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We live in a world of mollycoddling and supportiveness. The intentions behind it are usually good, but road to hell – or in this case, the road to mediocrity – is paved with good intentions.
The road to mediocrity is paved with good intentions.
If you are lucky, there are people in your life who are pushing you towards greatness, in just the right way. People who manage to strike a balance between being pushy and yet supportive. But if you are like most people, you have to do the pushing yourself. You have to push yourself, and push yourself hard, because no one else is going to do it for you. You have to push yourself because you know what you are capable of, and you know – even if you don’t admit it – when you are not working up to that standard.
I keep track of the amount of words I write for publication. I’ve my own weird rules about this. It must be for submission, i.e. for this blog, for books, short-stories etc. So emails, my personal journal, or random scribblings do not count. I do this, because having a measure of my writing productivity helps me, and as I’m a writer, I’m supposed to write. A lot.
For the month of August, I wrote a total of 17584 words, which frankly, was abysmal. It was totally disappointing. I made that comment on Facebook, and people were supportive. That’s nice. I know they are being nice. Being good friends. I appreciate it. However, the point is, it’s not “good enough” because I KNOW I could have done better. I know that had I been more focused, or slacked off a little less, I could have met my target of 31,000 words.
It doesn’t mean that I’m beating myself up about it. But it is important to acknowledge your failures. Yes, sure, by the end of August I had 17K words more. But that’s not the point. The point is, I could have done better.
It doesn’t matter that so-and-so wrote only 4000 words. It doesn’t matter that we are all allowed downtime, slacking-off time. It doesn’t matter that it’s not a huge failure in the grand scheme of things.
What matters is that I performed well below my capacity.
Why does it matter?
Because you can’t reach your potential unless you push yourself to your limits, or even go beyond them. You can’t discover just how much you are capable of, if you don’t actively try to become the best you can do, and do the best you can do.
It doesn’t mean that you must perform at optimal level 24/7, 365 Days a year. That would be lunacy. You do need downtimes. But pushing yourself in an organised manner means planning those downtimes while fitting them in with goals that are both realistic and ambitious.
Your goals have to be ambitious because if they are too easy then there is no challenge. They also have to be realistic so that you know you at least have a chance of success.
If I’d set myself a goal of 50,000 words in August, that would have been fairly unrealistic, and I wouldn’t have felt all that bad about not meeting it. But 31,000 was quite realistic, albeit, challenging, so I’m disappointed about not doing that. If I’d reached 29,000 or 30,000 it would left me feeling almost-fine, because I would’ve almost-met my goal.
Pushing yourself is not about other people’s measure of success. It’s about your own measures of success. Pushing yourself is about competing against yourself.
It doesn’t mean you should beat yourself up for every failure, or never allow yourself unanticipated slacker moments (because they will happen). It only means that you need to have awareness of your capabilities, your ambitions, and the work and the sacrifices required to turn your dreams and ambitions into reality.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:
Do you think you push yourself enough? Are there people in your life who push you towards your dreams (not their dreams)? Do you understand the difference between pushing yourself enough, not-enough, or too much?