By Ryan Burgess
It seems these days that “Hope” is en vogue. I hear a lot of people talking about how they “hope” to keep their job, they’re “hoping” the economy rebounds, or they “hope” they’ll be in a better place in a year or two. Some of these people have crystal clear visions of what it is they hope for, while others have just a general idea, but at the very least they all have something floating out there that they want. I hate to burst your bubble, but in my opinion, “hope” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. While hoping for the best and setting goals is important, if you do not act, you will not achieve what it is you envision. It does not matter what you are striving for- it could be a specific career, a spot on a team or in a club, a vacation, or losing some pounds. Whatever it is, these things don’t just happen; you have to make them happen! As much as this may seem like common sense, most people stay more on the “hope” side than the “achievement” side of the coin for this simple reason- they don’t act! The reason action is so difficult is more often than not due to one of our most primal emotions, an emotion that holds a tremendous amount of power…
FEAR. Even seeing the word is sure to illicit a response. Fear can lead us to act in many different ways. A lot of these actions are good and necessary for our survival, but unfortunately fear can also lead us in a direction that opposes our goals and ambitions.
When people get stuck before even starting, fear is often the contributing factor. They get afraid to fail, afraid to make a mistake, or afraid they may get ridiculed, made fun of, or tormented by others that don’t understand or appreciate the individual goal. When fear takes the reigns during this stage of the game, people will place roadblocks in the way of their goals, and it’s often on a subconscious level, so they don’t even realize their doing it! I see examples of this all the time: people will throw out negative statements such as “I don’t have the resources” or “I don’t have the support” or “it’s just not in the cards for a guy/girl like me.” By saying and believing in statements like this, an individual can now shift the blame elsewhere when they fall short of their goals. The best way to break free from this chain: GET OVER IT! Realize that you are in control of your life and stop making excuses. Success in life has less to do with what happens to you and more to do with how you react to it. What do you really have to be afraid of? So what if you fail?! I firmly believe that you can learn more about yourself from 1 serious failure than a continuous string of successes. So what if you make a mistake?! Last time I checked, nobody is perfect- even the so called experts have had their fare share of trials and tribulations. So what if others try to cut you down?! The higher up the mountain you climb, the harder the wind blows. Stay confident in your direction, and don’t listen to the detractors. What others say to or about you matters so little in comparison to what you feel about yourself- remember at the end of this journey we call life, the only person you’ll truly have to reconcile with is yourself.
Fear can hold you back in another way that is a little more difficult to predict. Say you do manage to overcome the difficulty of taking the first step; if you’re not careful, fear can sneak up on you and stop you in your tracks, knocking you back down to depths you didn’t even imagine. Fear in this sense comes from having your eyes set to far on the horizon or to firm on the rearview mirror. To put it another way, you lose your focus for the moment. Goal setting is paramount to achieving something, but if you were to think of all the things you want to achieve over the course of your lifetime, it can be very overwhelming and scary. Getting stuck looking in the other direction can also hold us back. If you reflect too long on your successes or failures, chances are fear will creep in with thoughts like “I don’t know if I can achieve that again”, “I couldn’t stand the humiliation of failing twice”, or my personal favorite, “how could I possibly top this- it’s as good as it gets!”. What’s in the past is in the past: it’s behind us, it’s done, and it can’t be changed. Don’t let what has happened or hasn’t happened to you in the past scare you from trying to move towards a more prosperous future. The only thing that is guaranteed is each moment that we have, and when you string together successful moments, you will soon find yourself experiencing a successful future. Make a pact with yourself now that you will make the right decision on a moment by moment basis right now, and you’ll already be on your way.
Now that we know progress is going to require action and an awareness of subconscious roadblocks, we need to complete the puzzle. You need to learn how to walk the line between having hope while not relying on it. One of the best examples of this was given by Vice Admiral James Stockdale, who survived 7 brutal years as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam. In Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great”, Mr. Collins asked VADM Stockdale if there was anything that stood out about those that didn’t survive their captivity versus those that did. Stockdale’s response:
“Oh that’s easy: the optimists. They were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again; they eventually died of a broken heart.” Stockdale then added, “This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end- which you can never afford to lose- with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Penultimate achievement, sometimes our very own survival, is contingent upon facing the moment, whatever it may be. You must find the resolve to “succeed” with every decision you make, but once you’ve made your choice, put it behind you and take the next step forward. Make your plan and act by inching closer towards your goal every single day. After all, some people dream of worthy accomplishments, while others stay awake and achieve them.
Ryan Burgess is a Strength & Conditioning Coach and the Director of Football development at Fitness Quest 10. He enjoys working with and training people from all walks of life and lives to motivate, educate, and inspire people to work hard, persevere, follow their heart and pursue their dreams. He believes firmly in the quote “Stay far from timid, only make moves when your heart is in it, and live the phrase ‘the sky’s the limit’”.