The young Dan*, who enlisted in the US Army, was going through his basic training. It was sometimes in the 70s and one evening the drill sergeant announced in front of everybody that the next day they will be doing their first live grenades drill. He explained to them how dangerous this was and then he actually did show it to them by blowing a real hand grenade. Naturally, it was a scary thing for the young men. They almost literally “wet” their pants.
Next morning just before the drill the sergeant asked if anyone was still scared. Only Dan raised his hand. Then the commander said, “You see, Dan is the only one I believe. There is nothing wrong to be scared but it is important to be able to face your fear with courage.”
Today we’ll talk about these two human feelings in the context of goal setting. It is important to appreciate how big a role they play in your success or failure.
Everyone has their aspirations
You go and ask anyone if they have dreams and they all will say “Yeah, of course”. Well, except for those who are too shy or secretive. Some would like to travel around the world, others – to run their own business, and then there will be those who would want to become famous artists. (But don’t you even try to ask them what they are actually doing to get those aspirations realized.)
More often than not this daydreaming is quite removed from the reality of your profession or area of expertise. This distance is one of the reasons why it’s so hard for these fantasies to make the transformation into real objectives.
Everyone has their own yardstick to measure things
They say that a man is only as big a person as his dreams are. It’s simple and yet truthful – you choose your objectives according to what you are.
Whether you realize it or not, you go through life with some “baggage” which consists of past wins and losses, limiting beliefs, habits, attitudes, etc.
Although we live in the same world our aspirations are still quite different. While a start-up entrepreneur might be aiming at an annual profit of 100, 000 bucks, a heavily indebted owner of a small business will be having the much modest target to stay in the black for the year.
Why can’t we aim higher
Of course, our grand plans are always outside the comfort zone which is set up by how we see and understand our own limitations.
Still, why don’t we dare to step outside of it? And why is that we can’t make our minds once and for all to begin working on them?
There is one thing that stops us from taking on our big dreams – not enough belief in ourselves.
Is confidence really the key?
Perhaps it makes perfect sense to you that the more of it means that the more daring you will be? Wouldn’t you agree that these two are co-related?
If you think so then we have news for you:
You are wrong
It’s a myth that the only thing you need to set a big goal is confidence and nothing else. In reality, it will come your way after you have clearly defined the objective and have started working towards it.
Well, people tend to wait for some divine sign that things would go their way. Of course, that never happens. There is no way it could ever happen.
In fact, exactly the opposite is true.
Why is that?
Let’s say that you love to paint and, therefore, would love to have your first show one day. But for you, this is completely new territory and you would be somewhat reluctant to give yourself a deadline. You’d rather prefer to gain a bit more experience and self-esteem by improving as an artist, finishing even more paintings, gaining more popularity on social media, and many other things that seem like a priority to you.
You may call it getting ready but in the eyes of everybody else, it’s just procrastination.
Because otherwise you would be openly declaring your intention and that’s already sort of a promise to do the work. Or, to put in different words, it is no longer a fairy tale but a reality.
It’s only natural that in the course of moving towards an objective you will be strengthening the faith in yourself. In short, the initial step is setting the target, and only later comes the confidence born out of all the work and victories you had while pursuing it.
There is, in fact, a theory regarding this.
The 4 C’s
This system of ideas is laid out in Dan Sullivan’s* book “The 4 C’s Formula”. It offers a fresh look at the success which is described as a process going through four stages: Commitment, Courage, Capability, and Confidence.
Pay attention, though! This is not a straight line, it’s more like a cycle. Here’s how we see it:
First, you have to clearly state your goal. It should be either written down or shared with someone. As soon as this is done you have made the commitment to actually do it. Which simply means you gave your word and will have to honor it.
Turning the wheel
What is the next step for you after meeting the manager of the gallery to set the date of your first show? Of course, it’s out of the question to call them and cancel it with words like “You know, I’m giving up. Sorry for wasting your time”. There is no way you could do that.
The reason is that you have made a promise and you will have to follow through no matter how challenging this might be. That’s how the first step, the proclamation of intent, opens the door to the next one – having the will to meet the expectations.
Here comes the crucial moment. First of all, you have to be frightened, just like it was with the man from the boot camp story – you have to get your pants wet. The question becomes what you are going to do about it.
Will you be able to muster the strength to overcome yourself in the name of your endeavor.
No doubt this may cost you a lot – some stress and worries, perhaps some other sacrifices as well. For example, you may have to quit your job or borrow money.
“No pain, no gain”
A worthy objective is one that is intimidating and tough but if you really want it then you will be pursuing it no matter what. The fact that you showed the will and character to take your chances proves that this thing is really yours.
So, you roll up your sleeves and get on with preparing for the show. Here’s how confronting your fears brings you to the next level which is to become more competent.
Going through ordeals is invaluable and more often than not it serves you well regardless of the outcome.
Even if only five people come to the opening night, all of them relatives, nothing can take away from you what you’ve learned. Now you have more knowledge as well as a better understanding of what you did right and what has to be improved. “The only way to learn is the hard way”, right!
