Pursue What Matters
Episode 136: Do you Have What it Takes to Achieve Ambitious Goals?
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Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Do you see others achieving big goals and wonder what’s wrong with me? What do they have that I lack? Why can I get any traction on my goals? While today’s episode is for you, as we answer the question, do you have what it takes to pursue ambitious goals? And I’m going to share some specific practices to help you succeed if you decide you want to work on some ambitious goals.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:47
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Welcome to the pursuit matters podcast, where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. We all want to be successful. As humans, we are wired for growth. And if you join me last week, you can also appreciate that as humans, we have very different and unique definitions of success. And that’s by design. That’s a good thing. Last week’s podcast, I really invited you to examine your own definition of success, and identify what actually works for your life and your values. And so as an extension of that, today, we’re tackling another big question, which is how do you know if you have what it takes to pursue ambitious goals. And as part of our conversation, I’m going to talk about some of the practices that are common to the successful right. So your definition of success is going to be very unique to you as it should be. But there are some practices that are common to the successful that can help you that can serve as guideposts for you. And so I also have a really wonderful resource for you, that is designed to help you challenge some of your storytelling, debunk some of the stress myths out there. So that you’re not afraid to take on ambitious goals, but that you can, you know, arm yourself while and make sure you’re coping well along the way. And so hang on to the end. And I’ll let you know how you can get your hands on that free resource. So as we think about this question of do you have what it takes to pursue ambitious goals? Right, the first thing to recognize is that pursuing ambitious goals or even thinking about it kicks up shame. We all have dreams, you know, that’s part of what it means to be human. But how many of us actually stake a claim in the ground and translate our dreams into real life goals? And so the truth is, sadly, not very many of us do that. And why not? Right? There can be so many reasons why we don’t do that. We talked about that a little bit last week in terms of expectations. But I want to talk about another component of that today, which is shame, right? Naming and claiming your dreams is inherently vulnerable. It puts you out there it exposes you, What will others think, Can I do it? What if I can’t be successful. And so translating a dream into a goal kicks up a lot of shame, because vulnerability and shame are intricately connected. Sometimes, we are so scared to even name our dreams, that we don’t do it. We don’t ever name it. And we don’t do the work of pinning down what success actually means to us. Which leads us to my second point, which is we climb the wrong mountain. So think about a mountain peak, think about the top of that peak as a big goal, an ambitious goal, we think about purpose and fulfilling potential. So sometimes we are so scared that we don’t ever name our dream, or do the work right, required. And so we end up climbing the wrong mountain and then wonder why we aren’t having success. Instead, we accept others definition of success. And you know, wonder why we feel worse because we don’t meet those narrow and rigid expectations. But this is often because it’s so difficult to have the drive and commitment required to achieve someone else’s dream. And that’s where most of us get mixed up. We’re climbing the wrong mountain. And so we put these big expectations on ourselves that this is what success will look like and I need to climb this mountain but we don’t have the drive or the commitment needed. And so when we are not successful or when we’re feeling miserable, not enjoying the journey. We feel like we’re failures. We feel like we’re incompetent. But we get this wrong. There’s a fundamental misunderstanding there. It’s not that we’re incompetent, it’s that we’re climbing the wrong mountain. Like we’re pursuing someone else’s dream. We’re pursuing someone else’s definition of success. And then we wonder why it’s so hard, why we work against ourselves why it’s just a slog. And so you will not be successful trying to climb someone else’s mountain. And if you are successful, it’s because you’re good at suffering. And that’s not a recipe for success, you won’t be happy, you’ll be miserable. And that’s, you know, in my opinion, that’s too high a price to pay to get to someone else’s mountain peak. So it’s important to realize that it’s not that you can’t achieve ambitious goals. But you’ve got to make sure you’re pursuing the best goals for you that respect your your time and season in life. You need to be