explanation of my “aha!” moment really helps anyone else. It’s difficult for me to explain the metaphorical road I’ve wandered down to arrive at the place I am now. My point is that to be successful at something
difficult, you have to want to it really, REALLY bad. If you set a goal, but find yourself making excuses and not putting 100% effort into your goal, then chances are, you have one of the following problems:
1) You don’t want your goal bad enough (i.e. you say you’re going to get up at 5 AM to work out, but each morning, you find
yourself deciding that sleeping an extra 2 hours is more important and hitting the snooze button)
2) You don’t really know what you want
For a long time, I had goals that seemed to be at odds with each other. I wanted to be disciplined and in amazing shape, but I also liked drinking, eating pizza, and being social. I wanted two things that, in my mind, were not compatible, so when I was faced with a decision, I felt I had to choose one to the detriment of the other. Usually, I would choose the short-term gratification over the long-term reward because I would use the most convenient priority to justify the decision I wanted to make in that moment. In order to change this pattern, I had to make clear in my own mind what my highest priority goal was so that when I was faced with a decision, I wouldn’t let my mood in that moment or the specifics of that situation determine my choice; I would make decisions according to my overarching, long-term goal. I also had to change my attitude toward situations that had always seemed black and white to me. Do I really have to choose between being social and being a competitive athlete? It turns out, I don’t!
In order to set goals for yourself, you really need to understand what is important to you, why it’s important to you, and what you are willing to do and to sacrifice in order to achieve it. You need to keep reminding yourself of those things every day. That is what keeps you on track, and that is also what helps you get back on track after a slip-up instead of spiraling into a self-destructive series of choices that are not conducive to your goals.
So, give it some thought…what do you want to accomplish? What’s holding you back? Are the things holding you back true limitations, or just excuses?