A couple of words about the failures
We all know how difficult it is to fall and then get back up so that you can carry on. It’s even harder to forget and forgive your own past mistakes and be grateful instead.
But that’s exactly what is necessary if you are ever to become better.
Because every defeat opens up an opportunity to find out firsthand what can get you closer to your destination. You will have to analyze carefully so that you draw the right conclusions on how to improve in the future. This whole process has a name. It’s called progress.
Your mistakes shouldn’t be keeping you down but make you grow instead once you learned the lesson.
That’s how, in fact, you move to the next level with the help of the newly acquired skills.
What we talk about here is the genuine one. The one that comes to you only after you did what was expected of you, despite all the obstacles and mistakes. When you learned your lessons then you will also know with all of your heart that you became better.
But that’s just the beginning. Now you can go on and do even more with the newly acquired faith in your ability to improve and soldier on through whatever difficulties you may encounter.
An upward spiral
From now on, you will be able to take other, an even bigger endeavor. It won’t be your first time though – you will have to deal with more of the same problems except that now you will be better equipped to deal with them.
In the beginning, you’ll feel uncomfortable, but then you will manage to put aside any doubt and sense of uncertainty. Then you bite the bullet and carry on. This time, though, you will feel much more secure since you’ve learned enough. That’s how you grow.
And what if you are really scared?
Nobody expects you to be superhuman. We both, for example, are not in the least like that.
It is normal to be anxious when you are about to undertake something new while not fully prepared. But that’s also your chance to have this kind of feelings transformed by your fortitude into the driving force pushing you through every stage of your personal growth.
The trick is not to allow fear to paralyze you. Instead, it has to motivate you to stay away from reckless acts and be cool-headed in your bravery.
Don’t try to fight this fear.
Who’s afraid of fear
Let’s look again at the case when you want to build as much confidence as possible but well in advance of achieving anything first. However, trying to ensure that you can anticipate and prepare yourself for any possible eventuality is a slippery slope. You may never get to the point to roll up your sleeves and start the actual work on your goal but instead, fall into the trap of the so-called phenomenon “analysis-paralysis”.
The more you get sucked into it, ie. reading, going to classes and talking people, the more you think about the potential problems and their solutions. That may eventually become a goal on itself which is actually stopping you from getting any closer to your true objective.
While there are areas, like surgery or civil engineering, where you have to be perfect and make no errors whatsoever, there are many other areas where it is okay to be mistaken.
You have to accept the fact that there is no way for you to cross the river without getting wet. That’s not how the real world works.
Confidence vs. the excess of it
Most likely you already get the difference between these two. One is “faked” so to speak while the other is earned with resolve, dedication, and lessons learned.
Being sure that you can handle any of the challenges that life would throw in your direction allows you to act in a focused and reasonable way. But this is a state of mind which comes only with time and experience.
The other one is false and full of pretense reaction. Arrogance is often the mask some of us put on when they feel most vulnerable and weak.
When you are putting up a show for the world to see you are wasting that same energy that you’ll need to realize your plan with confidence and competence.
There is yet another form of “pretense” – the well-known “Fake it till you make it”. It is, unlike the chest beating in front of everybody, an internal process. You can try to fool your subconscious that the pants are not that wet after all and, therefore, you can still take one more step forward.
Where to start?
Surprise, surprise! It’s good to have a sound goal setting system at your disposal.
In “GoalBuddy” we put our trust in the power of small consecutive acts that result in a much great cumulative effect. Our advice here is to keep it simple.
Break down your grand vision into clear 90-day goals. Then proceed with making a little step each week.
Your Goal Buddy is right next to you
The best thing you can do right now is to find this person. They will be indispensable in helping you from start to finish.
The Buddy will be the first to learn about your aspirations. Every week your partner will hold you responsible for the implementation of the planned small steps. They will not only help keep your spirits up but will also advise you how to better navigate any dire straights you might be going through.
We want to share with you one helpful technique here.
You do not have to start from scratch
It’s a tried and tested method that will be of valuable assistance. The exercise is called “The Confidence Expander”. You should do it before you make your mind what your next objective should be. So, you go back in time to think of the past successes. At first, you might be a bit slow but then you’ll pick up speed.
The idea is to stimulate your positive attitude and make you immune against any self-doubt undermining your efforts. After all, you’ve already made such progress, haven’t you!
And to wrap it up
If we can turn around the saying “Easy come, easy go” it will mean that nothing of worth is easy. You can’t get ready for life sitting comfortably against the fireplace with a pen and a piece of paper drawing endless plans for the future. In any case, you will have to get “wet” at one point or another. Yes, you will be worried, you may lose sleep, your stomach may turn into a knot but your heart will race at the thought of what’s ahead of you. So, you get out to do what has to be done in order to build the life you want.
As for wet pants? They will dry. Just throw them in the big dryer called the “A Goal Achieved”.
* Reference: Dan Sullivan is founder and president of The Strategic Coach Inc. He is the creator of the The 4 C’s Formula™