climbing the right mountain. So in a word right to answer this question of do you have what it takes to pursue ambitious goals? In a word? The answer is yes, of course, you have what it takes to succeed. But let’s make sure that you are aiming at the correct mountain peak. So take a listen at last week’s episode to help you pin down what success looks and feels like to you so you can get into the details of your life. Because your definition of success really matters. And pinning down what success means to you will give you the motivation and the commitment to follow through on the daily grind of mountain climbing, because any worthy goal is going to be a grind. And so that takes us to my third point, which is you’ve got to respect the mountain. Another way of thinking about this is you’ve got to respect your ambitious goals. So while we know there are many ways to be successful, and more than one route, typically, up a mountain, there are common practices of those who succeed in accomplishing ambitious goals. And so your path to success will be as unique as you are. But there are common practices that will exponentially increase your likelihood of accomplishing your ambitious goals. And so if you want to be successful, you need to use a map. There are two common errors when we are standing at the base of the mountain. So the first error is we overestimate the mountain, we get overwhelmed. And so we don’t even get off go, we might not get far at all, we believe we have to do everything perfectly in order to be successful. You can’t do things perfectly. And what you need to be successful may include detour, stumbles and failure. I know that’s painful, none of us like that. But it’s probably true. I can see so many times in my own life, when you know what I defined as a failure. Actually, you know, waiter, right? When the lessons come, I learned that the failure prepared me for a future success, as I continued on the trail, but this is the key, you’ve got to keep moving, right, you can’t stop, you can dust yourself off, but you’ve got to keep moving. And I can see constraints that have led to creativity that have led to more success, I have certainly seen wrong turns right and quotes wrong turns that have actually facilitated my progress in ways I could not have anticipated. And so yes, we want a map right to guide us. But we also have to recognize that the map is not the mountain, right? The map, the map is a plan for the mountain. But the mountain is the real world gritty work. And so you’ve got to have some flexibility, you’ve got to work under the conditions you find yourself. And so you know, what we know is when we’re perfectionistic about the climb about the goal, it leads to misery, we tend to be very hard on ourselves. And we fail to recognize and meet our needs along the way. And so that’s the first error that I see when you know we don’t respect the mountain is we overestimate the mountain. The second error is we underestimate the mountain, we all adequately prepare, we don’t use a map, we fail to ask for help. We fail to pace ourselves. And we fail to cope with the stressors along the way. So you know how many of us have done that, like, oh, won’t be that big of a deal. We totally underestimate our goals, we underestimate what’s required. And you know, when I think about my biggest goals that I’ve accomplished at this point, and I can look back, I think I’m so glad I didn’t know what was required when I set out because I probably wouldn’t have done many of those things. Because what’s true is it’s hard. It’s painful, and there’s no way you can plan for everything that you’re going to face on that mountain climb. But if it’s connected to purpose if it’s tied to your values, right, that helps you to keep going and to learn along the way. And so these two errors right Estimating the mountain and overestimating the mountain are both a problem, because ultimately they impede our progress. They undermine our confidence. And they torpedo motivation, right? Because what we thought was true, right? We maybe we thought the map was reality. And we get a rude awakening that the map is not reality the map is it is right it is. It is a representation of the mountain. And so don’t ever forget what’s real, what’s true. And you always have to be living in reality, right? Like you’re on the mountain, you got to you got to find a way up that. So now, let’s think about the fourth point, right. So we’ve already talked about the fact that pursuing ambitious goals kicks up shame in all of us, right. And if you don’t have that shame or that fear, it’s probably not a big enough goal. The second point is we climb the wrong mountain, right. The third goal is we need to respect the mountain, you’ve got to respect your ambitious goals. And now the fourth point, and this is the one No one gets excited about. But it’s so important because it’s what the majority of our life is made up by. And that is to embrace the grind. Once you’ve decided to pursue an ambitious goal, it is important to get your head out of the clouds and get to work you’ve got to embrace.
