The path to success can be a lonely road. For one thing, some people don’t understand the drive it takes to reach success. Then, of course, there are the doubters. And some people will outright criticize your choices. And all of this can make reaching those goals that much more challenging.
The reality is that the more you pursue your goals, the tighter your social circles will become. Simply put, not every person will stand by you. Understanding this is essential to making a strategic commitment which will lead to success.
Imagine a mountain. The first layer of goals are the fundamental ones like finishing high school. Fundamental goals are those that everybody can relate to, because we all pursue them, and we all receive advice about them. We also have support for these goals because they are fundamental.
Once you have graduated high school, and achieved a fundamental goal, you might decide to go to college, and now you are climbing a bit up that mountain. The base is not as large anymore, the path narrows, and so does the support group. Some of your high school friends will become less present in your life, yet you might begin to collect a new group of friends, which – together with your old friends — will be your new support group.
If after college you pursue a higher degree, you will be climbing a little bit more on the mountain, and your support group will narrow even further. With every accomplishment you will reduce your support group and make new connections.
Now imagine going after goals which are less common – and perhaps more challenging. Let’s take for example, the goal of being an ultrarunner. You decide to run races of 100 miles or longer. Suddenly your support group is changed and you will very likely experience three main feelings. You will:
- Feel alone
- Feel misunderstood
- Feel criticized
Finding support and understanding now becomes crucial – due to the challenge of the goal. But finding support is also now not so easy. The reason is very simple, there are fewer people running ultramarathons in the world. Through social media you might find support and perhaps start to feel accepted and normal about your goal. But this time, compared with the example of pursuing a degree, it will be much harder to make peace with the situation. So naturally once you found your support group you will cling to it.
The pattern shown in the examples above is clear: you find a goal, you search for a support group to provide understanding, advice and help at times. Once the goal is accomplished you move on to the next one following the same path. As the goals become more challenging, finding the acceptance, support and help also become more challenging. The more challenging the goal is, the more challenging it is to find support for the goal.
And the more challenging the goal, the more time investment it will require from you. Naturally, this will take time away from other areas of your life. You will have to make sacrifices.
Perhaps it is the resistance to make sacrifices that keeps many people from reaching their goals (more on this in an upcoming blog).
In the example of the ultrarunner, the data shows most athletes are mature individuals with careers and families. So on top of required time with the family, work/career time, they will have to add an additional several hours a day of training to their schedules, as well as budget time to travel to races. The ability to manage time is essential in maintaining a balanced life, however the reality is that in order to reach your goals, time normally spent with friends, family, working, and even leisure time will be traded for the pursuit of something great. That’s just the way goals are. The greater the goal, the more it demands from us.
To be able to achieve your goals, you have to fully understand and balance these aspects of time and social circles. Only when we are able to accept that our “social circles” will continuously change we will be able to fully commit ourselves to our goals and be successful.
So how do you do it?
Here are five rules to reaching the top of the “mountain”
- Embrace the change in the social circles – while your circles will be smaller, your connections can be stronger
- Recognize you will have fewer people to support you – do not stress about that; the more you do alone, the stronger you are
- Recognize you will have many people criticizing your decisions/lifestyle – do not try to fight them, and do not expect them to understand you
- Immerse yourself fully in the pursuit of your goals – by following your own path, you will not waste time explaining yourself
- Do NOT give up – keep pushing forward until success is reached