My HYPO2 strength and conditioning coach recently inquired, “What’s YOUR gold?” (HYPO2 provides services for world-class athletes chasing elusive gold medals; more importantly, they support local community members in exploring their potential). While I interact with him in a gym setting, I realized there is no separation between how I determine success in something I am striving for athletically, professionally, or in any other life endeavor. Attaining excellence starts with a goal. Success, then, comes down to staying on track when life presents distractions, ultimately enabling the goal.
So how about you? What’s YOUR gold? My gold standards follow.
In shaping goals, I pay attention to internal nudges, especially when they remain for weeks, months, or even years, as they indicate what is intrinsic to my path. Honoring intuition makes it easier to envision what it looks like to achieve the desired outcome. For example, consider a writing goal – will it result in an essay, dynamite grant application, or compelling novel? Next, I flush out details, deciphering what it will take to make it happen.
Breaking a goal down into steps is critical to sustaining momentum, because it helps us leverage strengths and minimize weaknesses. For instance, if the goal is to write a book, and one is consistently tired by 9PM, it would be prudent to schedule time earlier in the day to write, to get around the hurdle of not having sufficient nighttime energy. Similarly, if a person is full-energy in the morning, yet has routine business-related tasks s/he tends to put off, sketching out a game plan that tackles least-desirable, or most important, tasks FIRST frees one up to really enjoy other work, possibly opening up creative channels as stress (which builds when necessary tasks are avoided) is minimized. When things are manageable, they become more fun; when we are having fun, productivity soars. Facing challenges head-on builds confidence, helping us to move beyond where we were yesterday.
Infusing each day with fresh possibility also helps in staying on the desired trajectory. I like to deal with each day as it comes – for me this means answering calls, texts and emails in real time (so as not to bring today into tomorrow). Most days, I also prioritize practicing my sitar and running outside, since these activities catapult me into the day at hand (making me feel alive, rather than stagnant). From this base, I cultivate excitement in working toward specific goals, because I am approaching them from a solid, balanced foundation. Know what works best for you. Creating space to achieve something great comes down to daily choices.
Showing up is key. Being present and committed carries us when we lose steam or competing interests demand our time. Make a sincere effort by taking even tiny steps in the direction of the goal each day. There will be times when we do not feel motivated, for an array of reasons. Sometimes there are simply other things we would rather be doing, or we are moving beyond our comfort zones and it is uncomfortable! Regardless, having a serious intention reverberates into the days to come.
Equipping yourself with an arsenal of strategies is essential. Being proactive allows us to harness our full energy. Suggestions include:
- Enlist colleagues, associates, friends and family – Share your dream with them. They will likely check in on your progress. If you are really lucky, they will also hold you accountable (I find that most people enjoy helping). Being reminded of what you set out to do is invaluable when life gets in the way.
- Reflect upon who inspires you, and what they have done to win your respect – Contemplate what sets them apart, what makes them exceptional. Consider how you could weave such elements into your own pursuit.
- Reward your efforts – This might be as basic as allowing yourself to enjoy something special after completing particularly tedious work, or surmounting a particularly daunting challenge – like going out to a favorite lunch spot, watching a movie, or taking a day or two off from the effort. Appreciating milestones goes a long way toward cultivating optimism and positivity.
- Reframe challenges – While obstacles are part of the journey, how we view them is in our hands. Learning (especially from mistakes) is a wonderful part of the process. There are always going to be times when we fall short of our targets, but a realistic, gentle approach translates to being flexible, which opens doors to possibilities we cannot yet see.
It is imperative to feed the dream, often – even when it seems unlikely, when circumstances appear to be stacked against it, and definitely when it does not make sense to others. Reaching a significant goal requires personal dedication. Set your own standards and stick to them. Never compromise what is most important to you.
By honoring your integrity, what you know to be right (for you) in any given situation, you bring authenticity to your quest. Quality work (of any kind) brings inherent satisfaction, no matter who notices, or what it yields externally. Many times, nurturing our highest ideals does not spur recognition, monetary incentives, or other tangible rewards; however, measuring progress by internal markers does wonders for sustaining passion, because we know we are honoring our unique paths and that our contributions truly matter.
So, step into the unknown. Believe in yourself. Discover your innate strengths.
Run toward, rather than from, challenges. Energize possibilities. Be grateful for all that is going right, and soon every day will be tinged in gold.
Sara is “Grant Professional Certified” via the Grant Professionals Certification Institute . In January 2017 she launched Grants that Go the Distance, to foster her love of helping local organizations bring ideas to life with competitive grant funding. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Facebook.