“Do not fear failure. Fear being in the exact same place next year as you are today.”
Hustle. Work hard. Arrive early. Stay late. The keys to the kingdom are given to those that hustle and work for them. So why is it that for some the hustle and hard work pays off, yet for the rest of us no matter how hard we grind we just seem to be spinning our wheels and getting nowhere fast?
While its true that hard work and self-discipline are the difference makers when it comes to success, pure hustle alone won’t get you where you want to go. If your mindset and actions are not in alignment with your goals, you are wasting time and energy and may actually be putting barriers in your own way.
There are two crucial alignment mistakes many of us make that if corrected can drastically improve your progress towards your goals:
1) Your actions are not in alignment with your goals
2) Your goals are not in alignment with what you really want
#1 Your actions are not in alignment with your goals
You may not realize it, but you could be self-sabotaging your efforts towards achieving your goals multiple times a day. If you are regularly grinding away but not seeing the progress you want, it is likely that there are other actions or behaviors you are doing on a regular (if not daily) basis that are undoing all your good work.
Every action you take on a given day impacts your goal either directly or indirectly. Actions that directly impact your goal are those that appear on your to-do list, such as working on a project, creating a plan, making calls, or going to the gym. These actions are the focus of your efforts and, if you are working on them diligently, are often not the issue.
The issue is usually hidden in those other actions you take on a daily basis that indirectly influence your progress. For example, you decide to order a heavy lunch. As a result, you spend the afternoon feeling sluggish, which slows down your progress on an important project so that you need to stay an hour late to finish it. Sure, you hustled and completed the project, but had you selected a lunch option that gave you energy and fueled your afternoon you could have had more focus and finished up quicker. The action you took at lunchtime was not in alignment with your goal and negatively impacted your progress towards it.
Another way we often sabotage our progress is through our reward behavior. We work hard all week in the office so we allow ourselves to sleep in on Saturday, or we did so well on our diet that we give ourselves a ‘cheat day’ and go out for pizza. Giving yourself a treat for doing well is a great motivator but can also negatively impact your progress if you choose a reward that is not in alignment with your goals. Rewarding a week of healthy food choices with pizza tells your brain that pizza is something special, elevating it from just a type of food to a higher, more delicious food status. Now it’ll be even harder to resist and leave you feeling even more deprived. Choosing a reward that is in alignment with your healthy eating goals, such as treating yourself to a smoothie from the fancy smoothie place or a spa treatment, gives you the psychological benefits of reward and motivation to continue without undermining your progress.
Ultimately, every action you take during the day will either positively or negatively impact your progress towards your goal. Shifting your thinking to a more holistic perspective and making daily choices with your goals in mind will drastically speed up your progress and prevent you from self-sabotage.
#2 Your goals are not in alignment with what you really want
The reason behind your lack of progress could run much deeper than simple self-sabotage. Are the goals that you’ve set really what you truly want, or are they a reflection of what other people want for you? Society dictates a ‘standard life progression’ in which you are expected to go to school, get good grades, get into a good college, graduate and get a job, get married, have kids, work for 45 years, and retire on whatever pension you’ve managed to scrape together. When you add into the mix the expectations of parents, teachers, and others we can often end up with a set of goals that do not reflect who we truly are and what we truly value in life.
Society subscribes to a very narrow view of what success is, focusing predominantly on career and the acquisition of wealth. When children are asked what they want to be when they grow up, the expected answer is a job title. John Lennon famously said “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life”.
Creating our life vision based on such a narrow perspective is stifling, and leaves many of us chasing goals that do not inspire us. If your goals are not in alignment with what you truly want in life you will find it extremely difficult to make any progress, and if you manage to achieve them at all you may still find yourself unhappy and unfulfilled.
Vishen Lakhiani, founder of Mindvalley and author of The Code of the Extraordinary Mind suggests that to set goals based on what you value and desire from life there are three questions you need to ask yourself:
1) What to do you want to experience in life?
2) What do you want to learn/how do you want to grow?
3) What do you want to contribute to the world?
Asking yourself these three questions and comparing them to the goals you’ve previously been chasing may reveal a deep disconnect between what you thought you wanted and what you really want. If you find that your goals are not in alignment with your true desires, you can now rethink and change direction. It can also help to identify which of the goals you are pursuing are simply a means to an end. The ability to connect the achievement of a means goal with the desired end goal, such as passing an anatomy class (means goal) to achieve a medical degree and become a doctor (end goal), is a powerful motivator as means goals often hold no intrinsic motivational value of their own.
Alignment is the new hustle
Simply working harder than the other guy is not going to bring you success if you are constantly fighting a battle against yourself. Spending some time thinking about whether your goals are in line with what you really want and if your daily actions and behaviors are in alignment with them will go a long way to streamlining your actions and massively increasing the progress you make each and every day.
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