Written by Quentin Sallat Nov. 21, 2022
"I really wish I had time to do this. "
"I want to do this, but I cannot right now. Maybe next month."
"I have this entrepreneur friend who promised me a job. He just needs to figure it out. So maybe I'll get hired in a few months."
You have probably heard these words before, in one form or another. And you probably have spoken them before as well.
The thing is, every human being wants to do things. To accomplish something. We all have projects, ideas, and visions of what the future could hold. In a sense, we all have dreams. And it seems to me that a few people do live their dreams, and most don't. I wish it was the other way around. And this is why I'm writing this!
I'm not here to sell you the recipe for success, or to promise you that your life will be better if you read me. I just want to share what I've learned, hoping that this will be useful to you.
And it all starts with something very simple: what's your goal? What are you dreaming of? What is that thing you constantly say you wish you could do but never manage to achieve? This can take many forms. Some people might dream that one day they will drive a luxury car. Others, unfortunately, just wish to find a way to pay their bills at the end of the month. But take a look around you, and you will see a variety of goals. Some people want to visit a particular country. Some want to start a company, or maybe manage to properly cook a Wellington beef. Sometimes it's trivial, often it's not. It doesn't matter. We're talking about you right now.
Okay, you probably have several in mind right now. But what's that particular thing you wish you could do but cannot? Find a better job? Move abroad? Create a video game? Write a book? Learn to play guitar? Or maybe something completely different. No matter what, it's yours, and this is what is important.
If you don't know how to articulate your goal, maybe it's time to think about it! How can you reach a goal if you don't know what it is? You could try to write about it on a piece of paper. Or maybe discussing it with a friend could help you define it. I've found that most goals can fit on a Post-it, in one or two sentences.
Okay, you've got your goal? Perfect. Congratulations!
The second step is actually quite easy: ask yourself, why can't you reach that goal? What prevents you from doing so?
Almost everybody I've talked to has come up with at least one reason, if not more. They sometimes do sound like excuses. And you know what? You don't care. Again, that goal is personal, it's yours. You don't have to explain to other people why you can't achieve it. But it's important to answer that question for your own sake.
Generally, you could just summarize the answer as a constraint, or a set of constraints. So write these down somewhere. These can be
-I don't have time
-I cannot do it alone
-I don't know how to do it
-I don't have the money
-I'm not good enough to do it
-Or anything else really
Okay. Now that you've answered that question, and listed all your constraints, take a look at it. A good look. Which of these are hard constraints, and which of them can you break? How many of them are just imaginative?
Let's take the first one, which I think is the most common: I don't have time. This is a perfectly valid excuse. We all use it! But for that particular, very important goal of yours, is it true? Sure, some people do work 80h or 100h a week. Parents do have to take care of their children. But I've not met many people who have absolutely zero available free time at some point in the week. Don't you take time to watch Netflix, or YouTube, or the TV? Don't you play a bit of video games? Don't you go out and party with your friends?
Now, wait a sec. I'm not judging, or saying you shouldn't do all these things! I'm just asking the question: if you have time to watch Netflix, couldn't you take a bit of that time to achieve that goal of yours? Downtime is also very important. You cannot be "productive" 100% of the time. But it's important to be objective about it.
This is the difference between a hard and a soft constraint. Soft constraints are self-imposed. You don't have time to achieve that goal because you don't think it's more valuable than watching TV.
Let me be clear again here: this is perfectly fine! It doesn't mean anything bad about you. If you realize that, it means you're honest with yourself about your time. But in that case, I wouldn't just question how important that goal is. Maybe you'll realize it's actually pretty okay if you don't reach it.
On the other hand, if that goal is important, and you've identified soft constraints, maybe it's time to make a choice: do you want that goal to happen or not? If yes is the answer, then just remove these soft constraints from your mind, and focus on the hard ones. Wait, what? You don’t have any hard constraint? Congratulations, the fun part can actually start: work on reaching that goal!
Now, hard constraints, by definition, are harder to get rid of. But often, you can also mitigate them. It's also possible your goal is too big. In these cases, it's great to write down a few milestones, and work on those. If you're a single mom with two children, finding time to write a book is probably very hard. It might seem like an impossible task, because your kids are a hard (and lovely) constraint. Maybe start smaller, and go from there. What about writing that first chapter? Or just a short story. It doesn't have to be a G.R.R. Martin's novel. Start small, step by step, even if it's just five minutes a week on your phone.
One last thing to realize: the Internet is a formidable tool, and learning something has never been easier than today. Leverage it! Do you want to build a website but don't know how to? There are enough tutorials on the Internet, in any form, to help you do just that!
Remember, if you don't do it, nothing happens. As Wayne Gretzky said, "You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take". So go live your dream!
-Write down your goal
-Take a look at your constraints
-Discard soft constraints
-Try to find ways to mitigate hard constraints, use sub-goals if needed
-Start your journey!
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