Are you living the life you want, or is there a gap between where you are and where you want to be?

Are you firing on all cylinders and cutting a clear path to achieving your dreams, or does it feel like you’re slogging through most days, too exhausted to do the things that truly matter and drifting farther away from your goals year by year?

Be prepared to play big

We all have aspirations no matter how big or small they may be. Maybe it’s to become CEO, or obtain a promotion, or simply wake up an hour earlier every morning.

But to achieve those dreams, you’ve got to be prepared to play big. That means taking those actions we know we should take but that feel difficult or scary or both. And it means continuing to do those things on a consistent, purposeful basis so you don’t look back one day and wish you had done things differently.

And maybe you’ve even started taking those actions and experienced the buzz of getting some good results. But then life gets in the way and things slip back to normal.

Whether it’s about getting started or staying in motion, it can feel like there are some powerful forces out there keeping us right where we are and preventing us from playing big, using all our potential and living a life of no regrets.

How to get moving (again)

When you’re feeling stuck, playing small, and no longer living according to your aspirations, what you need is to find a catalyst to get you moving again, to get you behaving according to your aspirations.

What happens after that is magical. You’ll see visible results and feel more motivated than ever before. You’ll enjoy a positive knock-on effect that turns those seemingly daunting tasks into things that you can easily tackle.

Let me give you two examples.

What I learned from my daughter’s summer vacation

First, one of my daughters (and yes, I have her permission to write about her!) is home for the summer. She spent the first half of it doing the usual “college freshman home for the summer” stuff, including watching TV and movies (well, she is studying to become a screenwriter), sporadic exercising, some visiting with friends, and lots of staying up late and getting up late. She talked about wanting to get up earlier, exercise and write scripts, but it wasn’t coming easily.

She then went back to the US for 3 weeks to work at and attend a series of basketball camps run by PGC (Point Guard College), which she has attended each summer for several years. These camps are as much about leadership and leading a good life as they are about basketball.

Since she’s returned, she has been visibly different. She’s up early every day, working out and shooting baskets, writing for at least 2-3 hours, learning Chinese using an app, listening to educational podcasts, and cooking dinner for me while I work on my upcoming program launch. She’s also visibly fitter than ever, and pretty close to her peak physical condition.

Best of all, she is happy with herself. And no nagging or reminding from mom needed. In fact, she’s inspiring me!

My daughter’s catalyst

So what happened? Her PGC experience was a catalyst for this change in her behavior. Going back there was a refresher on all the lessons she had learned and benefitted from over the years, but had temporarily fallen by the wayside.

Here are two of the gems she’s shared with me from PGC just this morning:

“Success is bridging the gap between knowledge and action.”

And since her return, she’s started taking action on the things she knew already but had gotten out of the habit of doing.

“Change just takes a moment. It’s about consistently making good decisions.”

In fact, she’s been making choices that are aligned with her aspirations for how to live her life.

What happens when you avoid your catalyst

The second example is my client, let’s call him Jon. He had been working on finding a new role that’s more closely aligned with his aspiration for his bigger future, which is in a different sector from the one he’s currently in. But his current job is highly demanding and could take up every waking hour if he let it.

We had agreed to meet monthly for six months, but after the first four months he kept rescheduling until two whole months had passed without meeting. He finally agreed to have a 30-minute call to catch up, at which point he explained that he didn’t have much of an update, and thought he should wait until he had some results to report before scheduling our next session.

During our call, it became clear that he was not taking much action to find a role aligned to his true calling. Instead, he was defaulting back to doing his current role to an exceptionally high standard, and too tired to do much else once he got home. Jon was not prioritizing his own needs and aspirations so it was always item 12 on his to do list, but he only ever got to item 9 or 10 every day.

We came up with a new habit that he wanted to experiment with. Here’s what he now does:

  • Prioritize himself by doing his item first. In fact, he’s not allowed to do any job-related work until he has done something for himself in the morning.
  • Create his personal “to do” list the night before in the subway on the way home from the gym. Tying this to his existing gym habit made it part of the evening ritual. That, in turn, makes it more likely that he will follow through consistently.
  • The “to do” list has to be simple, small steps that Jon can complete in 20-30 minutes in the morning.

Jon’s catalyst

Jon’s catalyst was our coaching call. Before the call, he had reverted to processing tasks as part of the daily grind, and let that prevent him from getting to the important work of changing his career direction. Now, he’s now making great progress and he also feels better because he’s taking steps.

In Jon’s case, he was avoiding the catalyst of his coach challenging him about what’s going on. He had it the opposite way around. I’m not there as someone he reports into – I’m not his boss. He’s his boss. I’m there as someone to challenge, ask questions, pressure test, and help devise experiments and create options.

Keeping the change alive

But, no change is permanent. As with my daughter’s example, the positive effect of any single catalyst tends to wane. When that happens, there’s no sense in beating yourself up or recriminating. It’s completely natural.

Real life has a habit of taking over despite our best intentions, and the kind of behavior change required to play big and realize your aspirations is not a “once and done” kind of deal.

So here’s the trick. When you feel things starting to drift back, go and get another dose of your catalyst as a reminder, refresher, or booster.

Sometimes that’s a person or a group of people, like an executive coach, weekly group calls, a personal trainer, or a running club. Other times the catalyst could be a book, a seminar, a recording you listen to, or an online program.

My daughter’s catalyst was going back to the PGC camp, and Jon’s was scheduling the coaching call. For you it might be something else. But it’s almost always someone or something external.

You don’t have to take on the entire responsibility yourself. Sure, they’re your aspirations, but no one plays big on their own. In my experience, doing it all by yourself and relying solely on willpower is a recipe for falling short of your goals.

It’s not only okay to get help, it’s crucial to ask for it! And preferably before things get dire.

So, what is your catalyst for living according to your aspirations?

Leave me a comment and let me know.