“There are many ways you can establish your own path. The reason I love the catch phrase, ‘Make it work’, is because it is not just about what is happening in the workroom, it is about life. Taking the existing conditions, the things we have available to us, and rallying them to ascend to a place of success.” – Tim Gunn of Project Runway as quoted in The New York Times
2014 is nearly here, which means you may be contemplating writing down a resolution or two. Or maybe you are adamantly against them for fear that they only set you up for disappointment. As you look back on 2013, hopefully you are congratulating yourself on progress made in the past twelve months, but if you’re not, perhaps the inner cynic is beginning to raise its ugly head.
Today, I’d like to encourage you to squash and eradicate that negative voice in your head once and for all. Keeping in mind Tim Gunn’s quote above, I am convinced that while the dreams we seek may not always be easy to attain, they are always attainable. It can be tempting to convince ourselves that the dreams and goals we set would be far easier to reach if only (fill in the blank) we were born into a different family, were taller, were prettier, were younger, lived in a different country or had more money in the bank – just a few of the excuses that often get tossed about when we are frustrated with the progress toward our goals. But the life we seek isn’t impossible. After all, if we can conceive the idea, we can create it.
So you’re stuck. So you think there is no possible way to turn the coal into the diamond you wish it would become. Don’t jump to that conclusion so fast. Now is the time to begin to outwit the problem before you. Here are twelve ways to get you back on track and moving toward your intended goal:
1. Work Smarter
Don’t waste time doing the same maneuver to bypass the obstacle that didn’t work the first ten times you tried it. Do your homework. Investigate to see how others have successfully done what you are trying to do. Rather than beat your head against the wall in frustration, channel that energy into gaining more knowledge about how to overcome the obstacle. There is a way, you just haven’t looked in the right spot.
2. Look for Alternate Routes to the Same Destination
Okay, so the route you wish to take (which is no doubt a straight line to your desired destination) is blocked. Look for alternatives. Eliminate “can’t” from your vocabulary and begin brainstorming. Improvise with other methods and materials. Perhaps you’ll discover something along the way that you wouldn’t have noticed had the original route been available.
3. Face What Taunts You
Ignoring the problem that is standing in the way will not make it disappear. If that were true, any debt acquired would go ‘poof’ in the night and perfect GPAs would fall from the sky. Now that’s a fairy tale, or could it be a nightmare we hadn’t anticipated? In other words, what you are frightened by – rejection or making a misstep – often is the hurdle you need to cross in order to arrive on the other side, bringing you closer to where you want to go.
4. Practice Perseverance
Do you know why successful MLB pitchers rarely allow batters on base? They practice . . . relentlessly . . . for years. World renowned chefs don’t become geniuses with ingredients over-night. Rather they have had years of experience with food, recipes, and unexpected ingredients and can draw upon that wealth of information at the drop of a hat. Such a repertoire takes time to build and an intention to practice repeatedly what it is you wish to become an expert in.
5. Step Away Temporarily to Gain Perspective
Often when we are stumped by a project, the best idea is to step away. Whether you simply need to get out of the house or hop on a plane for a vacation, conversing with other people about your frustration or seeing new sights may spark a new idea or toss new ideas into your mind that you hadn’t considered. While the focus is a good strategy when the time calls, in order to make progress, gaining perspective often can be that magic ingredient to get you back up and running.
6. Eliminate Silly Mistakes
Similar to working smarter, by eliminating silly mistakes you conserve energy and resources. Simply by doing all of the prep work beforehand – gaining the proper education, tools and creating an organized working environment – can reduce unnecessary, sometimes costly mistakes.
7. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
In order to think clearly, a full night’s sleep must be had. And while you’re at it, keep a notepad by your night stand to jot down any fresh ideas that may pop into your head in the middle of the night or early in the morning.
8. Look to a Role Model for Inspiration
No matter how new the field is you are jumping into with your dream, there is usually someone who has done or is doing what you someday wish to do. Seek out this person. Ask for advice. First compliment them on what you admire and then respectfully ask for tips that they wouldn’t mind sharing on what you are curious about. While your path will be uniquely your own, often it is the guidance of a role model that can jumpstart you in the right direction and often eliminate unnecessary missteps along the way.
9. Set a Positive Tone
If working with others or being the leader of a team, remember the tone and environment that is set. While constructive criticism is helpful and should be given in the proper place, always remember to be sincere and timely with compliments. Whether an entrepreneur or a player on a 12 man team, none of us can get where we want to go without others assisting us somewhere along the way. And it is the ingredients of kindness and thoughtfulness that should most definitely not be forgotten.
10. Always Walk Away with More Knowledge
Even if you have to bail on a particular mini-goal along the way, be sure to walk away with knowledge you didn’t have prior to the event. For example, recently my clothes dryer stopped working. In an effort to save money, I quickly jumped online, found a tutorial, purchased the proper part for $13 and asked for assistance from my father as to avoid waiting a month for a repairman to stop by (and charge me) to tell me what I discovered in one hour after following the instructions to the T – my motor was kaput. Time to purchase a new dryer. In my attempt to make it work, I couldn’t. But I realized that I could still walk away with knowledge about how a dryer works and how to care for my new one so that the same thing doesn’t happen again. New knowledge that I didn’t previously have.
11. Think Outside the Box
Once you’ve done your research, looked to your role model and had a fantastic night’s sleep, begin to step outside what has been done in the past. A cordless phone, a cell phone, a smart phone. Who knew these inventions were feasible if someone else wouldn’t have thought outside what already existed. A great question to ask is “What is needed?” or “What would be ideal?” Even if your initial idea sounds absolutely absurd, consider it. Why not?
12. Invest in Yourself
One of the biggest aha moments I have had on my path to my dreams is realizing that in order for my wild dreams to come true, I needed to spend money. And as I am not someone who wants to waste money (who does?), this was a hard lesson to accept – but true none the less. So long as you are investing in yourself, so long as you have done your homework and are willing to put forth the work to gain back what you investing plus interest, you will be able to make it work one way or another.
It is my hope that as you head into 2014 you realize that nothing is impossible if you want it badly enough. The route which you have to follow to arrive at your destination may be altered and it may take longer than you expect, but if you are willing to adhere to the mantra “Make it work”, you will.
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