Over the last three blogs, I’ve talked about making good plans, staying motivated and developing resilience. There’s another important aspect to consider - making sure you enjoy the journey!
Sometimes we reach our goals and find out they’re not all they were cracked up to be. If we enjoyed getting there, there may be some disappointment, but we’re not likely to mind too much. We just have to move on to the next best alternative.
If, however, you’ve spent years struggling single-mindedly towards your goal, hating every moment, saying no to every personal pleasure that was not directly related to your target, losing contact with friends and family on the way, how do you think it would feel in these circumstances to get there and not be enamoured with your destination? Pretty disappointing and demotivating to say the least…
How do you make sure you have fun along the way?
Watch where you put your focus
When something goes wrong, do you focus on how awful this thing is, or do you start working out what you can do about it?
When we see an erupting volcano reported on TV, some people see disaster, others beauty, some just roll up their sleeves and go see if they can help clear up! To remain focused and optimistic, it’s important to recognise that where you put your attention is a choice.
There’s a great example of a positive focus in Dumb and Dumber. Jim Carey’s character asks the gorgeous Mary what their chances are of having a relationship. She says one in a million, he responds delightedly: “So there’s a chance!”
Not that I am suggesting blind optimism, but it illustrates the point. He could have collapsed wailing: “What’s wrong with me? Am I unattractive? Am I a bad person?” But he chose to see and focus on the positive point in the situation.
Embrace the value of things going wrong
When you have a horrendous experience on holiday, isn’t that the bit you dine out on for years? So called ‘bad’ experiences are the stuff that makes life interesting. Can you imagine spending 80 odd years on this planet, and nothing bad ever happening?
Think of all the great life lessons you wouldn’t have got because you were never forced to reassess or review your chosen path, never encountered any obstacles?
Can you imagine how boring that would be? Personally, most of my funny stories come from unsuccessful or embarrassing experiences. If I’d never had them, I’d be pretty quiet at dinner parties. OK, I know some people would see that as an advantage, but I wouldn’t undo a single disaster in my life. Every one has made me stronger, even the really awful ones.
Being able to see the funny side of a situation is a powerful tool to help you move on from it. As Richard Bandler, one of the co-developers of NLP says, “People tell me one day I’ll look back and laugh at this, and I say, why wait?”
Think about the meanings you apply to events
When something goes wrong, do you think: “Oh well, better luck next time,” or do you think: “They all hate me, I’m useless!”
It’s the way we interpret an event that allows us to deal with it positively or negatively. We lose our power when we interpret bad things as personally targeted, or blame our ability or even personality for it. Often when we do this we are applying an assumed knowledge or understanding we can’t possibly have.
Instead, we could use our intelligence and powers of analysis, our creativity even, to identify alternative options and opportunities to move forward.
As Shakespeare puts it: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Making yourself personally responsible for every bad event in your life is not helpful. Also, you just don’t have that much power.
Admitting responsibility where it’s appropriate (and learning from mistakes) and taking responsibility for what you do next though is a way of claiming the power you do have.
In The Experiments with Derren Brown, there is an episode about luck. In it, Brown demonstrates how much we influence our ‘luck’ by our expectations. People who saw themselves as lucky, immediately spotted money dropped on the ground while people who saw themselves as unlucky, walked straight past it.
The show demonstrates beautifully that if we expect bad things to happen, we will interpret anything that happens in a negative way. If we expect good things to happen, we will look hard for the benefits of a situation, even when this is a challenge. Either way, we’ll prove ourselves right!
If your natural preference is to look for the down side, then form a new habit, where you always look for an upside. There always is one. This may feel like a chore to start with, but once it’s established, you’ll do it without thinking.
Remain flexibly optimistic
Making goals is like setting a compass. It tells us what direction we’re headed in. If we come across a mountain or big lake, we work around it, then continue on our way in the same general direction. In life, those mountains and lakes will be unforeseen opportunities and calamities.
We can’t control the wider world. We can’t make people hire, love, or treat us with respect. We absolutely can control how we respond and react to each and every event.
So set your compass, pack your sense of humour and head on out there. Be confident that things will all work out just fine and make sure you have a great time in the process.