For over a year my buddy Steven diligently prepared for the military. He went to the gym six days a week, enrolled in college full-time, and maintained full-time hours in a lead position. I remember when he would talk about how awesome the military would be, how great the benefits are, why he wanted to go and all that stuff. This guy was something serious.
One day I got a text from him that read, “apparently I’m medically disqualified”. Steven had some kind of growth on his hip when he was younger that he had removed surgically. Even though it didn’t physically impair him at all, it was that single thing that was keeping him from experiencing something he wanted so badly. I mean, I definitely understand: I always wanted to be a rescue swimmer with the coast guard. But when I found out that being blind in one eye disqualified me, I wasn’t exactly thrilled.
As we were talking, Steven said, “Now it’s like someone took away my ore and I’m left in the middle of the lake in a boat… I want to excel but I keep hitting walls… not enough people strive for more than mediocrity, and yet they seem sated by it”.
That’s deep stuff, but I couldn’t agree more.
Here’s the deal: moving towards your goals and defining success for yourself is a life-long mission of trial, error, and learning. There’s not going to be some epiphany moment like there are in movies when a beam of light shoots down from the sky, the planets align, and everything is just fine. It won’t be like on cartoons when a little yellow light bulb pops up over your head, you shout, “Eureka!”, a disco ball comes down from the sky, and everyone busts out in dance.
I hate to break it to you, but there is never a point in life where difficult experiences and decisions go away. There are always going to be moments of uncertainty, ambivalence (having conflicting feelings), and cognitive dissonance (having conflicting beliefs). There are going to be times when life is epic, and times when life, well, sucks.
Sometimes it can seem like someone took away your oar and your in the middle of a lake. Or an ocean. Or a volcano. But if you’re lucky, it’s the kiddy pool at Six Flags. Or… wait a minute: why would you have a boat in a volcano? Or the kiddy pool? Never mind.
We can’t always control what life gives us. But we can control what we give life.
It’s not over unless you’re dead.
I mean this in a very literal context: unless you are dead (which I don’t think you are now; unless you’re a zombie… which would make you UN-dead), life is not over.
I know that set backs can seem like a catastrophe. When I started my first business, I ran into it all gung-ho, and at the first sign of trouble, I backed up because I thought I had crushed it. If I would have just taken a moment to understand my beliefs and how I acted based on my circumstances, I probably wouldn’t have felt like life was over.
Get real with yourself.
An esteemed psychologist from the early 1900’s named Albert Ellis, coined the ABC model (Activating event, Belief, Consequence) of behavior. His whole idea was basically that if our beliefs are jacked up, we are going to jack up our consequences.
Take Steven for example. Let’s say that instead of rebounding, he thought that being medically disqualified (Activating event) meant he was a failure (Belief), and decided to drop out of school and just work some dead end job the rest of his life (Consequence). If that was the case, Steven created his disaster consequences, not the military. He wasn’t angry with the military, he was angry with his circumstance. But since Steven believed that this was simply a wall in his way, he was able to walk around it or break it down. It didn’t mean that life was over.
Just because you lost one client doesn’t mean you are a failure. Just because you didn’t get accepted to that one university doesn’t mean you suck. Just because you made that one mistake doesn’t mean you’re a fail-stain. And just because you lost your roll for some legendary loot in World of Warcraft doesn’t mean you should quit.
So when you find yourself blaming an external source for your problems, get real. Do this ABC thing in your head and ask yourself about the situation, how you feel/what you believe, and how it could turn out. Ultimately, we have complete control over how we react to and view a situation.
Don’t talk about it; be about it.
In business, productivity is measured by input divided by output. If you have 0 input, you’re going to have 0 output. Simple as that.
I’ll be the first to say how easy it is to just sit around and do nothing. Anyone can think up great ideas or come up with some awesome stuff. But if you don’t do anything about it, you’re doing the world an injustice.
It’s scary to take risks. Unless you actually experience something though, you will never really know how it would have turned out.
If you have some epic idea but aren’t sure what to do with it, find out. How? Well you know, back in 1997 this thing came along called Google. Nowadays, I hear it can help you find out just about anything you want to know. Yes, that’s sarcasm.
Find a coach/mentor, research the process of starting a business, look into crowd-sourcing, ask people for their opinions, evaluate your competition or similar markets. Do something. Because if you don’t, it’s very likely that you’ll become (or already are) sated, and quite frankly…
When you get so comfortable with something and complacent, it’s time to move on. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be satisfied with what you’re doing in terms of your business or career, but you are cheating yourself if you limit opportunities for growth. You are depriving everyone else that could benefit from what you have to offer.
My friend Michelle is a nurse. She finished nursing school within two years of high school and went on to get her bachelor’s right after. Before she was even 27 she was the charge nurse and clinical coordinator on a critical care floor. She expressed interest in going back to get her master’s degree and how she would be able to get involved with community/public health nursing which she loved so much.
But recently Michelle told me she was content with how things were and she is just so satisfied with her position. Yet every time I would work with her, she would declare, “I’m ready to go. I can’t take it. I need more money. These people are crazy.” Oh, you’re happy though? Doubt it.
Now that her job is like muscle memory, she doesn’t want to grow and challenge herself because it’s easy.
When you find yourself getting to a point where you want more but are choosing to stay where you are because it’s easy, fun, whatever: it’s time to challenge yourself. My own self beliefs have limited me in the past when it came to grabbing things that I once thought were too far away. When I finally took a chance and had the experience of what it was like to go a little further, I grew so much.
Whether you want to take over the world, become a Grand Master Jedi, go to graduate school, or just take your business to the next level: you are ultimately in control of how that happens. The things you do, your thoughts, and the action you take will reflect your outcome.
It’s not over. Get real with yourself. Don’t talk about it; be about it. Sated sucks.
So don’t stop.
Tim Frie is a life coach and entrepreneur with a mission to encourage young people to live life on their own terms. Connect with Tim on Twitter @thatfrieguy
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Category: Personal Branding