When speaking with friends, family, and clients, I often emphasize Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan because there is so many layers to it, even though it’s so simple. Oftentimes, you are the only real thing that stands in the way of achieving your dreams. It takes some practice, but once you’re able to remove yourself from your list of obstacles, goals and challenges actually don’t seem that bad – you’ll be able to “just do it.”
So how do you do this?
Eliminate bad habits and create good ones – Human beings are creatures of habit. We like to get our coffee before work at the same place everyday, we eat lunch around the same time, we order the same thing from our favorite restaurant, the list goes on. Similarly, we also form habits when it comes to our outlook.
Who is a pessimist? Just someone who has the habit of seeing the negative side of things. The opposite applies to optimists. Once we establish a habit through repetition, our minds go on autopilot and by default, we fall to those habits when confronted with new situations. People with low self-esteem have developed the habit of downplaying their attributes. So how do we eliminate our bad habits and create good ones?
Identify your bad habits. You may have to dig deep down to find them, or you can simply ask a close friend or family member for their honest opinion. Once you’ve identified it, practice the opposite habit. For example, if you have the habit of being pessimistic and want to be an optimist, you may have to force yourself to think of and write down 3 positive outlooks for every negative outlook you have. It will be difficult and feel uncomfortable in the beginning, but with repetition, you will eventually acquire the habit of forming positive outlooks by default instead of negative ones.
Have a plan. We can’t predict the future but we can plan to increase our odds of achieving a specific outcome. Will I ace that job interview? I don’t know but I can increase my chances of making a great impression by researching and practicing how to interview. Most people will end up coming up with a list of excuses for why they won’t succeed because this comes easy to them (possibly from habit). So if that happens, try to frame the negative thought in a different way. Here are some examples:
“But I’ve never done that before…” vs. “But I can practice doing it enough to be better than I am now”
“I don’t have a mentor or any contacts in the industry…” vs. “Where can I meet someone who knows a lot about the industry?”
“What if I fail?” vs. “Failure means I can eliminate one way of doing this…so why didn’t it work and what’s a better way I can go about doing this?”
Somewhere in this world, there is someone less educated, poorer, and less physically able than you are, who is succeeding in achieving her dreams. We tend to view these people as the exception, but maybe despite all their “external” handicaps, they didn’t have the psychological handicaps most of us have – and that one advantage compensated for everything else.
Your mind can be a tool or a weapon. Imagine the worst job you can think of — someone in the world is doing that job and making a living. On the flip side, there are also people in the world who have better jobs, but are so unhappy that they end their own lives. Your mind can be a weapon that destroys you or a tool that propels you ahead. Never forget that. All it takes is a string of negative habits to bring our minds into a dark place that can lead down a path to destruction. But with practice, we can train our minds to shift gears and work to our advantage. Just like how we can learn to speak, write, ride a bike, swim – we too can learn to be grateful, confident, and happy.
At the end of the day, no one is a lost cause. We are all trainable, but often ignore our ability to train how we feel.
No one is perfect. Even professional athletes at the height of their game will have bad days. Same goes with changing our habits and how we feel. The longer we keep practicing it, the better we will get despite days where we slip.
“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training.” –Archilochus