In last week's newsletter, I shared the video of a young man who mastered the art of riding a bicycle just about anywhere - over the tops of fences or on bridge railings. It was an amazing example of mastery and it reminded me of a prior newsletter I'd written about squirrels and the genius of persistence. If you need a little motivation to stay true to a dream or goal, or to master something new, you might want to take a page from squirrels.
Outside my office window I have two bird feeders that attract all kinds of birds. One is designed for small birds like yellow finches, and the other is for larger birds like cardinals and blue jays. The feeders also attract squirrels. In the past, before they invented squirrel-proof cages, I had an interesting time trying to keep them from cleaning us out of food.
The first time I saw a squirrel climb the pole to the feeder and eat to its heart's content, I knocked on the window to scare him away only to find him back two minutes later having a feast. Then, I came up with what I thought was an ingenious solution. I greased the bird feeder pole with cooking oil and the next time a squirrel tried to climb the pole, I smiled to myself as he gently slid to the ground. After three or four attempts, he scampered away, but of course, came back with a vengeance and quickly figured out how to climb the pole!
Squirrels are very persistent little creatures. They do whatever it takes to achieve their goal. When squirrel-proof cages finally became available, I was sure this new device would do the trick. And it did for several weeks. Time and again I'd watch the squirrel climb up to the feeder, try every which way to get at the food, and when he couldn't succeed, run off to a new yard. Then, one morning, as I sat in my office watching the birds, a squirrel ran to the pole, climbed to the top of the protected feeder, hung upside down above it, and gingerly shook the feeder until birdseed fell to the ground. Once he served himself enough food, he ran down the pole and sat below the feeder to enjoy his meal. That's when I decided that if he was that persistent (and clever), he deserved the darn food!
There are times in life when we set our sights on something that's deeply important to us yet, when we hit roadblocks, setbacks, or failure, we make a premature decision to give up. The message this week is simple - if you know in your heart that your goal is right, be persistent. Hang in there and be willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen. If one approach doesn't work, circle around the situation, and look for a new way of achieving your goal. To help you gain a fresh perspective, try this:
1. Imagine that you've already achieved the goal. Then, look back from this perspective and notice what you did. Don't over think your answers, just write down whatever comes to mind. You're looking for strategies or ideas that may not have occurred to you yet.
2. Imagine that you're just one step away from achieving success. From this perspective, ask yourself, "What one word best describes the step I need to take next?" Trust your subconscious to give you an answer and again, write down what comes to mind.
When I used this exercise with a friend who was ready to quit nursing school, the word that occurred to her was "tutor." When we explored this word further, she admitted that there was one class, in particular, that made her feel anxious and inadequate. This exercise helped her to see that she needed help to get through the class.
3. If someone offered you a thousand dollars to take three outrageous steps toward your goal, what three steps would you take? Again, don't over think or censor your answers. Just notice what comes to mind and write it down. Even though your answers may seem unrealistic, I've found that when clients answer this question, they often come up with ways to try a new approach.
Of course there are times when quitting is the right thing to do, but before you give up, make sure you discuss your situation with someone who believes in you. Do they see something you don't? Is there a step they suggest you take before you quit?
Finally, make sure that you're not giving up out of fear or frustration. It's not uncommon to be faced with the greatest challenges at the point when we're about to reach the finish line. Send yourself a free e-self-care card with the message "Hang in There" from here and let it remind you to do what it takes to stay true to your soul's desire.
Take Action Challenge
This week, use the steps above to find a new approach before letting go of a goal or dream. Find someone you can talk to about what's going on so you have an objective perspective on what's next. Then try take a new action and watch for signs that you're on the right track!
This week's video was sent to me by Shana. I love animal videos. Take a look at how much fun this orangutan is having! Thanks, Shana...
Have a question for Cheryl? Call in during her live Internet radio show -- Coach on Call -- on the Internet at www.hayhouseradio.com. The show airs live on Mondays at 5pm ET (2pm PT) and is replayed throughout the week.