True story: when I was a kid, I was thoroughly convinced that as an adult I would need to know how to spot and avoid quicksand, and failing that, at least know how to successfully get out of it.
In full disclosure, I also thought lava was going to be a prevalent issue in my day-to-day life, for what it’s worth.
I’m both pleased and—honestly?—a little disappointed to report that quicksand and lava have not been nearly the pressing concerns that I thought they would be. All that preparation and worry, wasted.
No, in reality, it turns out that most of my adversity, suffering and challenges have been my own fears, limitations and insecurities, sneakily hiding out in the dark corners of my mindset.
And those are waaaaaay harder to avoid and escape than quicksand. Well, in my experience, at least, given that I have yet to encounter any actual quicksand in real life. Nor lava, for that matter. Yet. There’s still time…
If you’re anything like me, and I think you probably are, then I bet that there are things you want to have, do or experience in your life that seem chronically out of reach. Things that seem too damn hard, at least for you. Obstacles or challenges you just can’t seem to overcome, though, frustratingly, you know other people do.
When it comes to achieving that thing, you think you’re special, but not in a good way.
The thing you want is a thing you know is possible, because those other people do it—get up early, exercise, write a book, get a PhD or what have you—but it specifically eludes you. They have some secret sauce. Some magical well of aptitude, motivation and discipline that you are lacking.
You suspect that you just don’t have what it takes.
That, my friend, is a steaming pile of quicksand lava. A myth. A lie, or at least a vastly over-exaggerated and misplaced belief.
You got a heartbeat? Then you have what it takes, even if what it takes is difficult.
And I think the reason it’s difficult is because you want the idea of the thing, but haven’t gotten around to taking the necessary action. A lot of goals/dreams/desires are awesome in theory, but in practice, take practice and that tends to be where we stop.
You haven’t done what it takes to get what you want. It’s not a criticism, it’s just a fact. If you don’t have the result, then you simply haven’t done enough: either you didn’t start, or you stopped too soon.
Doing what it takes requires desire, which you probably have in spades. But desire alone is not enough. If it was, you’d be completely satisfied and fulfilled in every way, and you’re not.
First, you need to choose the thing, and turn it into a commitment, which makes it possible for your discipline (yes, yours!) to show up. You need a plan of action, that you can actually do, which will almost certainly require breaking it down into smaller steps than you’re thinking.
And here again is where we fall into the proverbial quicksand: have you created structure sufficient to your resistance?
Let’s be honest: you already know how you’re going to get in your own way. Me too, when it comes to getting in my own way. It’s not a mystery.
I have perfected stopping, giving up, not starting and making things harder than necessary. These things I have practiced, and frequently. And surprise, surprise: they work. Inasmuch as I don’t get what I want.
You know you’ll hit the snooze button, or not make a plan, or avoid scheduling time to write, or not let anyone know what you’re doing, so that no one is holding you accountable. You know exactly where, when, why and how you’ll stop. Me too.
You know what shape your resistance is likely to take. So what structure is required to sufficiently triumph over it? Is it letting someone be your accountability buddy? Is it putting your workout clothes beside your bed so you literally step into them in the morning? Is it setting reminders? Is it having healthy food readily available, and junk food readily not available? Eff you, potato chips! Get thee behind me, Satan-snacks!
But wait—there’s more! Not only do you need to have created structure sufficient to not just meeting, but overcoming your resistance, you also need to have structure sufficient to generating your desired results.
The structure sufficient to your resistance and the structure sufficient to your results are not always the same. In fact, they often differ. We will likely require both, if we want to get out of our way and also get ahead.
If I have created structure sufficient to my resistance, but I haven’t created structure sufficient to generate my desired results, the result will be that I become discouraged by my progress, or more accurately, my lack of progress thereof, and I’ll quit. The quicksand lava of my fear and doubt wins and I lose. Laaaame.
If your goal is to become a master of karate, just watching Jet Li movies is not going to cut it.
If you want to get really strong, then adding a ten-minute walk a few times a week, if/when you can fit it in, is not going to create the results you desire.
If you want to become an artist, or learn or master an instrument, five minutes a day might be a start, but it can’t be the only action you take.
If I want to lose weight and get fit, then ignoring what I eat and only exercising once or twice a week is not going to be enough. It won’t be adequate. It won’t be enough to meet the goal.
What, realistically, is the action you’ll need to take in order to turn your goal into your reality?
What is the structure that is sufficient to overcoming your resistance AND what is the structure sufficient to actually seeing progress and creating your desired outcome?
If you don’t know the answer, then that’s where you start. This is the first sand trap, and “I don’t know” can keep you stuck for a long time, if that’s where you stop. What structure is needed to get past “I don’t know”?
If you want it to go differently, then you’re going to need to figure it out. Talk to a friend, a mentor, a coach and learn how to escape your own quicksand, so you can live the life you want to live. Because, you can live that life. And trying anything will get you a damn sight closer than trying nothing.