Here's something to do, just for a lark: Make a list of everything you've currently got a complaint about. It'll take you around five minutes. Seriously, take this on. See what comes out and what you're currently hanging on to. Have you noticed that a lot of the time, we tend to rely on pain to move us forward, instead of a powerful vision? I have. I see it often with my clients. In fact, it's one of the first walls we run in to.
People come to me with an intention to create something new in their lives — something that is outside of their current trajectory. Something outside of what is currently predictable for them (if your goal is something like making $10-$20k more salary in the next five years, you are firmly hanging out in the realm of predictability).
Those clients set up a powerful goal, and then try to use the same approach they have to create it. They set up milestones for themselves, and then use flagellation as a way to get themselves there.
Pain is a pretty powerful motivator; after all, the pyramids were created using almost nothing but pain as a motivator. The trouble is that pain will only motivate us to work hard enough to avoid the pain. Mike Judge articulates this brilliantly through his movie Office Space:
For some of us, we've managed to create entire careers out of avoiding that whip. Many of the high-performers I have worked with have simply created (in their mind) consequences so dire, should they stop performing, that there's no longer any other option.
Again, you can build the pyramids using pain. The problem really starts to surface when you take on goals that are aligned with your own values, instead of those of someone else. At that point, the only person administering the pain is you. Predictably, we still try to hit ourselves with that whip, but we can only reach back so far. We just can't do it alone anymore.
I've had a fitness project on the go for at least a year. I'm not overweight by any means, but I have a desire to be lean and muscular. You know what gets in my way?
Beer and candy.
So what do I do? What's predictable, of course. I get focused on my vision, until I lose sight of it, break my rules, overeat or overdrink, and then whip myself the next day.
"Adam, that was so stupid. Come on! Don't you want this?"
There's no compassion there for myself, and there's also a loss of focus on my vision.
Visioning is such an important part of achieving powerful and audacious goals. Most professionals struggle with this part. It seems soft. It's not like you are actually doing anything at all when you're focusing on your vision (in case you needed the reminder, it's not actually about doing). Ironically, athletes have long since known that visualization is one of the keys to your success.
[Tweet "If you can't visualize a goal, you won't be able to achieve it."]
If you can't visualize a goal, you won't be able to achieve it. For some people, their capacity to hang out in this place of pure possibility is supremely limited. I've worked with some people that can spend about five seconds in this place, before declaring that their goal is to "pie in the sky", "dreamy", or "unrealistic". And then back to the whip.
Here's the punchline. People hire a coach, and then want to hand that whip over to the coach. One of the most frustrating things self-flagellators experience in the coaching relationship is that we take away the whip entirely.
"Hey, it's okay that you didn't do that. What got in the way, and what do you want to do this time?"
After a while, you start to go looking for the whip, because you miss that pain. My job is to actually stay with you in your struggle and keep you focused on the vision.
You don't need that whip.
Take that list of complaints you made at the start of this post, and for each complaint, identify the positive change you would like to create in your life. Share at least one of those with us in the comments — we'd love to hear from you!