“The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do.” — Bill Phillips
One of my favorite things in life is to talk to people about their goals and dreams. I love seeing people’s faces light up when they consider their possible future selves.
And yet I’ve noticed a distinct difference in the types of people that go on and make those dreams happen and those who don’t.
The first type of person is willing to take a hard look at their biggest goals and figure out what they have to do to make them happen. They are undaunted by the months, years, or decades of hard work ahead of them because they know that the more difficult path will also be the most rewarding.
The second type of person talks about their dreams without doing anything about them. They’re usually full of reasons and excuses about why they haven’t made any progress, despite the passing of time.
The difference between these two types of people is not that one is blessed with greater motivation and drive than the other. In fact, I believe everyone can become the type of person who goes for their dreams.
It all comes down to a simple choice. Are you willing to fully commit? If so, you’ve taken the most important first step toward reaching your potential.
Decide to commit
Growing up, I was the all-talk type. I would always talk big, but then be full of excuses as to why I couldn’t take any forward action.
But one day, I made a choice. I had watched enough people around me give up on their dreams, and I didn’t want that to be me. I decided to stop talking about my dreams and letting them slip away.
That initial choice was the first step in what has been a long but rewarding journey into becoming the person I want to be.
You can make this choice, too. It doesn’t require special skills or an extra-motivated personality. All it takes is a willingness to fully commit to your goals.
Of course, committing can be scary. Anytime you go all-in on something, you set yourself up for the possibility of failure. But if you learn to treat failures as learning opportunities rather than letting them engulf your identity, even failures lose much of their sting.
Committing means accepting the process, no matter what obstacles arise along the way. It also means that when you inevitably stumble or go off track, you pick yourself back up and continue in the direction you want to go.
Take it one step at a time
Once you commit to a goal, the next step is to take action.
Often, we get so overwhelmed by our high, hard goals and how much we have ahead of us that we become paralyzed by what’s ahead. But the fastest way to halt all forward progress is to do nothing at all.
The key to making consistent, forward progress is to chunk down your goals.
Figure out the smallest next step you can do to take forward action toward your goal. Then find the next smallest step. Keep doing this, and in time, your small actions will add up.
For example, if you commit to your long-time goal of getting a black belt in jiu-jitsu but have no idea how to get started, begin by doing a quick Yelp search of dojos in your area. Reach out to one that stands out most to you, ask about their class schedule, and find out what gear you’ll need for class. Then actually sign up for a class. You’ll just have taken three solid steps forward to help you eventually reach your goal.
Progress rarely happens in big spurts. Instead, it’s our seemingly small, daily actions that, over time, lead to big results.
Believe your goal is possible
When you commit to a goal, you also need to believe your dream is possible. This means it also needs to be realistic. Deciding you want to be an Olympic gymnast at age thirty-five with no previous gymnastics experience is not realistic, but deciding you want to learn to do a freestanding handstand at that age (or much older) is.
Believing in the real possibility of your dream happening will ensure you continue to take action steps forward even when the path ahead of you seems overwhelming and difficult and when the voice in your head won’t stop yelling at you to quit.
As the late psychologist Albert Bandura once wrote:
“Self-belief does not necessarily ensure success, but self-disbelief assuredly spawns failure.”