Dr. Melissa Smith 11:25
You’ve got to embrace the process of growth and get moving. So that brings to mind a great quote from Cheryl Strayed on this very point, we don’t reach the mountaintop from the mountain top, we start at the bottom and climb up, blood is involved. And boy, isn’t that so true, you’ve got to embrace the grind, you can’t lose sight of the mountain peak, because that tells you where you’re going. Right? That’s that’s purpose, that gives you your reason for continuing to climb, it gives you the why to make it up the mountain. But you’ve got to keep your eye on the trail, you’ve got to have a plan, right, you’ve got to consult your map. So we need to balance our focus between the mountain peak, which is the outcome, right, the accomplishing of the goal, and the trail, which is the process of climbing the process of growing and learning. Growth is never comfortable, which is why we need to embrace that grind. You need to watch the trail you need to pay attention to turns, obstacles and unexpected opportunities. And once you’ve settled the question of do you have what it takes to pursue ambitious goals? Remember, the answer’s yes. Right, then you’ve got to deal with a more fundamental question that, you know, I find is a real gut check, and can kick up all sorts of shame if you’re not careful. And that is this fundamental question. Are you willing to do what’s required to pursue ambitious goals? That’s a painful question. And this is, this is what you know, I would I would say about that, you have permission not to climb this particular mountain. You know, like,
Dr. Melissa Smith 13:06
maybe you have an ambitious goal, but you find you aren’t willing to do it, or it puts you in too much of a value conflict with something else in your life. And so you need to make peace with it. But you have permission not to pursue the ambitious goals, right? Like I have had to give myself permission to not do something that I felt like really excited about because I recognize it just wasn’t working well for my life. So maybe the timing isn’t right, maybe you are not ready, maybe there are things you need to learn on your path before you’re ready for that. Pursuing ambitious goals can be a heavy burden. And I think that that is a truth that people don’t talk about very often, there’s so much rah rah about you can do it, you know, don’t be your own worst enemy. But what’s also true is pursuing ambitious goals can feel very heavy. And so it’s one of the reasons why we always need to have respect for our ambitious goals, and that we need to make those decisions based on our most deeply held values. Because right, like it will take a toll. Anyone who’s climbing a mountain knows that right? You are changed. You right? And and some of that change is hard and painful. And it’s just painful, right? It might not be growth promoting. And so that takes us to the last point, right. So the last point is to stay on the trail with these practices. So I have four practices that I want to share with you. Right, so these are practices common to the successful. The first thing right, so before we get into the practices, is we don’t want to make our climb harder by bushwhacking. Right. So my girlfriend and our son were up In the mountains this weekend, and they were bushwhacking, and they spent a lot of times in the time in the mountain hiking, but this time they were bushwhacking, and it was so miserable for them, right like exhausting a totally different experience than staying on the trail. So we want to pay attention to Signposts We want to stay on the trail. And you know, think about signposts along the way, think about Cairns that are often along the path. What have others done on their climbs that could be helpful for you. So what can you learn from the experience of others, right, there is a trowel, so that you should benefit from that there are common practices that will increase your likelihood of success. Use them that’s a that’s a smart choice use them. So let’s look at practices and characters characteristics of those who accomplish big goals, live meaningful lives, and retain balance in their relationship. So these are the common practices of the successful and I’ve got four practices that can help you to stay on the trail, stay steady on your trail, while you’re pursuing ambitious goals. So the first practice is set focused goals and hold yourself accountable. So you need to set goals, how do you know where you’re going without a map goals are your map and they will keep you on track, review your map very often right? Review your goals, often, you’ve got this is one of the most important ways you hold yourself accountable. Reviewing your goals daily, or at the very least weekly, will really help you with that accountability. Take responsibility for your climb, you chose to do this. Don’t forget that. And you know, that’s something actually, you know, quite frankly, I have to remind myself of a lot. Because it’s it’s painful, right like in pursuing those ambitious goals can feel burdensome. And so remembering that, hey, this is important to me. And I chose this can make a big difference actually, because you have some autonomy in there. Don’t blame others for the difficulty of the climb. let others know how you’re doing the good, the bad, the ugly, right? So don’t pretend that you need help, right? People and people can help you celebrate progress and accomplishments along the way. If it’s worth working for, it’s worth celebrating. So these moments keep you motivated and give you energy to keep climbing. So definitely pay attention to those milestones along the way. So now, we’re on to the second practice, which is be self compassionate, not self critical. So hold high, but realistic expectations for yourself. Okay, so be honest about your lies, you need to call BS on your storytelling. So the how do we help you to be honest about your lies? So first, think about your storytelling. These are the narratives about ourselves or others, designed to bring certainty designed to help us make sense of something but they usually are very inaccurate. The second one is justifications these are excuses made to others. Hey, the reason I couldn’t do this was because why, right? And then the third one is we have rationalizations, these are the excuses made to ourselves. So the reason I couldn’t do this is because you know, Bill over there didn’t do his part. And it gives us it gives us a free