Aim Further Than You Need To
I recently spoke about quitting addictions and the need to shift your mindset from what you need to give up to what you really want to get, and who you really want to become.
It’s one thing to give up junk food because you have a vision of you getting a little healthier, losing a little weight around the gut, and being a little more average. It’s another thing entirely when you can visualize yourself not only losing fat but gaining muscle, wearing designer clothing, looking good sunbathing on the beach, or finishing a marathon.
When you can see in your mind’s eye what you can really become, and decide to go for it, quitting an addiction is much easier. It’s no longer the focus of your attention, and whatever fleeting “pleasure” you got out of it doesn’t compare to the pleasure of really excelling.
Of course, that cupcake is hard to resist when you weigh up the momentary but very real pleasure of eating it (and the perceived sacrifice of not eating it) against your aim of losing that “extra few pounds” — with little difference made to your life or self image. It’s less enticing when you see yourself as you could be: fitter, cooler, sexier, more attractive to the kind of person you want to attract, and getting more attention than you have done in years.
The principle of aiming further holds true in regards to our goals in general; not just quitting an unwanted addiction or a bad habit. A moderate aim — which is often just a compromise that we make with ourselves — won’t excite you for long. It won’t fuel your imagination. You need to think further.
Let’s take a lesson from the martial arts.
Beginning students often punch or kick at the surface of the heavy bag. You can have the best technique, the fastest speed and the most incredible power in your punch or kick, but if your strike stops at the surface of the bag or at the skin of an attacker, it will have no effect at all. The bag won’t move and the attacker won’t feel it. Instead, you have to aim into or “through” the target. It’s the same with archery. The archer doesn’t aim to hit the surface of the target; he aims to penetrate it and to make the arrow stick.
In self-development, as in martial arts and archery, you need to aim further — even if it’s further than seems plausible to you right now. (You’re going to get where you’re aiming at incrementally, step by step, acquiring wins — yes, facing the occasional set-back — but gaining knowledge and understanding, along the way.)
Think you want to get a little more toned? Watch the Pumping Iron documentary, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Want learn painting on the weekends? go to the museums and look at the old masters. Want to start practicing meditation? Read about the lives of Buddhist monks. Want to start a small business? Read about Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, among others.
The point isn’t to emulate someone else. It’s not even to be the best according to standards already set (eventually, you might do something totally new and revolutionary — something for which there are no standards or measurements yet). No, the point is to have something to aim at that fires the imagination and makes you want to get down to work.
And, as you work towards that aim, developing new skills and understanding, and learning things that you would never have learned otherwise, your goal might change. That’s okay. Because whether or not you wind up just like the figures who inspired you, with enough time and dedication, you will exceed your own expectations. You will have lessons to pass on. And, to many of the people around you, you will be an example of what’s possible.
Results may vary from person to person.