Have you ever seen that tv show about people who hoard the oddest, most random things? Their houses are so full, you can't even see the floor. Boxes and piles of junk are stacked all over the place. Trash is accumulating and slowing being turned into coal under mountains of garbage, kittens are being fossilized in the briefest nooks and crannies, and crumbs are attracting complete civilizations of insects. And you look at those places, and you wonder to yourself, where would you even start cleaning?
Life is like that, really. Stacks and stacks of boxes to be unpacked, sorted, sweated over. Trash to be picked up and thrown out. Order to be made out of chaos. The truth is that if you want to have a happy house, a clean, well-ordered house, the home-sweet-home of your most fervent dreams, then you're going to have to put your back into it, you're going to have to burden yourself with the task, drip salt water and scowls over it, put time into it again and again and again...until finally, somehow you've reached that shiny, happy place you've pinned your star onto. Yes, dreams take hard work.
That's the thing that people don't seem to get. Yes, they might say, I'm really into this, I'm willing to pour my life into accomplishing my dreams. Their eyes are on fire because this time, this time, will be different, this time they're going to turn their wishes into reality. But then, things start getting a little bumpy, there's a pothole in the road to their destiny, so they give up. Oh well, if it's hard, they complain, then I guess it's not worth doing. So they sigh and shrug their shoulders, go eat potato chips and watch reality shows on tv.
What these people don't seem to realize is that the things that are the hardest are usually the ones most worth doing. I remember reading a Dear Abby letter one time in which an older woman was lamenting her age. She wanted to go back to college, but she thought to herself, Imagine how old I will be when I graduate. In turn, Abby replied, "Well, how old will you be if you don't go to college?"
That's how goals are. Imagine how much time, energy, frustration, and mind-breaking work goes into achieving a goal. It's such a pain...so much crap, really. But where will you be if you don't achieve your goal? Well, you'll be nowhere. I mean, you can sit on the couch for five hours watching tv or you can work toward your goal for five hours. Afterward, you're either five hours closer to your goal or you've created a five-hour dent in your couch. Which is worth more to you?
If you're not willing to do the tough work to reach your dreams, you're not going to reach your dreams.
If you don't like the way I wrote it, or if you think that I'm an idiot-nobody who is not worth listening to, then read how the 20th century uber-genius Albert Einstein said it instead: "Genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work."
Yeah, I know it's a drag, and while luck does play some role in fame and fortune, hard work is what separates winners and losers. It's that simple.
So how do you keep at it when something gets hard?
First, make sure you actually know what you really want. If it's something that is really important to you, then it should be worth the hard work...even if nobody ever sees all the time and crap that went into it. So think about it. Do you really want to be a pro-football player? I mean, really? Do you really want to do the work involved to get to that level? Or do you really want to be a doctor? I mean, if you're not putting effort into your science classes, then face reality, compadre--you ain't never going to be a doctor.
So, the first step is just making sure that whatever you're dreaming of is something you really, really want.
For example, I once toyed with the idea of learning to play the fiddle. I thought it would be superCool to be able to play "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" on a fiddle. I could imagine myself at festivals and family get togethers breaking out my fiddle and waxing hard on a country jig. The problem is that I wasn't really dedicated, and I knew I wasn't. I knew it would take hours of practice to learn how to play the fiddle, and I had other goals that were more important to me (like making a living and honing my writing skills). So in the end, I knew it was just a fantasy and that I would never follow through with it.
______________________________________ Don't focus on that far-off goal and how hard it's going to be to get there. Focus on the tiny milestones in the middle.
Also, be realistic. You know, I'd love to be a tall, willowy, sexy bombshell on the cover of fashion magazines, but at 5'3" and 130 pounds, that ain't happening. Likewise, if you've got legs that go on for a miles and no coordination, the chances of your becoming a gymnast are pretty close to zilch. Try looking yourself straight in the eye and seeing if you really have it in you. If you're crap at logic and computers, you're not going to be a hacker, and if you have no sense of rhyme or rhythm, you're not going to be a rapper either.
So after you've asked yourself these questions, if you're still stoked about whatever that awesome goal is that you've been dreaming of, then right on! Just remember, as the proverb by Lao Tzu says, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." So don't focus on that far-off goal and how hard it's going to be to get there. Focus on the tiny milestones in the middle.
Take me, for instance. I really really want to be a published writer, and it's a goal I've nurtured since I was a wee lass in junior high (something you probably know as "middle school"). But it's taken years of reading and writing to even get to the point I am at now, and in that time, I had to work to earn a living and do all the in-between things that are needed to live an okay human life in these modern United States-ian times.
