There are no overnight success stories.
I can’t remember who that quote is attributed to, but Google that phrase and countless quotes from other successful people will fill your screen. Tales of “overnight successes” that were 1, 5, 10, 20 years in the making are the norm rather than the truly overnight rises of a viral video or personality. If you find yourself a few years into the building of your success story and feel like you should have arrived by now, welcome to the club!
The impact dreams have on a life is ironic. On one hand they drive you to grow, fight, and (hopefully) eventually be wildly successful. However, the road that you must travel in the pursuit of that dream can be incredibly painful. I lay awake for hours nearly every night simultaneously fighting feels of inadequacy and hope, while brainstorming ways to grow my fledgling business. I toss and turn, and fight to choke down the urge to throw in the towel because the goal seems so unattainable. Once morning comes, I force myself through the harried morning routine like a robot and groggily march out the door to my 8-5, the job that pays the bills.
Throughout, the power of my dream drives me, inspires me, and challenges me to hustle more, work smarter, and build more relationships. If I weren’t intentional about my approach to life and my dreams, they would drown me and leave me lying burnt out and bitter on the floor of my cubical. Here are three ways I've found that help me be intentional, manage my dream, and stay focused on the “now” while working toward my goals.
There are many different directions we could take this discussion on setting boundaries, but let's focus on the importance of protecting personal and family life. When you are focused on pursuing a dream that you are passionate about, pretty much everything in life tends to fall to the wayside. You can spend hours working on a project and forget to eat, stay up all night long, or spend weeks where all of your free time is allocated to the work necessary to get your dream off the ground. This is my version of shouting from the rooftops, “Be Careful!”
It’s somewhat painful and frustrating to put projects on hold or step away from a something when you are “in the zone” in order to have a family dinner, play games with your children, or go hang out with friends. It’s not that you don’t love those in your life, quite the opposite! It just that things can become...complicated in the pursuit of our dreams. For example, my family and my desires to provide them with the lifestyle I’d like for them is a major motivator for me. If I sacrifice my relationship with them in order to accomplish that goal I am working against myself.
I can’t imagine reaching my goal, running a healthy entrepreneurial empire, turning around to enjoy my success with my wife and daughter only to find that they’ve left me (whether physically or emotionally) at some point along the way.
The same holds true with friends and personal relationships. Eventually reaching your goal will certainly provide a degree of satisfaction but human beings are social creatures (for the most part), and enjoying accomplishments with relationships intact are what lead to happiness. Money and success without strong, healthy relationships in life do not provide happiness and frequently result in emotions that are the opposite of happiness.
How do you set boundaries?
Part of this comes down to hustle. You have to examine your schedule and determine where your relationship times live. Are your evenings your primary time to spend with family and friends? Set some boundaries that say that you are going to spend two or three evenings a week completely focused on those things. Maybe you don’t feel that you can sacrifice that amount of time? Wait until after your family goes to bed to start working on your projects, get up early in the mornings, instead reading, playing games, or watching Netflix on your lunch breaks, re-allocate that time to working on something for an hour each day…once you commit to protecting your relationships and the time they take, you can quickly begin to see where you’ll need to apply your “hustle” and the other sacrifices you’ll have to make in order to do so. If your dream is important enough, no sacrifice of entertainment or down time will be too large.
This is just an old fashioned term for, “WORK HARD!” There’s really no way about it. Sure, you can “work smarter,” but if you apply a solid work ethic to an intelligent approach, you’ll go much further. Often, I see that people touting the “work smarter, not harder” approach confuse working smarter with laziness or a lackadaisical approach. Pursuing a dream is much like weight loss or fitness. You can be like the contender on your favorite reality weight loss show that is complaining and crying about the amount of effort they are putting into their diet when the scale shows that they are obviously being less than honest with themselves. Or, you can be like the contender that works hard, acknowledges that they’ve strayed or stumbled a bit this week but still manage to register a loss on the scale despite setbacks. Progress will not lie. Without hustle, most (if not all) dreams will continue to rest firmly on the ground. With hustle, empires will be lifted with the years of blood, sweat, and tears invested by their creators and explode onto the scene “overnight.”
Establishing your ability to be objective is vital if you want to improve in ANY aspect of your life. No matter your role, industry, or purpose, the ability to maintain objectivity is a non-negotiable trait that will go a long way towards helping you become the success you want to be. I feel like we’ve all been there, heard that, and understand it to some extent. However, you also need to develop your objectivity to the point that you can see the positive traits, growth, or abilities you have without crossing the line in to arrogance or “unfounded self-confidence.”
I tend to do GREAT at finding my flaws, pointing out my mistakes with reckless abandon and fighting to improve “all the things” at the same time. I don’t do so well acknowledging my strengths or progress. Despite amazing developments, I find it difficult to enjoy them at times because I'm always checking things off my list and moving on to my next challenge or goal. It's important that we as creatives, entrepreneurs, and marketers take time to enjoy our successes as they come about, no matter their size.
Hopefully, these three guidelines to pursuing your dreams help you avoid some of the disappointments, frustrations, and burn out that seem to be so common among visionaries. I know this list isn't all encompassing and that there are certainly other important steps to take in order to maximize your chances for success. What steps or rules do you follow? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
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