Updated: Jan 14
If you could become anything you want, gain the talents that you have admired for years or learn those new skills that you thought you were not good at, how would that make you feel? Excited, afraid, motivated, overwhelmed?
Every single one of us can achieve the same results as long as we have two things: opportunity for practice and dedication. As a journalist, bestselling author and table tennis player Matthew Sayed said in his book Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking, when we witness what we think is exceptional talent or achievement, we are witnessing only the final result of what has been worked towards over a number of years. This means, a result of something that has been worked towards on an hourly, daily, weekly, monthly basis. What we do not see is early mornings, late nights, hard choices and sacrifices made, fears and failures experienced along the way. Swedish scientist Anders Ericsson calls this the Iceberg Illusion, when the excellence we see is only the tip of the iceberg and what is left behind the scenes is a tough road of inevitable hard work, dedication and, more often than not, disappointment. Excellence is open to everyone, rather than to only the lucky ones, and can be achieved through a consistent practice.
So, how can you ensure that you make the most of your potential and achieve the things you want? This can be done following these 6 simple steps:
Clarity. As simple as it sounds, this is your starting point. Be clear about what it is that you are working towards. Ask yourself questions such as:
What is it that I want to achieve?
How important is this to me?
How will I know that I have achieved it?
What will success look like?
Standards. Commit to improvement and excellence. Clearly defining what excellence means to you will help you to stay on track whilst figuring out your way up to it. Actively ask for feedback and use it for improvements rather than be discouraged by it. As the great American inventor Thomas Edison once said: 'If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward'.
Flexibility. Although a clear plan towards your goal is needed, it is important to be realistic and acknowledge that sometimes life happens. Recognise that deviation from your initial plan may be necessary as you cannot foresee all the future circumstances that may impact your focus, dedication and time. Be ready for it and bounce forward when the time is right. In those times, going back to your established clear goal and revisiting the reasons that make it important to you will be particularly helpful.
Responsibility. Be accountable for your actions. Be empowered by the realisation that you are the one who has the steering wheel. As M. Sayed said: 'Nobody has got anywhere in life without showing tremendous discipline and taking responsibility for their actions. That is what ultimately separates the best from the rest'.
Rewards. Recognise and celebrate small successes. This is extremely important considering that success is not achieved overnight. Acknowledging your small wins will help you to maintain focus and motivation. At the end of the day, try to enjoy the process itself and not just the end result.
Commitment. Trust yourself that you can do it because YOU CAN. Repeat it to yourself until it becomes your new self-empowering belief. A. Ericsson recognised the tendency that people have to dismiss their own potential, despite there being no evidence for such pessimism, saying that 'it is often based on nothing more than a few weeks or a few months of half-hearted effort'. Achievement takes time and dedication, remember?
I hope this super power, that we are all entitled to, of achieving whatever you like will inspire you to reach for the stars and go for those skills, abilities, or talents that you have always admired and secretly wanted to have instead of that 'lucky' friend of yours. Grab a pen and a notebook, write down your plan and make it happen.