Last week I posted on Facebook that I had signed up for my first triathlon. A Half Ironman in fact, along with another fact, I can’t swim. Not properly anyway. I now need to find a good teacher for lessons as soon as possible because I’m pretty certain they frown upon people drowning at these events. This came as little surprise to my friends and they responded with some pretty funny posts of their own. But to quote Hellen Keller, “Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all.” Right?
Yes, I avidly pursue personal development and I also tend set some super audacious goals in life and not just in fitness. I’ve done this throughout my career, in my investments and even in my relationships.
And the one secret I’ve read to achieving goals, one that almost every single book I’ve ever opened on the topic has repeated is this: To succeed at anything, you need to have a why. Your why is more important than your how. Strategy is key but passion rules the day. If your why is big enough and important enough, you cannot fail. For some that why is just the pain of embarrassment. For others it might be contribution and connection. I know normally sedate people who’ve run distance races in honor of a friend or even a parent who passed away of some disease. A goal to look better in a bathing suit is not a very strong reason to get healthy but fear of not being around to see your children grow up might be.
So today as I sat on the beach researching training schedules and equipment and nutrition programs, I gave a lot of thought to my whys. Some of them are deeply personal (the best ones are) but here’s the one consistent reason I do almost anything…
I truly believe we have a moral duty to chase down our potential. This includes not just our physical capacity but our capacity to love and our capacity to give as well. If I can be healthier then I should be healthier. If there is a way I can be a better role model to my daughter or husband to my wife then I should. If I have a business that helps my customers and employs people then I should grow it and make it as successful as I can so that it provides for even more people. Growth is not just a privilege but an obligation. It’s about taking 100% responsibility for the relationships in your life.
Most people don’t set big goals because they’re risk averse. They might be afraid of something as big as loneliness or as shallow as embarrassment. Steve Jobs said, “The knowledge that one day we are going to die is the single best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.” Knowing we’re here for only a finite amount of time, why would you leave anything on the table? I will always take the pain of training, embarrassment and even failure over the pain of regret.