Why do some people achieve great heights in life while others struggle? It’s not just luck; luck only takes you so far. It’s not just hard work; many people work diligently their entire lives and never attain their goals. So what’s the secret to success and happiness and achieving anything you want?
I can’t answer what your definition of success and happiness should be. Only you can do that. I can, however, give you insight into a sobering way to keep yourself on track for accomplishing whatever it is you’d like to achieve—for the rest of your life.
Lately, my beloved Chicago Bears have been in the news. After this so called season, they fired a number of the key executives and the ownership has been speaking to the press regarding how they will do whatever it takes to return to greatness. During these endless press conferences, they keep referring to a quote that hangs in Halas Hall (home of the Bears Corporate offices) that was uttered by George Halas. George Halas was not only the Chicago Bears’ founder, but also one of the patriarchs of professional football. The quote reads, “Nobody who ever gave their best regretted it.”
I absolutely love the Bears (although not their 2014 version) and have tremendous respect for Papa Bear, but I don’t love that quote. Here’s why. People who don’t achieve their goals usually do so because of two very related reasons—even though they might think they did their best.
The first is the goal was set for something they didn’t truly love. The second is they didn’t do everything that was necessary to achieve the goal. When they fail, the first question they typically ask themselves is, “ Did I give it my best?” If so, no regret. Check. Everything is fine. Check. Let’s move on with life. Check. Now they’re on their way to another goal they’re unlikely to achieve.
We’ll get to that in a moment. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that you actually set the goal for something you would give your next born to accomplish. It’s your true love. Can’t go an entire day without thinking about this goal.
If you truly love something and didn’t achieve that significant goal related to it, I suggest a different approach. Instead of asking whether you gave it your “best,” ask yourself “What was I unwilling to do to achieve the goal?” You’ll have your answer.
I would argue that you could accomplish whatever it is you set out to achieve (nay my desire to be an NBA Center with my 5’6” frame—but you get the picture). You simply need to make sure that you understand first what it is you need to sacrifice before starting! And, then, of course, be willing to give it up!
Most people that are goal-oriented identify the goal, set it, plan for it, revise it if necessary, and then execute toward achieving it. The step they often forget at the beginning is identifying—in detail—the sacrifices they’ll need to make to ensure they can execute it fully. These sacrifices (smile if you’re with me) look something like time, money, sleep, family outings, and so on.
Didn’t save enough money? Couldn’t live without the $5.68/day latte? Just had to have that new sweater?
Couldn’t finish that book you wanted to write? Couldn’t wake up an hour earlier every day for an entire year? Didn’t look hard enough for a publisher?
Didn’t qualify as a first chair violinist concertmaster? You weren’t willing to keep practicing until you couldn’t make a mistake?
You get the idea.
Please don’t misconstrue my message. It makes no difference to me whether you’re unwilling to sacrifice time, sleep, and so on. It’s your life and you are the master of your happiness. My point is that when you reflect on goals you were either unable to achieve or about to embark on, make sure to ask yourself “What will I need to give up to accomplish this goal?”
If you’d like an in depth look at accomplishing any goal, check out my book Out of Reach but in Sight: Using Goals to Achieve Your Impossible.