Challenge Your Thinking to Face Your Challenges

Goal achievement is a combination of thought, action, attitude and behaviors. You will have a greater chance of achieving the goals you set when you think through each phase. You have to think about where you are, where you want to go, and how you are going to get there. You have to make adjustments for the variables in life and think about the contingency and mitigation plans. Improving your goals will require a great amount of intellectual energy. It will also require a great deal of purposeful and measurable action. When thoughts, desires, and dreams are not coupled with action, all you really have are fantasies. Your goals should illicit a level of emotional investment that causes you to want to succeed. Mediocrity and passivity have no place in the strategic goal process.

Whether you are setting strategic goals to develop personal character, produce financial independence, or manage life a little differently, you will experience headwinds, but you cannot be worried about going with the flow of the culture. If you are going to achieve great things you will have to think differently than the next guy. These axioms provide a different perspective, a different way of viewing the world and of making decisions. Hopefully, they will inspire you to have a sense of pride in how you manage your life. Not the kind of pride that is puffed up and seeking self aggrandizement, but the kind that creates an inner sense of peace and gives you a sense of positive achievement. It is the sense of pride that comes from the accomplishments you achieve and the way you strive to add value to the lives of those around you.

Sometimes you have to give in to get up

Occasionally, as I was growing up, my father would have a few minutes to wrestle with me. At times, when he would get the best of me, I would have to say “I give” in order for him to let me up. This usually occurred after several minutes of me struggling to gain control over the situation. He would straddle me and hold my arms down while I fought against his strength. After a few minutes I would say the magic words and he would let me up. Life can be similar to those early days. Although today’s struggles will pursue you as you pursue your goals and they will continue to try to hold you down, you have to understand the difference between giving up and giving in. If you recall in chapter one, I spoke of the principle to never give up. It would seem that this axiom is in direct contradiction of that principle. However, let me explain what I mean in a finer context. In chapter one I wrote that Nehemiah stayed on the wall. He never gave up on the task at hand. In the face of opposition and threat of physical harm, Nehemiah continues to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

In contrast to his tenacity, he did not try to control those things that were outside of his ability to control. He never gave up on the vision, but he did give in concerning trying to control the noise and chaos that was at work around him. When you find yourself in a position where you are struggling against the situations and circumstances of which you have no control, sometimes you have to give in to get up. You have to admit that you do not have the ability to control the situation. That does not mean that you give up on your sustainable targets. What it does mean is that you can acknowledge that there are certain circumstances and situations where you will not have control. It is far better to acknowledge your limitations than it is to struggle over going the wrong direction. I believe that there are times when God is trying to tell you to follow a different path. When everything you try fails to materialize in the desired results, you have to start thinking that maybe this is not the way to go, or at least the way to go about accomplishing what it is you are trying to accomplish.

Giving in is not the same as giving up. Giving up is a surrender while giving in is an acknowledgement. You can still achieve your goals, but you might have to achieve them in ways that may not at first be apparent. When I started writing, I tried to write fiction. That was a complete disaster. I would have an idea in mind and then tell the entire story in less than one chapter. I tried my hand at being a playwright, but did not seem to have the creativity to create a workable screenplay. For a couple of years I wrote poetry. As much as I enjoy reading a great poem, I wrote literally hundreds of poems, but could never capture the mind’s eye with my verse. After so many attempts to write something of value, I gave in to the realization that I do not have the ability to control in what medium I would find my expressive voice. I gave in but I never gave up. I continued to think about my passion for writing and how I might find a way to express what I had inside of me. After nearly fourteen years of silence I found my voice in non-fiction. Producing informational books based on real life opened up the flood gates of the literary world. To give in means to acknowledge that you do not have the power to control the circumstances and situations of life. This is diametrically opposed to what it means to give up. To give up is to quit, giving in means to relinquish control. Giving in often allows you to get up because you are no longer wasting time and energy trying to control those things of which you have no control.

To give up is a physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual surrender. It is to choose to not move forward. To give in is just an intellectual acknowledgement that the circumstances are beyond your control. There are times when you will realize that you are being prompted to define or redefine your target, but you have not gone through the process of physically, intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually surrendering. You are merely re-evaluating your original plans, direction, and sustainable targets. As I lead you into the next axiom, this difference between giving up and giving in will be even clearer.

Any dead fish can float with the current, but it takes a live fish to swim against it

As an ENTP, that would be an Extrovert iNtuitive, Thinking, Perceiving temperament type, (Myers-Briggs Temperament Indicator MBTI®), I love this axiom. A fish that gives up is a dead fish. As such, it can only float with the current. It cannot pursue a goal, it cannot produce results, and it cannot achieve its purpose. A fish that is full of life can swim against the current. Sometimes the current may be too swift for the fish, but because it has life, it can find the weakness of the current and swim forward. The fish may give in to the reality that the current is too strong. However, the fish has the ability to adjust its position within the river to where there is a more favorable current. This can happen because the fish has life. So the fish makes the adjustment and continues to make progress. Earlier I stated that mediocrity and passivity have no place in the strategic goal process. Mediocrity always attacks excellence and passivity is the precursor of failure.

