Decisions are a load of crock.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, here. You, me, and everyone on the planet make decisions all the time, only to change our minds. How many times have you told a friend that sure, absolutely, you’ll come out to that friend’s party on Saturday night — and then when seven o’clock rolls around, lounged about in your tracksuit and let Netflix load another episode?
We change our minds all the time. We backtrack on what we want for dinner, what we want to do for the weekend, and what we want to wear for the day. Given all of these humdrum equivocations, what makes us think that the most valuable professional decisions of our lives will be any different?
The truth is that decisions can be useful — as guidelines. They help us solidify our direction, give us purpose, and prompt us to think about the future. That said, decisions alone can’t be your vehicle for success. In the face of adversity (or a halfway decent TV show), good intentions crumple like the paper we write them on.
What aspiring entrepreneurs and achievers need to do is back their decisions with a strong commitment.
This is harder than it sounds. Let’s talk about what it takes to make a real commitment.
Be Honest With Yourself
What are you willing to do to make your dream a reality, honestly? I don’t mean the optimistic, of-course-I-will answer. I want the real one, the self-aware one — the one that recognizes exactly how much drive you have.
I’ll use a simple example to illustrate this.
Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that you want to lose weight. You know that you need to cut out the fast food, buy healthy ingredients, dedicate every Sunday to three hours of meal prep, and exercise at least five days a week.
Now, you look at that decision on your notepad and decide that it seems reasonable. On the day before you start your diet, you go to the grocery store to buy healthy food, get a gym membership, and dutifully schedule your Sundays for meal prep.
Then, reality sets in. You realize that you hate getting up at 5:00 in the morning to work out, you loathe vegetables far more than you remember, and your friends just joined a recurring Sunday football game. You start rolling over in bed, figuring that one day of sleeping in won’t hurt. Except, it’s never just one day of rolling over in bed, or one cheat day, or one I-don’t-feel-like-meal-prepping Sunday. It’s the slow start of the end of your diet.
The truth is, studies have shown that a lot of decision-making happens unconsciously and quickly; if you don’t start acting within seven seconds of your alarm going off — or any other decision-inspiring prompt — your mind will begin listing reasons why you shouldn’t move from a place of comfort. To your brain, change means risk, which inspires fear. By the time you think about rolling over, you’ve already decided not to get up.
The same is true of entrepreneurial efforts. If you write down your intention of starting a business and then follow through half-heartedly — or decide to “do it tomorrow” — you’re never going to get it off the ground. Don’t try to flop your way to success. Be honest about where you are, where you want to go, and what you’re willing to go through to get there — then work like heck to achieve it. Taking too many “cheat days” on your business might just be the compromise that drives it into the ground.
Figure Out What You’re Prepared to Endure
What are you prepared to go through to achieve your aspirations? Are you willing to be derided, disbelieved, disrespected, and dismissed? Are you prepared to be shot down by your friends, your loved ones, your mentors, and your partner? If not, you might want to reassess how committed you are to your dream.
Every person worth admiring has been through the gauntlet of public ridicule. Celebrities, athletic superstars, world leaders, business moguls — they all have haters! Don’t believe me? Head over to YouTube; there’s an entire series on Jimmy Kimmel Live! dedicated to celebrities reading mean tweets about them. The truth is, as soon as you launch a business or achieve something, there will be someone on social media who takes the opportunity to trash your life’s work and tell you that you aren’t good enough.
That criticism hurts — and not in a stubbed-toe way, either. Harsh feedback has a profound impact on our brain that inhibits us from learning and achieving at our top capacity. Just this year, performance researchers Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall published research in an issue of the Harvard Business Review stating as much. They wrote: “The strong negative emotion produced by criticism “inhibits access to existing neural circuits and invokes cognitive, emotional, and perceptual impairment.”
Your brain doesn’t work as well on criticism — and that’s a fact.
Internet trolls, though, won’t be the worst of it. The worst of it will come when your friends, your family, and your partner tell you that they don’t believe in you.
Case in point: my wife.
My wife is not a risk taker; it’s just not who she is as a person. She understands and appreciates that I have the drive to be entrepreneurial, to try new projects, and to fail — but she can’t share the sentiment. Don’t get me wrong; she is a powerful woman who has achieved some impressive milestones in her career. Her force of personality is second to none, and she inspires respect wholly and immediately.
But even with all of that, security is essential to her. She wants to know that we’ll be able to cover our expenses, live comfortably, and provide for our children. So, whenever I start talking about pursuing a new idea that seems a little too risky, she asks me if I’m willing to consider a nine-to-five — and frankly, I can’t blame her for that.
The disbelief hurts. The disbelief will always hurt. But if you can push past the bruised ego, the uncertainty, and that instinct that makes you want to draw back like a turtle in its shell, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.
With all that said, my message is this: Find something that motivates you to roll over in the morning, then stick to it. Own it.
And whatever you do, don’t bring your A-grade hopes and dreams to bear with a C-grade effort.
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