When you have an obstacle to reaching a goal, you need to define specific steps you can take to overcome said obstacle.
I cannot tell you how many times I have seen people give up on a goal simply because they did not know how to reach it. Many people spend more time trying to decide on an aspiration worthy of pursuit than actually doing what is necessary to achieve it. It is as if people embark on their life expecting that all the required steps to their well-being will be delineated for them, and then placed on a platter in a timely manner right in front of their faces. Others will give them a task, and all they have to do is execute.
But can you blame people? From our childhood through our education, and sometimes for our entire lives, we choose our goals from a list of predetermined options: Should I be an economics major, a biology major, a dance major? Should I get into finance, be an engineer, do social work? It’s no wonder most people find it incredibly difficult to envision a goal, we’re so used to having the goal envisioning done for us! Furthermore, “our” goals typically come prepackaged with straightforward stipulations – required classes toward a degree, or minimum qualifications for a career. It’s no wonder than once people get past the arduous and alien act of envisioning a goal they fail to achieve it, because they’re not used to having to conceive of how they’ll reach it.
Nevertheless, ignorance is not an excuse for inaction:
“No one should ever allow himself to fall down in the belief that someone else will lift him to his feet, because it will not happen; or if it does happen, it will not prove to his advantage. Such a means of defense is cowardly, in that it does not derive from one’s own initiative, and only those methods of defense which depend upon one’s own resourcefulness are good, certain, and enduring.”
Machiavelli’s aforementioned advice for a Prince is equally as pertinent for a plebe (common folk): This isn’t a “do it yourself” message, but a “take initiative” message. Be responsible, response able, that is, when you do not know how to achieve your goal, be resourceful, and come up with a plan to learn how. My old coach, Grant Stewart, used to call these “action steps”; when stuck on reaching a goal and don’t know what to do, one should define the obstacles to the goal, and define steps for how to overcome said obstacles.
For example, let’s say that your goal is to write for the New York Times. Your initial speculation might be that of intimidation. How do I go from here, high schooler, to there, Journalist? Well…find out! Define your obstacle – “I don’t know where to find more information about becoming a journalist” – and then take action – “I can use the resources available to me to find more information about becoming a journalist.” Ask a teacher “do you know anything about becoming a journalist or where I can find out how?” They might have a connection, a friend from college who now writes at a local newspaper. Or you could call the local newspaper. Or you can Google search for good journalism schools across the country and ask to speak to someone who can help you with your goal. Depending on how persistent you are, you might end up actually speaking to a journalist from the New York Times!
The key is to have your goal in mind, and think of all the obstacles in your way. Once you know what the obstacles are, I guarantee your brain will start thinking of ways to overcome them. If your brain is your obstacle, and you personally cannot think of ways to overcome your obstacles, then your action step is to find someone who can think of ways to overcome your obstacles, and I guarantee you know someone who can help you. No matter what, there is always a way, if you are willing to try. Just because you should not expect someone else to lay down a plan of action for you, does not mean you have to do everything yourself. The key is to rely on your own initiative and resourcefulness because it is the only thing you can control, as you cannot control fortune, for “a prince who relies entirely upon fortune will fail when his fortune changes”
- Aman John