Just over a week ago, I was in Warsaw delivering a keynote at Google’s International Growth Summit. And one of the things I shared was the constant internal work it has taken me to push myself beyond my own self-imposed limits. So often we tell ourselves we can’t do something (or pretend we don’t want it) because it seems too challenging or too big or too scary, and we obsess over the enormity of the goal instead of focusing on what we can control.
And what I’ve learned over time is that we can never control outcomes, but we can control how much we try. And acknowledging that the outcome is out of our control can liberate instead of deflate us. We can be a bit more light about how we approach our ambition. We can take a more curious, exploratory, “let’s see” approach, instead of stopping before we start. We can give things a go instead of pre-determining that it’s not worth the effort. And we can become try-ers instead of stand by-ers.
But it takes practice and vigilance.
I’ll give you a very recent example. Back in July, I finally accomplished a long-held personal goal of doing 10 chin ups. But the other part of that story is how regularly I stopped before I started really trying, how often I had to battle my own defeatist instincts that refrained “it’s too hard”, “who cares how many chin ups you can do”, “it’s a totally arbitrary goal” (side note: aren’t many of our goals “totally arbitrary” to some extent?), and how often I told myself it wasn’t possible anyway.
But over time – and because I’m stubborn as hell! – I forced myself to take my own advice and allow myself to try anyway. Because you never know.
And – as you now know – I did it. Ten chin ups! But it took me two YEARS longer to achieve that goal than I had initially targeted. Two extra YEARS during which I had to keep telling myself to keep going, regardless of the outcome, to focus on what I can control, to give it a try and see what might happen… And then it happened. Because I didn’t stop trying.
And the reality is, that is what success at anything looks like for some (maybe all) of us: we get excited, we get deflated, we want results overnight, and then we quit.
Or we keep going. No matter how long it takes. No matter how many pauses along the way. No matter how ugly the process. We keep going. And going. (And battling our quitter’s instincts!) Until we get there.
So, maybe, just maybe, the next time you want something but it seems too big, or too hard, or too impossible, just let yourself see. See what you can do if you take the pressure off, if you keep going, if you keep trying, and if you let go of how long it will take to get there. The time will pass anyway.
So, let’s just see.