pass. And that is totally a lack of responsibility for ourselves. And then the fourth one, right, so this is being honest about your lies. The fourth one is projections. So this comes to us from Freud. It’s when you know when things when things get hard, we look to blame others, right? It’s their fault. It’s not my fault. So it’s, we project our issues on other people. And so we need to call BS on those four things on our storytelling justifications, rationalizations, and projections. Do not give in to criticism, martyrdom or self flagellation, like it’ll just make the journey more painful. And these things waste precious energy, you don’t have time for these things, they will not help you. You also need to of course, take good care of yourself along the way. Listen to your needs and respond with care. So we think about physical, you need to pause and push as needed. Emotional, we want you to be informed by your emotions, not ruled by them spiritual take in the view, right? You got to look up from the trail every once in a while. It’s actually what makes the climb worth it, and you’ll build some resilience along the way. And then intellectual develop skills along the way. Be curious about what you’re experiencing. So I went on a hike not too long ago with Mike By friend we were, we were in another country, it was new new terrain to us. And we were with a guide for a little bit of that hike. And I wanted to get up the mountain, right. So I like very goal oriented, which can get me in trouble, especially on vacation. And I, my guy friend, like, he was so curious, he was asking about the floor, he was asking about the berries, and he was eating the berries along the way, you know, under the guidance of our guide, but at first I was like, come on, like, let’s get up the mountain. But then, you know, as I kind of settled myself down, it was just like, he’s learning a lot, right. And he’s really enjoying this journey. And so that was a good lesson to me to be curious about what you’re experiencing, because it will enrich your experience, and you’ll probably learn more as well. So that’s our second practice to be self compassionate, not self critical. And then the third practice, you’ve got to take consistent action, despite fear, okay, that’s a hard one. For most of us, we need to tolerate risk. So I’ve got a great podcast, actually, I did a three part series on tolerating risk. And so you might want to check that out, I’ll link to that in the show notes. So you’re pursuing big goals, there will be risk. But this doesn’t have to be a problem, you just accept that that is the reality of your course. And so have a consistent process for making decisions, while recognizing that no decision is perfect, in uncertain conditions, and that’s all of life, all of life is uncertain. And so the other thing is to have a bias toward action, you’ve got to actually make decisions and push past fear, trust and confidence come as a result of taking action and having some trust and confidence in yourself, that you can figure things out, even if it’s not perfect. And you can build a shelter if you need to, on the side of the mountain, that’s part of why we want to be prepared, and respect the mountain, respect your ambitious goals, so that you can seek the help that will help you to be successful. Okay, and then our fourth practice. So these are practices common to the successful is seek help and give help, you’ve got to accept help along your way. So, you know, along the Pacific Crest Trail, they have what are known as trail angels. And these are folks who leave, leave essentially along the path for hikers. So whether it’s food, whether it’s hygiene items, whether it’s a jacket, and that is one of the hallmarks of that trail. And Isn’t it lovely that they leave food and supplies along the trail, and it is a total selfless act that can make or break the success of hikers along the trail, right? There’s lots of great stories about the trail angels along the way. So accept help along your way. Be humble, know that you don’t have all the answers, but be committed to understanding your blind spots. And remember that being smart is not enough is never enough. Be friendly along the trail, seek friends, mentors and colleagues, it will make your journey so much more enjoyable. And then of course, last but definitely not least, is give help to others. contribute your gifts to others. Prioritize relationships, you have meaningful perspective to bring and so be generous with helping others along the path.
Dr. Melissa Smith 23:48
Okay, so I want to review what we’ve talked about. So we’ve had four points here about do you have what it takes to achieve ambitious goals. So first, we’ve got to remember that pursuing ambitious goals kicks up shame. Second, we sometimes climb the wrong mountain if we’re not careful. Third, we need to respect the mountain, we’ve got to respect our ambitious goals. For we need to embrace the grind. Recognize it, that’s that’s the bulk of it right there. And five, we need to stay on the trail with four practices that are common to the successful, okay. And so we talked about setting focus goals and holding yourself accountable. We talked about being self compassionate, not self critical. We talked about taking consistent action despite fear. And we talked about seeking and giving help. And so I hope that that’s very helpful for you. I hope it will reframe your perspective around ambitious goals that you know that you can if you choose to, you can pursue ambitious goals and I have a really great resource to help you with this because one of the things that gets in the way is our overwhelm and our fear and so this is a really really great resources designed to help you de bonk myths around stress so that you know that you can do hard things you can accomplish ambitious goals and so you can find that by heading over to my website to check out the show notes with all the resources for this episode, including the the resource that I just mentioned at www.drmelissasmith.com/136-ambitiousgoals/. One more time. That’s what www.drmelissasmith.com/136-ambitiousgoals/. So I hope that you’ll consider joining me on Instagram @dr.melissasmith. I love having conversations with folks there. I’ve got a lot more resources there every single day. So I would love to connect with you there. I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care
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