Inspirational stories of success are so lovely, aren’t they? We watch a documentary or read a book about a person who achieved the impossible, and it fills us with hope. “Look what they did, against all the odds!”
And yet, when it comes to our own dreams, many of us are the very definition of practical. We face one obstacle, it feels a bit too hard, and so we deem the idea “not meant to be.” This practical mindset becomes so ingrained in our way of being that it changes the way we live from day-to-day.
It impacts even the tiniest choices we make. We start to look at things in two buckets — success vs. failure — as if those are the only two options.
Redefining Success and Failure
When we look at life from this black-and-white perspective, we miss out on a lot of the beautiful in-between. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be successful, but failure is not the opposite of success. Rather it is a stepping stone on the way there.
In fact, the journey in itself should be viewed as success. If success is just a single moment at which we arrive (and it happens later at some point down the line), then what is there to truly look forward to? The moment of success arrives. Then it’s gone. When success happens in small moments along the way, then every day becomes fulfilling. Every experience — good or bad — is part of the journey.
And the journey itself is success.
The fear of failure is often what stops us from getting started on a goal or project. We sometimes think that we can’t fail if we don’t try. That may be partly true. But nor will we succeed.
When we look forward to failure as an opportunity to learn, then we can not only move towards real success but towards real growth as a human being. After all, failure isn’t unique to you. Every single person out there has failed — many times! If they haven’t failed, then they haven’t been living life.
Perfectionism is the Enemy
Getting things perfectly planned before you start can be the perfect way to never actually start. There simply is no such thing as perfect.
In truth, your opinions and perspective will change. What’s perfect one day won’t be good enough on the next. In this line of thinking, you could end up delaying true action inevitably. And you may be doing it to yourself subconsciously because of that fear of failure!
The solution? Stop overthinking.
Perfect is the enemy of good - Voltaire
As a recovering overthinker myself, I can tell you that it can be harmful and debilitating. Not to say that making plans is always a bad idea, but when the need for perfect plans keeps you from seizing an opportunity, then you lose. You miss out. And you’ll probably regret it for a long time.
Lifelong Learning Mindset is the Key
I find that many problems can be solved by changing your mindset. But it takes practice and effort. A lifelong learning mindset is rooted in curiosity. It’s a craving for knowledge and a need for growth.
When your objective is the expansion of the mind, then every failure is actually a success because it’s a learning moment. And getting started on a goal is so much easier because we look forward to each step of the process and what we can learn from it.
Without a desire for growth, we stay in the same place forever. We neither succeed nor fail. Or perhaps we do fail — but the result is detrimental to our wellbeing because of the way we respond and react to it. It’s a tough road, the one devoid of progress and development.
Momentum Begins With a Single Push
The ball doesn’t get rolling on its own. And our goals do not manifest out of thin air. But sometimes our goals feel like giant mountains, and we can’t see the path to the top. This is another reason why we don’t get started. We are viewing the big picture, and it’s intimidating.
When this is the case, we have to deconstruct the big picture into separate chunks — like dividing a book into chapters. Then, instead of gazing up at the mountaintop, not sure if it’s too steep or if there are wild animals along the way, all we have to look at is the ground right in front of us.
We simply focus on placing one foot in front of the other. We focus on the single push that is simply getting started.
Many successful people have admitted to jumping in before they were ready and saying yes when they had no clue what they were doing. They figure out the details later, and this often leads them to more creative solutions. Saying yes to an open door actually forces them to be accountable and follow through, which leads me to the next point.
Apply the Pressure
I don’t know about you, but nothing helps me get things done better than an external deadline. I have more trouble with my own personal goals because no one is holding me accountable. I want to do them, but it’s easier to make excuses and prioritize other things ahead of them.
When I announce something publicly, make a promise to someone else, or share my goal with a group of peers, I’m way more likely to take the first step (and the next one and the next one). There is pressure to get it done. If I don’t follow-through, I look like I’m unreliable or untrustworthy. So I do it. I get started because I simply have to.
This could mean sharing a goal with your social media channels or even asking for others to join in on the goal if its the type of goal that could be shared. (i.e. I’m going to do 30 pushups every day for 30 days — who’s in?!) It could mean you have a Mastermind group of likeminded people that you make your commitment to. Or it could mean that you simply offer a service to someone else and promise it by a specific deadline.
Trick Yourself into a Tiny Action
There are a lot of people out there who share this advice, saying: “Just commit to 5 minutes.” I say commit to even less.
If it’s that hard for you to GET STARTED, then don’t even put that time limit on it. Simply commit to the smallest very first action that it takes.
When I want to “trick myself” into exercising, I just put my workout clothes on. There is one less obstacle in my way should I choose to exercise. This works quite well for me.
If you need to put a time frame on it, then what is the first 1-3 minute task that will get you started? Is it sending an email? Making that social media post? Walking outside? Opening a blank document on your computer? Ordering some type of supply online? Putting on workout clothes?
Take a tiny action, and you will most likely keep going, pushing the ball forward to the next tiny action until you’ve completed the big action without even realizing it. And now, voila! You’ve got momentum!
Learn, Revise, Repeat.
Don’t let the fear of failure or the need for perfection keep you from getting started. Be propelled and inspired by learning and growth. Because as you do that, your idea of success will probably change and evolve anyway.
It’s a cycle. You get started. Then you make a mistake. You learn and get valuable data from that mistake. So you revise your approach or make a left instead of a right, and you go again. The cycle progresses as you continue to improve and move forward on your path. You actually begin to enjoy the process!
If you aren’t willing to learn, revise, repeat, then perhaps you have the wrong goal in mind. Maybe what you are considering to be success is not your idea at all — but someone else’s. Go back to the drawing board and find an idea that resonates with you. Find the goal that gets you excited to learn, revise, and repeat.
Getting started doesn’t mean you’ll succeed, but you can’t succeed without getting started. Forget about failure and perfection — turn your focus to your goal and why you want to achieve it. Think about what you miss out on when you don’t take that first step. Dig into your motivation and then dig a little deeper. When we identify that deeper why, then getting started is less scary.
Step into the mindset of possibility. Getting started is so much more important than succeeding because it’s part of the journey. When we equate “getting started” with being a success in itself, then it’s truly a win/win situation.
What are you going to start today?