Many people spend good money on changing their lives – to advance their careers or reach personal goals. They go to college or trade school, or take online courses or seminars. Some people even hire life and career coaches. But what good is spending all that time and money if you don’t show up to do the work?
Whatever your goal, the most valuable tool in your toolbox is your time: showing up, putting in the work, every single day. This simple act can and will produce profound results. And, yes, that means showing up even when you’re not feeling motivated.
What is your goal? It may be large or small. If it’s a biggie, you’ll benefit from turning it into a series of smaller goals, which can feel more attainable. Once you set your goal, you start paying attention to it. And that’s the first step to getting it done.
Now that you’ve identified what you want, the next step is to put together an action plan. Every goal has a starting point – the clean white sheet of paper or brand new Word document, the spotless countertop, the empty spot of land, the primed canvas, the blank Excel spreadsheet. Overcoming the fear of that blank slate is the next step in your action plan. It’s easy at this point to focus on negatives and excuses, why you won’t succeed. And be ready – the path to success can be painful and challenging as you come face-to-face with those excuses over and over again.
Meeting your goal requires consistent behavior, building muscle memory. Showing up every day will help you take your goal from zero to checking it off your list as complete. November is known in some circles as National Novel Writing Month. The idea behind it is that it’s possible to write an entire novel in 30 days — if you write a certain number of words every single day. And it is possible. Several Novembers ago, I wrote a 65,000 word novel. It wasn’t very good and it’ll never see the light of day, I promise you. But my goal hadn’t been to write a good novel. My goal was to write a novel length story, by writing a minimum of 1,667 words every day. At first, I had to force myself to write each day. By the end of the month, I’d built it into my schedule so easily that on many days I wrote much more than the minimum number of words.
Research suggests that it can take anywhere from two to eight months to build a new behavior into your life. The key is consistency – doing the work regularly. Furthermore, a major key to success is to enjoy it. Learn to enjoy the challenge of working hard, learn to enjoy doing something every day that gets you closer to your goals.
Embrace the work. Because if the goal is valuable to you, it’s worth it. And know that when you show up and work on it every day, the work can become easier. With repetition, you position yourself to overcome the obstacles and excuses. For most of us, the major barrier can be summed up in one word: Fear.
Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of not knowing what the next step is. Fear that you are not up to the task. Fear you are not worthy. Fear that no one will care even if you succeed. Fear that you will succeed and not know the next step after that.
Still, show up.
“The willingness to show up changes us. It makes us a little braver each time.” ― Brené Brown
There is power in progress. Many of us neglect the intermediate steps because we’re so focused on the end result, somehow not realizing that those intermediates steps are the only way to get that end result. That’s what’s great about National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). While the end goal is to write a 50,000 word novel, there is an individual goal each day: write 1,667 words. Writing that many words may not necessarily come easy, but it’s a small, easy to understand goal.
The end result is important, but focusing only on that, rather than the progress you make, can be overwhelming. And feeling overwhelmed is another big obstacle we face when reaching for our goals. There is value in showing up every day, working hard, making some progress, even when it’s not as much as you’d like. That’s how you overcome some of the biggest obstacles to success – ourselves.
So, now’s the time. Show up. To your life, your career, your side gig, your dream. Show up every day. Take some action to reach your goal at least once every 24 hours. Even small actions. Expect obstacles and be ready to step around, over, or through them. Expect there will be slow times. Expect it won’t always be fun.
The best part about showing up and working hard is that any one of us can do it. No matter what your individual goal is, the first step is committing to the work. The second step is just showing up.