And to finally get a novel written, I couldn't look at the word count and say, "Oh my Chrysanthemum! I have to write 70,000 words to get a YA novel under my belt! That'll never happen." You know, because if I look at the huge amount of work it's going to take, then I'll never even get started. Instead, I've myself a daily goal of about 100 words. That's not only reachable, that's easy peasy, companero.
So remember to think about the end goal sort of abstractly, and focus on the small goals in between instead.
Finally, here are a couple of other tips. Set yourself some deadlines for accomplishing your mini-goals, set manageable goals (i.e. 100 words at a a time instead of 70,000), and reward yourself for your work. I have to grade papers all the time, which is not fun in spite of what you may have thought when you were in 5th grade. So I break down the workload over several days and give myself rewards every few minutes or hours. I'm not talking big rewards--I don't splurge on diamonds or Ferraris every time (just some of the time). I'm talking about rewards like getting up and going to the bathroom or grabbing a glass of water. Chocolate is also a great reward (or whatever kind of food you think of as a treat). In fact, chocolate is a great carrot on the end of the stick no matter what your goal is--even losing weight.
Now you have the information you need to get started. And here's the thing--YOU CAN DO IT! It takes hard work, but you've got enough grease in your elbow to get it done, I guarantee it.
If you need more inspiration and tips for those moments when the going gets tough, try these:
How to Get Going When the Going Gets Tough--Donna M. White, LMHC, CACP, offers tips for getting your head back in the game when things get tough.
7 Ways to Keep Your Dream Alive When the Going Gets Tough--As the title suggests, Sean Kim gives seven ways to frame your thoughts when things don't seem to be going your way.
6 Ways to Keep Yourself Motivated When the Going Gets Tough--Are you noticing a theme in these titles yet? Colleen Kettenhofen offers six strategies for keeping yourself in the race, a couple of which I mentioned in my post above.
When the Going Gets Tough--Christianity is full of biblical scripture to keep you at it when things get tough, and Joe Stowell tells you about it in this article.
If these four articles aren't enough, try googling phrases like "how to persevere," "what to do when the going gets tough," and "how to overcome adversity." Also, try clicking on the purple word "Motivation" in the right-hand menu on this page; here's a post I'm particularly fond of. Or leave me a comment and I'll try to light a firecracker under your posterior (figuratively speaking, of course).
As always, if you think this post is worthwhile, please share it by clicking the Facebook and/or Twitter buttons below.
The person I want to be smiles at everyone, even strangers; is a great teacher who has wonderful rapport with her students and is able to inspire them to do great things; influences people to do the right thing even when it hurts; doesn't care about fashion but always looks put together; has a wonderful relationship with her daughter; mentors young people, who respect and admire her; works fearlessly to make the world a better place; makes the people around her feel happy and enthusiastic; eats right and exercises; and is generally a superlative, super-human type of person.
Have you ever done that? Wrote down the qualities you wish you had? Have you ever looked at someone and said to yourself, "Why can't that be me?"
Here are some words of advice from the great British writer and satirist Oscar Wilde: "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."
Well, that's a a real letdown, isn't it? Why can't I be that other person I admire? Am I really trapped in this body, in this brain? Am I really fated to be the loser that I already am?
No, you're not. Notice Wilde said to be yourself; he didn't say not to imagine yourself as someone else.
So here's my challenge--Imagine yourself as the best version of you. Pretend to be the person you want to be.
Let me give you an example. I work as a teacher, but inside, I don't feel like I am a teacher. Teachers are these people who are in charge, in control. Teachers know what they are talking about and are able to bring out the best in their students. They inspire. They are experts in their field. Well, guess what? I'm not any of those things, or at the least, I don't feel like I am. That's why I wrote that I work as a teacher, not that I am a teacher.
So since I don't feel like I am this paradigm of teacherliness, what can I do? Quit my job? No, I have to make a living. Admit to my students that I am an imposter who doesn't know what she's talking about? Well, maybe, but I don't want to make them lose their respect for me. So what can I do?
I can pretend to be a great teacher. I can think to myself, "Well, what would a great teacher do in this situation?" And then I can do whatever I think a great teacher would do.
Yes, that's the secret. Pretend to be
the person you want to be.
Let me give you another example.
