Today we’re going to address our dreams – and why most of us haven’t reached them yet. As many of us head into the final months of this infamous decade, we must take a good hard look at what will be required to reach our desired finish line. Countless millions of good-hearted, well-meaning people set goals and started the year back in January with every intention of creating change. Where is everyone now? Some are ahead of their expectations, some are right on-target, and some are working hard to catch up or get back on track. But if I were a betting woman, I’d place a handsome sum on the odds that most people have fizzled out by now.
I don’t say that to be harsh, pessimistic, or accusing. I’m simply making a quick assessment based on human nature. Because when it comes to achievement and victory, here’s how human nature responds: “It’s too hard! I wasn’t expecting these obstacles! I don’t have the support/resources/time I need. I gave it my best shot, but it didn’t seem to work out! I guess I’m just not cut out for this. Guess it wasn’t meant to be. It’s just not me.”
Can we be honest? Speaking of dreams and goals, I am very aware that some of you are extremely disenchanted with yours right now. You feel like you’ve hung on for as long as you can, and you’ve just about convinced yourself to cash in your chips. You know what? It might actually be easier to throw in the towel, tell yourself and everyone around you that you gave it your best, find a few friends in the same position as you are so that you can console each other and take the exit ramp together. But you know what else? If I were sitting right there across from you, face to face as your friend and “life excellence mirror”, I would tell you that it’s my job to love you enough to not let you give up on your dream. It’s my job to not let you give up on yourself – to not let you slip away quietly. Sometimes that means that we have to address uncomfortable topics and be courageous enough to call a spade a spade. As your friend, I will not apologize for expecting excellence from you, because I know you are capable of it, and I know you deserve it. You may get mad at me for addressing such a sensitive topic with you, especially sense we’re not really used to candid conversations in society these days. Society teaches spineless, mannerly talk over truth, so face-to-face frankness can be downright nerve-racking when we’re not accustomed to it. But I think we could all agree on this point: I would much rather run the race of life with a few committed souls than with an army of half-hearted bystanders.
But, guess what? Life isn’t easy. It never has been, it never will be, and it wasn’t intended to be. We become discouraged when we expect to live on easy street with zero effort and the perfect life, because that is not how G-d designed this planet to operate. And we’re not willing to put forth consistent discipline and effort to fight for what’s most important to us, because it’s so easy to slip back into the mediocre mentality that the majority of our world operates in. If we’re not careful, we find ourselves constantly frustrated simply as a result of not being fully committed to any one thing. The path of least resistance never led to anywhere remarkable, yet it’s an overcrowded highway in our society. On the other hand, the extra mile is a deserted one-lane road that leads to every dream you’ve ever dared to dream.
You may be standing at a crossroads in the pursuit of your dream. If this is just a pointless game for you, another round of futilely going through the motions, then maybe it is time to call it quits. But if there is even a glimmer of hope in your heart that you can find the passion, drive, commitment, and discipline that you know you’re capable of, I invite you to drive a stake in the ground, release the past, and run forward with a fresh vengeance. Let’s do it together. It’s not too late to become who you want to be. I once heard that the true test of a person’s character is determined by what it takes to stop him. You can be a push-over, or you can choose to start over. Who cares if you’ve flaked out 500 times in the past? So long as you start over 501 times, you can still end up with the victory.
There’s another group of you who are just beginning the challenge of marching toward your dream destination, and you may be scared to death based on what I just said. You’re just now learning the ropes, feeling your way around, and trying to decide who you want to become on this great journey. You may be looking around at everyone else, trying to decide what’s possible, and I’d like to share with you one of the best pieces of advice I ever received as a new leader, goal-setter, and risk-taker. Early in my career, full of high hopes, dreams, and goals, I walked into a roomful of other, more established leaders – believing I could conquer the world in my new position. I walked out of that meeting feeling completely disenchanted. The nearly 100 “leaders” present spent the meeting talking about their activities, announcing the scoreboard and celebrating the high achievers. I was shocked at what I heard and saw. The “norm” was so much lower than I would have expected – and it immediately made me doubt my ability to accomplish my goals. I called my mentor after it was over to share how I was feeling, and her response was one of the most influential pieces of advice I’ve ever received. She said, “You must always keep your eye on the prize. Only take advice from people who you would be willing to trade places with. Put your blinders on and focus on what you DO want, not on what you don’t want.” I think about that conversation all the time, especially when I’m feeling discouraged and weak. If you think you can do it, you will do it. If you follow the crowd, you’ll get stuck in the middle of them. Where do you want to be? With the crowd at the bottom? Or with the select few at the top? Who you listen to, spend time with, follow and emulate will determine where you finish. The choice is yours.
I want you to think of your goal as a test of will, because that’s exactly what it is. Some of you have financial goals. Some of you set fitness goals. Some of you set family goals, and some of you, business goals. Regardless of which life lane you’re focused on, I want you to carefully consider who you’ve been allowing to influence your actions. Would you ask for fitness or diet advice from someone who weighs 1000 pounds? No. Would you take financial advice from someone who has filed for bankruptcy multiple times without recovery? Would you seek marriage counseling from a six-time divorcee? I should hope not. But guess what? They all offer it. You must CHOOSE who you allow to influence you – who you listen to. It will determine the fate of your future – your life; not just your business or your body weight.
And for those of you who are currently creating and/or experiencing success, taking full advantage of the tools and resources available to you, mastering your skills, and mastering your own personal discipline, I’d like to encourage you with a great story I heard several years ago about a poor, young kid who literally created himself into a multi-millionaire. He was later interviewed and asked to what he attributed his success. He answered with this: “I always go where I don’t want to go. I always did what I didn’t want to do.” In other words, he didn’t let what he wanted in the moment to stop him from what he wanted most. Ask any of your role models and mentors about their obstacles, hurdles, fears, and frustrations, and I’ll bet theirs are just the same as ours. Successful people are tempted to be lazy as much as everyone else, but they choose to remain disciplined instead. They get tired, frustrated, and discouraged just like everyone else. They have just as many failures and fears, if not more than everyone else, but they just refuse to be stopped by them. So, keep going. That one simple decision to keep going is the only daily decision that will get you to your finish line. Have you seen any of the Rocky movies? I’ll never forget what Rocky Balboa says during the heart of his training: “It’s not about how hard you can hit – it’s about how hard you can get hit and still keep going.”
The time is now. It’s time to step up. It’s time to put up or shut up. Your family deserves it. Your life is worth it. You are worth it.