Your goals should be so big they scare you.
Yes, you read that correctly - I think we should set long term goals that seem so distant and big we are intimidated by them. In order for us to reach them, we need to find personal and emotional accelerators. We choose to be inspired.
On the surface, inspiration and incremental success (the concept which this “One Better Choice” series is built around) might seem incongruent. However, when you think of major achievements you have made in your life, I am certain there were moments of inspiration along the way that helped propel you.
It is essential that we choose to be inspired. Without it, the cold, heartless world can consume us. Sadly, we are surrounded with messages that highlight the horror and chaos in the world. Look at any news source and see if the top stories don’t involve crime, war or financial catastrophe. The old adage, “if it bleeds it leads,” is on display every day.
The most successful and happy people are those of us who find ways to extract inspiration from our everyday experiences. They can be day-to-day interactions, observing those we admire, or searching for an abstract thing which impacts our sense of being.
One of the choices I make each week, one which inspires me, is my martial arts training. For the last four years, I have practiced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu - I train each week at Palm BJJ in Michigan. I’m part of a team which produces champions, some of the toughest men and women you will encounter. What I get to practice each week is not only the techniques and move-sets to be successful, but also humility.
I find inspiration in pushing my body, mind and spirit to limits I would never encounter if not for my training. My teammates, as peers and opponents, are often bigger, stronger, faster, younger and more-nimble than I am; my inspiration comes in not only sharing the same space as them, but also in finding a rhythm which allows me to survive and occasionally prevail.
Maybe athletics is not where you find your inspiration, but you have to find something that works for you.
One of the ways I refresh myself is by finding examples of positivity in the world. I’m often reminded of line from Maya Angelou; “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” How often do you seek out stories that make you feel inspired? They are there, we just often overlook them.
The problem with inspiration is that it is hidden in our everyday world. Ask people what Kanye said at the Grammy's and, almost certainly, you will get an answer. Inquire about Brian Williams and why he is suspended from NBC News and you’ll be offered a hundred or more memes to help explain his missteps.
Now ask someone for the latest story which made them feel genuinely good inside, that inspired them in a tough moment, and you might not get a quick answer. We celebrate gossip, scandal and drama. When you choose to be inspired, you also have to give up those distractions.
Sometimes it is best to find inspiration in physical locations. Do you have a favorite spot to go to clear your mind? Does going for a hike or run allow you to disconnect from the stresses of life? When was the last time you visited a museum or attended a concert? All of these provides us with more than distraction - they allow for our souls to be reinvigorated. Inspiration is out there, we have to choose to find it.
Finally, here is my challenge for you this week - find at least one thing that gives you a moment of inspiration. It doesn’t have to be huge as long as it fills your heart. If you are stuck, let me offer an example.
As you may know, one of the parts of my professional life is speaking to college students. I have attended more than a few graduation ceremonies and the speakers, while always well-intentioned, don’t always inspire the audience.
The 2014 commencement speech at the University of Texas, given by Admiral William H. McRaven of the United States Navy, is different! Though it's almost 20 minutes long, the speech is worth a listen. Admiral McRaven offers ten lessons he learned through his Navy Seals training and how graduates can use them to change the world. Despite the fact that I have no relationship to the Navy, or the University of Texas, I found myself enthralled and inspired by the message. I took 20 minutes out of my day, just one day, to soak in the lessons of a truly impressive person.
Whether it is Admiral McRaven’s speech, a physical challenge, a heart-warming story or your favorite song, I hope you choose to be inspired this week. Your goals are huge and you’ll want as much fuel as possible to reach them.
I know I do.
One Better Choice series is posted every Tuesday.