I want you to take a second and think about a goal that you are working on or something you aspire to.
It’s great if it’s fitness related but it could be about business or relationships or developing a skill.
I’ll use six pack abs as an example because it’s easy to understand and it’s something a lot of people chase.
Now, I’m not the leanest guy in the world but I have a 6 pack. I have for about the last 20 years. It’s been a bit blurry at times and at others it’s been super sharp, but I’m confident in saying that for the better part of 2 decades, I’ve had visible abs.
When I was 60 plus pounds overweight, the thought of having abs seemed like an impossibility and I would have been thrilled (THRILLED!) at the thought of getting them. I’d be the first guy with his shirt off at the pool. Maybe I wouldn’t own any shirts at all. Who needs shirts? I’ve got abs!
But when it ultimately happened I just felt kinda – what’s the word I’m looking for? – douchey showing them off.
And now that I’ve had them for so long do you know how often I think about them? Maybe .00004% of the time.
So, why keep the abs at all? Certainly it would be easier to spend my time binge watching Ozark and eating pints of Cherry Vanilla ice cream. What is keeping me going?
This story isn’t designed to discourage you from having goals or 6 pack abs or selling off those pesky shirts. Having goals can be very powerful and motivating and lead to many, many good things.
But I want to tip you off to something that I have found that is much more powerful than goal setting. That answers the questions I posed just two short paragraphs ago.
In a word, it’s fear.
Fear of regressing or back sliding or becoming “the guy who used to have abs”. Which is silly, but true.
But if I’m being honest, it was fear that got me on this path in the first place. Like I mentioned, I was in my late 20s and looked like shit. I was on the verge of diabetes. I was the guy who wore loud bowling shirts and tried to be funny in an effort to distract from how I felt about myself (SPOILER ALERT: These things did not work). And as I projected 3 months or 6 months or 5 years down the road I didn’t like what I saw. Was I just going to keep getting fatter? Would I not be able to have kids? My wife was already out of my league, would this make it worse?
Would being fat keep me out of high paying jobs? Would I always be trying to hide? Would I die early? Would it keep me from being the person I always thought I could be?
OK, let me relieve the tension and get you off suicide watch here to let you know none of those dire things have happened. But the thought of them has probably had more to do with keeping me on track than the joy of everyone admiring my rippling abs at the beach (SPOILER ALERT 2: That doesn’t happen).
It’s not that I’m not a big believer in the power of positive thinking. Creating vision boards while watching “The Secret” can help give you a clear picture of what you want and what is possible. My argument is that, while the mansions and yachts may be motivating, they don’t quite have the same urgency as realizing that you are on the path to being homeless in 5 years if you don’t do something about your finances now.
A very simple way to put fear setting into practice is to simply list your fears (my business will fail if I take that 2 week vacation, I’ll be on diabetes medication by the end of the year if I don’t get my weight under control, I’ll grow more distant from my child if I don’t figure out how to speak his language) on a piece of paper. Then extrapolate out the worst possible scenarios that will occur if you stay down this path for 6 months, 1 year, 3 years (I’ll be burned out and hate going to work if I don’t get away, I’ll be on insulin for the rest of my life, I’ll lose one of the most important relationships in my life). Believe me, I know this shit can feel dark.
But the good news – THE GREAT NEWS – is that you haven’t reached that end yet. There is still time to do something (a lot of things actually) and those things are a lot easier than you think.
You can go over all the daily responsibilities of your business with your top manager and make sure she has a handle on running the business for the two weeks you’ll be away. Still worried? Have your bills forwarded to your accountant and have him make sure you don’t run into any trouble. You can remove some sugar from your diet or hire a coach to help you get healthy. No money for that? Start walking with a goal of getting in 10,000 steps a day. Spend some more time with your kid. See what he’s into. Spend some time learning about that. Get on his level rather than trying to bring him to yours.
Write these things down. I know it seems stupid but it will be really empowering. And you’ll wake up at 3AM worrying about shit a lot less.
Don’t get it twisted. The goal isn’t to live your life in constant fear. It’s quite the opposite. You need to address your fears in order to get past them. It’s the only way.
And I promise you, that will be a greater gift to yourself than any mansion or yacht can ever be.