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You Don't Have To Suffer To Succeed


Photo Credit: Stephan Potopnyk

Achieving your goals means all consuming, tireless work, suffering, and delaying gratification in order to get what you want, right?

Not entirely. Yes, fulfilling your ambitions requires you to work you butt off. But you can actually have a good time working your butt off! Or at the very least, willingly take on the various challenges that you will face along the way because your objectives and intentions truly light you up and make you feel alive.

I transitioned into the New Year with two audiobooks that exquisitely brought this concept to my attention. As 2015 came to a close I listened to The Desire Map by Danielle Laporte and then I started 2016 off listening to Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.

[Side note and tip: I recently started buying the audio version of books so that I could easily listen to them during my daily commutes and am in love! It’s excellent to hear it in the author’s own voice, plus I get through them much faster].

In The Desire Map Laporte repeatedly states, “Feeling good is the primary intention”.

She also says, and I wholeheartedly agree, “I only want to hit my targets if both the aiming and the hitting feel good”. Otherwise, is the end goal really worth having if you hated every step along the way? Wouldn’t that mean that you spend most of your time suffering in order to attain brief moments of joy? Because once you’ve accomplished that thing, it’s done, fleeting, and then you move on to the next task, again grinding miserably through the journey. Thus you’ve spent the majority of your life feeling unhappy. A little counterintuitive wouldn’t you say?

Do not misunderstand; the work to achieve your goals is still going to be demanding and at times frustrating. Your jumps on the ice are not always going to be perfect, or consistent, or easy. But the mentality that you are not going to be successful unless you are constantly laboring under stress is simply false.

In Big Magic, Gilbert advises to be weary of the lure of martyrdom, taking your work too seriously, and striving for perfection. This kind of thinking can be extremely limiting for your potential. Not only does this mindset foster the all too pervasive “never good enough” outlook, it inhibits your creative expression and your right to be bold.

The truth is, every goal worth having comes with a price. So, instead of asking the common goal-setting question “what would you do if you knew you could not fail?” Maybe start by asking, “What would you do even though you probably will fail at least once along the way? Or better yet, “What do you want so badly that you’re willing to take on all of the trials that come with it”

If you absolutely loathe the process then maybe you’re not going after the right goals. Or, maybe you need to approach them in a different way.

Since moving back home to Toronto last summer after a year abroad and making a career transition I’ve realized that I was starting to get lost in the grind. I became a victim to the outlook that I must aggressively focus on my new endeavors, while saying no to everything else that presented itself even if it was something that I love doing, such as spending time with friends, or adventuring with creativity (specifically in dance and choreography).

And then I noticed that I started to feel exhausted and uneasy. Even worse, I started to notice my desire to complain about it. Even though I am in love with my pursuits I wasn’t taking care of my basic need and desire to feel good. And in turn I was killing my drive and inspiration.

Bringing my attention to this created a shift in how I pursue my goals. I don’t have to grumble about spending three hours a day on transit while I commute between the places I work. Instead I can see those three hours as time each day that I can devote to research using audiobooks and podcasts, brainstorming, or writing without the distraction of Wi-Fi, etc. I will gladly take the frustrations of working long days and starting a new career from the bottom if it means that I get to spend more time on the ice, more time moving and creating, and more time researching and meditating on the topic of personal development.

Therefore, goal setting does not have to mean ‘suffer now, enjoy later’. It means going after the very thing(s) that allow you to revel and be engaged in every moment, both during the process and at the arrival of your destination.


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