Creative commentary plus crafty composition

A Hurdle is not a Stop Sign

Perhaps all of us, at one time or another, have been tempted to feel discouraged, perhaps quickly, by setbacks on the long journey to accomplishing major goals.

Indeed, if looking at statistics, one can easily be ready to throw in the towel, especially if that towel is frequently coated with rejection.

Many of us are familiar with the 80/20 rule, which anecdotally applies to a wide range of endeavours: 80% of the output, such as the reward, comes from 20% of the input, primarily effort. The classic example is sales, wherein about 80% of income inevitably seems to be generated from 20% of clients.

Statistically, numerous activities determine success via variations of this truism.

The flip side indicates that 80% of effort produces only about 20% of the benefits. Stated another way, the majority of our efforts will be either limitedly successful or not at all so. The measuring stick differentiating achievement and failure is predicated on the latter being the more common result, even for those deemed to comprise the upper strata of success.

Baseball is a good example. An offensive player has a decent chance to be in the Hall of fame with a long career average of .300 – meaning having averaged three hits for every ten official at bats! A pitcher can win the Cy Young award giving up an average of one earned run every three innings.

Similarly, with acting, a good income earning performer can still face a turn down rate when reading for jobs of about 70%. Moreover, as they acknowledge themselves, the denial even after many years stings because it is the performer personally, not a separate product or service, being rejected.

An article in the current month’s Psychology Today provides some mental ammunition to help cope with these realities.

The author focuses on “five problematic moments one is likely to encounter on the path of goal pursuit”, and considers our likely reactions followed by positive ways to respond.

  • Re getting started: committing to begin is hampered by our realizing we have the furthest distance to completing our objective; our response should be to identify the few initial steps, then write down a date to get going while informing others to make oneself accountable
  • Re giving up ‘at the first hurdle’: we feel doubts about whether the effort is truly worthwhile; our response should be to appreciate that ‘the relationship between effort and meaningfulness works both ways’, that meaningful goals may require more effort so ‘the more rewarding, satisfying, and empowering’ achieving them becomes, with ‘a huge emotional return on the investment’
  • Re giving up at a later hurdle: we feel the goal is too difficult, so ask ourselves why we keep trying; remember that a setback or obstacle is not a stop sign, it’s a detour, which requires problem-solving and confidence both to get around this problem and to try to avoid having it recur
  • Re ‘giving in to procrastination’ during the process: our reaction is to feel negative, and wish to escape with some outside pick-me-up; rather than switching to a more enjoyable diversion, remind oneself that it’s O.K. to feel bad, knowing the unpleasantness can be tolerated for a while, and keep in mind the value of the goal
  • Re sabotaging the effort before the finish line: we feel that failure will be devastating, and we can only try so much; so, while fearing failure can become an excuse which is self-fulfilling, one can also imagine success, being aware there are challenges, such as that two steps forward are often accompanied by one step back, and ultimately dreams can be attained

We may have to halt for stop signs, but not for hurdles.

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