To be mediocre is to be of moderate or low quality, value, ability, or performance. You cannot be excellent while your thoughts, actions, and attitudes are of moderate or low quality. Therefore, you have to think faster than the current is moving. You have to act sooner than the next guy. You have to maintain a more positive attitude than those who are desirous of the same achievement. Mediocrity is the process of dumbing down the general population to believe that only a select few get ahead. Strategic goals stand in direct opposition to mediocre thoughts, actions, and attitudes. However, worse than that, passivity and apathy will destroy any opportunity to achieve any goal of value. Passivity is the purposeful decision to not take an active or dominant part in the process of achievement. Apathy is the condition of not having a measurable amount of emotion or interest. If you fail to have an emotional interest to take an active or dominate part in the process of achievement, you will be no better than a dead fish that is floating with the current of popular culture.

To improve your goals, you have to intentionally participate in the thoughts, actions, attitudes, and behaviors that cause you to win. Do not be a dead fish that is only good for fertilizing other people’s goals and achievements. In this process you will face swift currents, so learn to give in but to never give up. Keep moving from one side of the river to the next until you find the more gentle current that allows you to begin to make progress towards your goals. Then swim like mad!

Between black and white there are many shades of gray

When I was younger I saw the world as very black and white. For me, the light bulb is either lit or dark, but then they come out with the dimmer switch. Introduced into the equation was a new reality. A reality that said, based on the amount of energy supplied to a given circuit, there can be varying degrees of brightness. Don’t get me wrong, in my world the light is still either on or off, but there can be varying degrees of brightness or darkness. Even though I am still a black and white kind of person when it comes to my values, principles, and beliefs, I have learned that most of life is lived in these areas between brightness and darkness. In some circumstances the reality is clearly seen, while in other circumstances you struggle to see clearly.

Equipped with this knowledge, you can improve your goals simply because you have a greater understanding that there will be days of rejoicing and of sorrow. Most life happens somewhere along the gray scale. Between your darkest day and the lightest day, the rest of your life happens in the shade of gray. In some moments, you will experience the brightness of the white and in others you will be captured by the darkness of the black. But for most of life’s trials and tribulations, you will find yourself somewhere along the scale. This philosophy should be applied to your experience concerning your goals. There will be days when you feel energized because your progress is at an all time high. There will be days when you plateau and very little progress is being made. Then there will be times when you will suffer a set back and have to employ your contingency plan. In all of these circumstances, it is imperative that you do not become the shade of gray where your experiences lay. Acknowledge where these experiences appear on the gray scale, but take heed to not allow your emotions to follow an experience down the scale. The gray scale simply communicates that your life, like so many other people’s lives, is lived in the gray areas.

Your direction is dictated by your decisions…

… but your success is predicated by your persistence and perseverance. When you have reached that proverbial fork in the road, you have to decide which direction best meets your requirements. According to the law of opportunity costs, when you decide to take one path, you forfeit the other. So, in that sense, what you decide will directly dictate your direction. If you have made some choices and the outcomes were negative, don’t jump to conclusion that it was everything other than your decision that decided your outcomes. I could give a myriad of examples where a negative outcome was preceded by a bad decision. Everyone makes bad decisions, but the key to achieving your goals is having the persistence and perseverance to fight through the bad outcomes. Bad decisions can be overcome by persistence, which is the process of taking an experience, learning a lesson, and applying the new principle. These are the three parts of persistence that you must have in plentiful supply. When a bad decision leads to an undesirable outcome, don’t blame someone else for the miscalculation. Accept the experience, draw lessons from what you observed, and apply those lessons to future decisions of a similar nature.

Bad decisions can be overcome by persistence just as less than desirable outcomes can be overcome by perseverance. The key is to not turn away when adversity strikes. There is a oft quoted line from the Bible found in the Gospel of John where Jesus said “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 – New King James Version (NKJV)) Did you catch it? You will have tribulation, which is translated as troubles. Bad things do happen and they do happen to good people, so no one is immune. You will have trouble, you will face adversity and sometimes you may even think you are making the correct decision and still have difficulties. You will make bad decisions and face the consequences. Therefore, do not be disheartened by a mistake or resistance to your goals. Stay persistent and continue to persevere. The way to improve your goals is to make better decisions. Since your direction is dictated by your decisions, you have to acquire the knowledge, learn the rules, and get better at your analytical skills. Beyond that, you have to be willing to not only get in the game, but be willing to stay in the game even when you’re hurt, tired, weary, or exhausted.

It is important to change the way you think so that you can make the required adjustments in your actions that result in greater levels of achievement. In my next article I will discuss the six steps of sustainable change. Change can cause uncertainty. The fear of an unknown outcome can cause you to resist taking the first steps towards making the necessary changes to achieve your goals. Therefore, having a process for making changes can assist you in managing change with skill. The six steps of change management will not make the physical process of change any easier. You will still have to do the hard work of adjusting your behaviors to the world around you, but these steps will provide you with a steady, predictable pathway to managing the process of change.