A year or so ago I was having a spirited discussion over dinner with two female friends when the subject of marriage came up. One of the women (*Kristen) had met her husband while in high school and even though they battled distance (he remained in Atlanta while she went to college in Florida and subsequently took a job in Chicago), love survived and they’re happily married with a son. The other friend (*Janet) was single although she had high hopes of one day obtaining a degree in MRS. As Janet reiterated her adoration of Kristen’s marriage and how much she wanted a union just like it, Kristen gave her a powerful dose of reality. “You have no idea what it takes to have what we have.” Initially, we were both taken aback by her statement but then reality set in. She was right. We didn’t have a clue as to what it takes to maintain a healthy, happy marriage as we were both unmarried. We didn’t know what it meant to stand at an altar and confess unconditional, unyielding love for another being. We lacked the knowledge of feeling forever bound to someone, fully trusting and offering your everything with their everything. However, the honesty embodied in her words is applicable in all aspects of life. Kristen was behooving us to understand the work required to obtain the results we craved. Although our discussion was specific to marriage, it could easily be applied to career, physical fitness and finances. What if we stopped admiring what looks good on the outside and instead understand what it takes to get to that point by learning the intricacies happening on the inside.
Everyone wants it to be so easy. We yearn for quick-fix formulas to repair our lives from our bad decisions and restore us in the wake of negative influences. While it’s often easy to get into complications, it takes a lot of effort and hard work to get out of them. Janet spoke of wanting an enduring and committed love but is she really prepared for the work it will take to have it?
If you want it, you must be willing to work for it.
Instead of always talking about what we want, let’s materialize what we need. The following steps incorporate the simplicity of introspection and revelation while marinating in the reality that anything worth having demands work. The steps are simple but they aren’t easy.
First, Make a Choice. I’ve already discussed the requirement of getting FED UP in order to make positive changes in one’s life. For relationships, it could be entering marriage with a ‘divorce is not an option’ mentality. For career, it might mean going beyond talking to putting your plan on paper. Either way, you have to choose a path. Why this isn’t easy: Choices are presented on a regular basis and we don’t always feel equipped to make them. Instead of relying on our ‘gut’ or inner voice, we try to make logic out of illogical situations (i.e., love). As evaluated in Dan Ariely’s MIT 3 Doors game (read: here), we also have a natural aversion to loss and understand that choosing one path equates to foregoing another. As much as we’d like to select the best option for our life and proceed forward, it’s not easy. Regardless, we must choose. Because no matter what anyone tells you, not choosing is still a choice.
Next, Make a Commitment. Pledge to live differently, think positively, and feel empowered. Commit to your path. Refrain from giving yourself a pass or an easy way out of your new choice(s). Instead of building a safety net, direct your attention to accomplishing your goal–making the safety net unnecessary and irrelevant. This also means making Smart Sacrifices. If you desire change in your life, start with your mindset and then your behavior. I’ve seen several friends curb their need for dining out and partying while in the process of buying a house. They understood their life needed to change because priorities during that time period had changed. Why this isn’t easy: Experiencing the freedom of life means not having to sacrifice, right? How do we justify giving up things we enjoy for some future benefit that may never materialize? However, we don’t have the gift of clairvoyance and not knowing the future means trying to make the most out of what we have/know today. Plus, most sacrifices we’d make are beneficial in the short and long-term. Don’t be so quick to give yourself a pass or weekend break. Be willing to accept your weaknesses but use your knowledge of yourself as a strength.
Make it about YOU. One thing we should all be delivered from is giving two cents about other people’s opinions. What do YOU want? What is your purpose? What makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning? Those are the questions to ask yourself. Why this isn’t easy: We all fall into the trap of societal norms and familial expectations/obligations. As much as we’d like to ignore the stares and whispers, they affect us. We feel compelled to accomplish the dreams of our mothers and overcome the disappointments of our fathers. In the end, your time on this Earth is finite and should be spent pursuing & executing YOUR purpose instead of applying another person’s standard to your life. While not always easy, it’s necessary.
Finally, as you Learn, Teach. Motivate someone else to take the first step. Discuss what you’re learning with others. Share ups and downs of your journey in hopes of inspiring another person to take a leap. It holds you accountable and continues to inspire/motivate you while also giving someone else a helping hand. This one is pretty simple and once you get the hang of it, quite easy!
What makes your journey simple but not easy? Share your comments below!
(originally published April 2014)