Recently I was at an event put on by an organization I am affiliated with called Dallas Interfaith Power and Light. It was a film screening I had helped organize, and about 65 people showed up. When I got there, I saw people milling around, waiting for the film to start. Well, I felt a bit less than confident. I didn't know most of the other people there, and the people I did know were busy talking to other people. I could have found a seat and hid my face in the screen of my phone. But I decided, no, that is not what a representative of this organization should do. So instead, I decided to mingle. I walked up to a guy I didn't know and started talking to him. I asked him what had inspired him to come to the event. I asked him what kind of work he did. I started a conversation. And the thing that allowed me to break out of my shell and take a chance is that I imagined what a true advocate and exemplary representative of Dallas IPL would do, and I did that.
This technique requires you to don a mask. The mask is made of up the characteristics of the personality you want to assume. Want to be class president? Imagine what a class president would do, would sound like, would look like, and do those things. Want to attract girls? Think about what an attractive guy (or girl) would do, what he would say, what he would look like, and do those things. Want to be an ace student? Think about what an A+ student would do, would sound like, would look like, and do those things. Yes, that's the secret. Pretend to be the person you want to be.
Don't think it works? Don't believe me? This post is partially inspired by a TED talk by Amy Cuddy, who describes how she managed to become a college student even though she knew she didn't belong. Her advice: fake it until you become it. If you do nothing else, please watch this video. It will definitely give you a different view on life and gift with you some techniques to ramp up your brain chemistry.
So that's my advice. Fake it until you are it. Be your best you--the best you that lives in your imagination.
If this post made you think, inspired you, or caused you to wet your pants, please pass it along (the ideas, not your smelly underwear)...Let your friends know by using the buttons below to "like" it or tweet it. And thanks for reading!
I recently discovered that my high school diploma has been nullified. It seems that my high school temporarily lost its accreditation the year that I graduated, so my diploma is no longer any good.
What all this means, I am appalled and bewildered to discover, is that I have to repeat my senior year. So I have gone back to take classes again as if I were a teenager, feeling lost and overwhelmed by the whole experience. At last count, it has been eighteen years since I had a math class, leaving me ill prepared to pick up on concepts that I've spent years forgetting.
I keep finding myself sitting at a desk with a test in front of me, generally math or history, that might as well be written in Neptunian. I don't know any of the answers; I've missed too many classes. I am panicky and know that I am going to fail miserably. Senior year the second time around is hopeless!
I've tried talking to the counselor about my situation, but he (or she? not sure which) is always either out or too busy to talk to me. I sit in his (her?) audience for endless periods of time, being ignored by the secretary, and when I try to talk to the principal, try to get a copy of my transcript to prove that I have already taken these classes, everyone I run into is clueless.
I don't understand why they can't just dig out my original grades and use them, you know the grades my 17-year-old self earned. Why do I have to repeat the classes? I want to explain how ridiculous the whole situation is. I want to tell them I've already graduated college, that I have gone on to earn two masters degrees. But no one will listen. It's like I'm lost in a labyrinth of bureaucracy.
It is a nightmare scenario. Literally. It is a nightmare.
The weird thing is that I've been having versions of this dream for years. It's like I can't get over high school, and every time it appears in my sleep, it's a monster dogging me and making me crazy.
I have a few theories about the repetitiveness of this dream. Of course the whole situation reveals more about me and my fears than about the status of education in the country. I doubt there are very many high schools who would recall a 36 year old and inflict hell upon her. They've got enough problems.
Maybe the source of the problem is my master's degree in English. When I was in grad school, I dropped one of the classes I needed to graduate and had to get special permission from the department chair in order to earn my degree. Maybe it's that feeling that I cheated, that I didn't quite complete what I set out to do.
Or maybe it has to do with my fear of failure. I was actually a really good student, but somehow my fear of failure has manifested in the form of tests that I am unprepared for and tasks that I only thought I succeeded at.
I think it probably has a lot to do with my identity, which I've all but lost since attaining adulthood. When I was young, I was the smart girl, the nerd, the overachiever. I was the girl did the whole cliche "above and beyond" thing. It wasn't enough to pass; I had to excel. But now I have a regular life with a so-so job, and I'm no longer a standout. In fact, without a report card to back me up, it's hard to communicate to people that I am, indeed, intelligent, and they should believe me despite the stupid mistakes I'm always making.
It's been eighteen years since I graduated high school, yet it seems like just a blip in comparison to the amount of time I was actually in public education. It seems like I was in school for decades, centuries, like most of my life was spent in the chalkboard jungle.
High school has made a greater imprint on me and my sense of self than anything since, no matter what I've accomplished. I will always be that little nerdy girl more comfortable doing geometry proofs than making small talk with my peers.
Yes, that's me. The nerdy girl sitting at her computer, who never quite lived up to the potential she was supposed to have, a little leper girl with one foot in her mouth during every social situation.
Word and Book Lover.