Goals. What a high when we reach them and what a low when they feel so far away. Recently I’ve gone through some disappointing moments with not just getting closer to my goals, but life in general. First let me say, none of these were life-shattering and they were all very first world problems, but disappointments nonetheless. Some of these disappointments have been with myself, some with situations, and some with people that I hold in very high regard. In the midst of all this disappointment I decided it was time to re-read one of my all-time favorite books, Burn Your Goals. Goals are great in theory, but isn’t it really ultimately about the process we take to get to our goals?
The book, true to form, did not disappoint. One question in particular hit me hard this time. The question was, “Are you ruled by principles, or are you ruled by feelings?” It really hit home for me when I started thinking about all the recent disappointments in my life. Everything comes down to words. Words matter. Self-talk matters. Every decision ultimately starts with words. Words lead to feelings, whether they are yours or someone else’s and feelings ultimately lead to choices. I’ve concluded that there are three really powerful words that determine whether we are living a life ruled by feelings or a life guided by principles. Are you on the path to achieving our goals or are you going nowhere fast? Are these three phrases part of your vocabulary?
The top two words might be self-explanatory, but I really think it is the word “too” that crushes people’s dreams, sacrifices their growth and often gives them an excuse to not even try. How can this tiny three-letter word be so powerful? Let’s say Jane wants to start exercising. Ok, Jane, let’s do this! Ready, set, go! Wake up early to exercise, but wait, she’s too tired to get up, she pulled a late night last night and really should catch up on some sleep. Ok, seems logical. So she thinks, “I’ll do it this evening when I get off work.” Guess what happens when Jane gets off work? Can you already see the writing on the wall? She’s too tired, it’s too hot outside, it’s too cold outside, it’s too windy, she has too much other stuff to do, too many activities to take her kids to. Is Jane living by her principles, or is Jane living a life ruled by her feelings? What’s the principle here? How about, if you make a commitment, whether to someone else or yourself, then you better damn well honor it. One of the best points in the book is, if you live by your feelings, they will crush you. I couldn’t agree more. This tiny but powerful three letter word “too” really means that your true feeling is “I don’t want it that bad.” Too= no true desire. I recently had a very disappointing race and when I reflect back on the self-talk during that race I realize I was full of “too.” My legs were too tired, it was too hot, the course was too hard, and there was too much wind. Instead of looking at it as an opportunity to race on mileage tired legs (what great training for a marathon cycle!) I wimped out and started the “too” self-talk. Not surprisingly I had very disappointing race results.
The words “I want” I know we often use as a starting point for setting up some big dreams or goals, but these are simply the wrong words. You can want and want all day, it’s a feeling. Until you live by principles and are willing to commit to the process with “I am willing” nothing will change. I want to look super healthy. So what? Are you willing to give up or significantly cut back on the junk food, the alcohol and/or the processed carbs? Are you willing to make vegetables a priority in your diet? Are you willing to be the odd man out at social gatherings (because damn if we don’t feel the pressure to partake in unhealthy choices when everyone else is). Are you willing to take these steps day by day? Who cares if you want it? I want a yacht in the Mediterranean. Have I been willing to take any of the steps to get there? Hell no. Have I lived by the fundamental principles of saving and growing my money? No. Instead I have lived by my feelings with my money (a lot of “I want” there for sure). So what right do I have to be frustrated, mad, sad, or think it’s unfair that other people have that??
And I especially love the last one, “not enough.” I’ve been incredibly guilty of this. For many it is a mindset about money. However, the one asset we all have equally is time, and I cannot even begin to tell you how often I hear people say they don’t have “enough” time to do something, whether that is exercise, cook at home or create and follow a budget. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. How you choose to use that speaks volumes about your priorities and how much you are willing to put in to achieve the things on your “want” list. Are you living by the principle of valuing your greatest asset – time? And not just your time, but other people’s time as well. The principle of treating others as you want to be treated runs into every facet of our lives. When someone re-arranges their schedule to accommodate yours, do you make it a point to be present?
So I’ve been asking myself a lot lately this question, “Am I making this choice based off a principle or based off a feeling?” and I have to tell you I’m excited for the future and to see how asking this question shapes the outcomes of my training, studying and goals.
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