In the Art Of War, Sun Tzu writes:
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
Taking Sun Tzu’s advice, we need to get to know the enemies of our goals, thereby equipping ourselves to defeat them.
So who or what are these enemies? Here are the four most common and dangerous ones, and some thoughts on how to overcome them.
Enemy 1: Fear Of Failure
Fear of failure causes us to fail at our goals by discouraging us from starting them in the first place.
The worst thing we can do is avoid what we fear. We have to turn around and face it.
Here are some ways to do that:
Reframe your fear
Think of fear as a good sign, because it tells you that you’re pushing against your comfort zone. And that’s precisely where success lives—Just outside your comfort zone.
Refuse to catastrophize
Stop spinning out worst-case scenarios in your head. Even if things go wrong, they rarely go as wrong as our doomsday-prone imaginations make out. And in any case, being anxious over things that haven’t even happened (and probably won’t) is foolish and masochistic.
Argue with your fear
Most of our fears are irrational. Often, they’re downright crazy. They can be dispelled by arguing with them, rationally.
Visualize successful outcomes
Make a daily practice of using creative visualization to see yourself achieving your goal, fearlessly.
Try Neuro-Linguistic Programming
Neuro-Linguistic Programming, or NLP, is a powerful and flexible collection of tools for personal transformation in any and every area of your life, including but not limited to, overcoming fears. Tony Robbins helped popularize NLP back in the 1980s by using it to completely cure powerful phobias in a matter of minutes, in front of live audiences.
NLP: The Essential Guide To Neuro-Linguistic Programming by Tom Hoobyar and Tom Dotz is a great book on the subject that will get you started using NLP.
If you want to read some more about facing your fears, check out This Post.
Enemy 2: Poor (Or No) Planning
Many people fail to achieve their goals because they simply haven’t created a clear, written, plan of action for getting there. They imagine that merely wanting and planning it in their head is enough.
A written plan is indispensable for goal achievement, and anything less than that isn’t really a goal. It’s just a fantasy or a wish.
Here are some fundamentals to effective planning . . .
We all know that a good goal plan identifies all the major steps it will take to achieve the goal, and includes a target or timeframe for accomplishing each.
A great goal plan goes further . . . It lists the “Why” of each goal as well as listing rewards for accomplishing each goal. Both of these increase intrinsic motivation.
A great goal plan also anticipates potential obstacles, and possible ways around them should they come up.
It lists resources that will be needed and where to find them, including people who might be helpful or supportive.
And, of course, it walks a middle way between big inspiring dreams, and realistic targets.
Shameless self-promotion: I’ve written a book on the subject that you can read, if you like. 😉
Enemy 3: Lack Of Self-Discipline
Too often people think that success comes from feeling motivated enough to do the work necessary to achieve our goals. Since feelings are unreliable, this is a sure ticket to procrastination. “I don’t feel motivated today, so I can’t work on my goal.”
The hard truth is that success happens when we commit to doing what needs to be done, whether or not we feel motivated to do it.
This is the essence of self-discipline.
Of course cultivating motivation is great, and there are many ways we can do that. But it’s just not enough. We must have true integrity and honor our commitments with ourselves by doing what we promised ourselves we’d do, irrespective of “feeling like it.”
And no waiting on motivation to descend on us from on high.
When we practice self-discipline in this way we soon discover something pretty great: It’s not even necessary to wait for motivation. Because, more often than not, when we just get to work, motivation reliably follows. Action first, motivation second. That’s how it works. Not the other way around.
Enemy 4: Lack Of Resilience
Closely related to self-discipline is resilience. But where self-discipline is more about doing the work when we don’t feel like it, resilience is about starting again or starting over after we’ve been knocked down.
The more ambitious our goal, the more challenges, setbacks, and failures we will encounter along the way. We may not like it, but as mature goal achievers we accept that as part of the game.
And if we want to win that game, we just keep on playing, challenge after challenge, setback after setback, failure after failure.
So the three-step trick to becoming more resilient is simple . . .
- Expect difficulties to happen.
- Don’t stop when they do happen.
Or if you prefer . . .
- Expect to get knocked on your ass.
- When you do get knocked on your ass, get your ass back up.
This process tempers us like steal, increasing our resilience, and with it our confidence.
When you face your first huge setback on an important goal it can feel pretty devastating. Trust me, I know. But with each effort to push through a setback or failure, you get tougher. And more confident in your ability to handle whatever life throws at you.
You may not like setbacks, but you learn to brush them off without missing a beat. “Bah. T’was just a flesh wound.”
And with that kind of resilience, your ultimate success is assured.
What have been some of the biggest obstacles and enemies you’ve faced when pursuing your goals, and what strategies have you used to overcome those obstacles? Discuss in the comment section below!