Updated: Sep 23
Summer is a great time to get away, take some time out of a busy schedule to refresh and recalibrate. The current pandemic has made it difficult for a lot of us to do summer holidays the usual way. We were fortunate enough to get a couple of weeks away, and this even included foreign travel for a part of it although a stay-cation could not be avoided! Still I am grateful for my time away.
September usually brings with it the panic of a new term - have they got the right uniforms? I thought they were ready to go to university and be trusted to look after themselves, but can they really, really? Will I survive my new boss? Can I really cope with all the changes at work? It’s only four months until Christmas – how has the time flown? What’s happened to relaxed feeling I had on holiday? Aaahhh!
If this is you, you may be wondering how on earth you are going to achieve the goals you put down at the beginning of the year. January seems such a distant dream and your goal list looks like a wish list rather than something that could actually happen. Enthusiasm is a thing of the past and all you can think of now is how to get to the end of the year in one piece. I know this may all sound rather dramatic and exaggerated, but you can go ahead and admit to yourself what you won’t admit to anyone else in a million years. Or you can pretend everything’s al right and you have never been more productive or effective. If you are the latter, then perhaps this article is not for you. But if you are wondering if you can still make ‘it’ happen with only 3 months left till the end of the year, then please read on.
I had an interesting conversation with a friend a while ago. She told me she had come across an article about some research that was conducted with survivors of the concentration camps during the holocaust. Interestingly, the study showed that the people who had survived were not the optimists, as everyone would have expected. It was the somewhat pessimistic people that survived the horrible ordeal of the concentration camps and came out alive. I was really surprised by this until I heard the possible explanation.
It would appear that the optimists quickly gave up ever getting out alive even though their outlook had initially been very positive. On the contrary, the pessimists had no illusions about how long their captivity would last and therefore had a more realistic expectation about their future, deciding to focus on how to make their time in the camp count rather than focusing on being rescued. Make what you will of this study, but there may be some truth in the findings.
Goal setting is the easy part - mostly. Optimists have little problems visualising what they can achieve in their businesses, careers or relationships. Pessimists need a little help to look beyond their current circumstances. Surviving the long haul from setting goals to seeing them become reality is a somewhat trickier endeavour. What some coaches, motivational speakers and other personal development gurus don’t always focus on when they encourage you to make lofty goals, is what happens after you’ve set some really great goals and you hit your first hurdle. Or get your first rejection. Or the second. Or lose all the money you invested in that new project or business. When you hit your first wall. Or when you get to the end of the year and you are just plain worn out. No one wants to be the bearer of bad news or to be accused of having a gloomy outlook – so like a charming salesman they sell you all the pluses and omit the downsides.
Anyone can set lofty goals. Anyone can pump themselves up with optimism and positive thinking especially after just having been around other optimistic people. But it’s what you do when you find yourself in the valley that determines whether you will eventually get to the top of the mountain. It’s the perseverance, the refusal to quit and the flexibility to change course when necessary that will get you to your intended destination. It’s the consistency; the baby steps that you keep taking and the occasional leaps when they come that will lead to eventual success.
Like so many other professionals who were forced to work from home over the last 18 months, I have taken up gardening. And I am learning a thing or two from my plants. When I first put that baby plant in the ground or in a pot, I ensure I give it the best chance to grow by using the right soil, compost etc. But that’s not what will make that plant become the large beacon of beauty I am expecting after a few months. It’s what I do on the days I don’t feel like watering it but I do anyway that will give me my desired result. Or when I don’t really have the time but I apply fertilizer anyway. Or the times when with a heavy heart I decide a little pruning is required and I cut away branches from my prized possession. Its what I do consistently after the initial planting that makes the most difference.
It’s the same thing with goals. Its what I do consistently after the initial vision board crafting extraordinaire that counts. It’s the hundred daily decisions I make to keep going, to keep whittling at that project, honing that skill, pulling myself up when I run into another dead end that make the difference. Gardening is teaching me patience, a lesson I undoubtedly need to learn. It’s teaching me that even when I am tired to the bone – like when I planted a laurel hedge in one day - there’s still mileage in me if I am determined.
So what’s it going to take for you to make the next three months count? My suggestion? Go back to what you told yourself you were going to achieve this year. Hopefully you have it written somewhere. Carry out an assessment of where you are and realistically consider what you can do in the next few months. Then put your head down and work at it. And if you think you might need some help, then check out these resources Make it Happen (e-book) and Make it Happen (focus group).
It will be an investment worth making.