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When you dream of your ideal life, do you consider what will help you overcome obstacles along the way? As we approach the season of New Year’s resolution, it’s worth taking some time to think about this. In this blog we tackle the discomfort inherent in aspirational living. Let’s start by defining what we actually mean by aspirational living.
Aspirational living refers to an attitude that can be defined by a future focus of achieving, aspiring towards something. What unites us is a focus, sometimes even a drive, to achieve aspirations, or goals. And, yes, achieving our goals often pushes us outside of our comfort zone.
It’s uncomfortable outside your comfort zone
Just because you get something intellectually, experiencing the discomfort directly is another matter. Many of us have heard that it’s all about the journey and not the destination. But do you really take in what that actually means? You may have noticed that the picture at the start of this blog is not of someone standing on the mountain top. Nope, the picture is of someone struggling along the way. We might just as easily have put a picture of someone taking off their hiking boots to nurse a blister. And it’s not just tackling mountains – literally or metaphorically – that can stretch our comfort zones. Sometimes it can be the apparently small goals we list in our New Year’s resolutions, or, the sheer quantity of them.
A New Year’s resolution – feeling daunted?
You may be surprised that despite all the hype about New Year’s resolutions only 12% of people surveyed made specific New Year’s resolutions at the start of 2020. Only 26% of those kept them all. Interestingly Covid didn’t actually impact that as it was 25% the year before.
With the ‘success’ rate consistently low, it’s easy to feel daunted. As always, it’s more helpful to be curious than critical. This is what Jon and Stephen did when they realised they were struggling to achieve their aspiration.
Climbing Mount Everest in flip flops
Jon only realised how stressed and overwhelmed he was when his husband Stephen broke down in tears saying ‘I love you but I can’t do this, nothing is worth this’. They were about a month from moving house. With a three-year-old and one-year-old twins, all full of a cold, the situation was seriously stressful. Stephen’s words moved through him like ice. What did that mean? As they talked through what was going on, Jon learnt that the ‘this’ that Stephen was referring to, was the stress of yet another move.
They had set an ambitious five-year aspiration: build their assets from a one-bedroom flat to a five-bedroom house and increase their family to five. At the time this had been a sound and solid plan. On paper that is. Nearly five years and three children later, the reality felt quite different. They were exhausted. With the fourth move now imminent and all the kids ill, Stephen was clearly at breaking point. It didn’t take Jon long to then realise that so was he.
What we so often fail to take into account is the discomfort of going beyond our comfort zone. When we don’t recognise that things will be uncomfortable and demanding of us, we don’t factor in what will help us to get to where we want to go. Like Stephen said: ‘I feel like we set out to climb Mount Everest wearing flip flops’. This powerful metaphor was Jon’s light bulb moment.
How to keep going when the going gets tough
They realised that there were a few aspects they hadn’t considered, like sleep deprivation, the added impact of a business dynamic and that children rarely comply with spreadsheets. Of course, they were stumbling.
When ‘…nothing is worth this’ why bother?
One of our favourite questions is ‘why bother’. Knowing how to use this question and hearing Stephen saying ‘nothing is worth this’ made Jon think. Why were they doing this? They’d been so committed to the plan and determined to achieve it, they’d forgotten why they were bothering. Having financial security is good but they could have gone about that in all sorts of ways. How much did they actually need to feel secure? In their exhaustion, they couldn’t remember, so they went looking to see if they could find it. Stephen, having a vague recollection of having written down some phrases, found a document saved as ‘untitled’. One of the phrases read: ‘because doing stuff together and striving makes us happy’.
This simple observation stopped them in their tracks. It wasn’t so much about the money and security, although that does matter, it was about how they wanted to be together and what made them happy. Taking this as their clue, they asked themselves: ‘what do we need now to help us find our way to where doing stuff together and striving makes us happy?’
Many people dismiss this question claiming it’s negative, standing in the way of achieving anything. We, however, feel that there is a difference between asking this question rhetorically or from a place of curiosity. Like the 80s pop song says: It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it – and that’s what gets results.
When we say ‘why bother’ as if it has an exclamation mark at the end, it’s rhetorical with no expectation of an answer. However, when we sherlock, with genuine curiosity this question takes us to the very heart of the matter. Why are you bothering stepping out of your comfort zone and into the unknown? This is where you find the clues that help you hold steady and forge forward when it gets tough.
Allies and coaches
They realised that they needed someone to talk to that wasn’t each other. Jon reached out to us, as he’d worked with us previously. We then recommended someone who could support Stephen. As Jon said, if they were actually climbing Mount Everest, of course, they would have hired guides for the journey. They brushed up on their First Aid for Feelings just like they would have taken a refresher course in medical First Aid in preparation for a mountain climb.
Recognising that romantic dates were impractical at the moment, they agreed that each would have a weekly solo date so at least they could look after their relationships with themselves. This turned out to be a romance booster because they both came back home feeling replenished and deeply appreciative of each other.
Successful athletes, entrepreneurs and achievers of all kinds share the experience of having been supported along the way. Allies and coaches play a significant role in success. Whether that’s the basketball coach coaxing you to dunk a few more balls or Bill Campbell on the phone to Steve Jobs, having support from others matters. This person takes your aspiration seriously and helps you up your game to achieve it. Any ambitious undertaking is more likely to become reality when you’ve got someone in your metaphorical corner, helping you see your way forward. Research shows that people who have support exclusively and significantly more successful in achieving their aspirations.
Being your own ally and coach
None of us can see the back of our own head, this is a universal truth and a key contributing reason why having a coach and allies is so important. However, a coach or an ally can only help so much if you don’t pay attention to your relationship with yourself. Looking after their own relationships with themselves Jon and Stephen’s solo dates also helped with their relationship with each other.
Jon and Stephen did achieve their aspiration of a family of five in a five-bedroom house in five years.
Healthier new year – self care to self success
So, if you want a healthier new year, where you’re giving yourself the best possible chance to achieve your goals, our invitation to you is to get curious. Thinking about your aspirations for 2022, look first at your ‘why bother’ and your allies. Doing this before focusing on how you’re going to achieve your goals (more on that in the next blog) will stand you in good stead.
The phrase ‘It’s about the journey, not the destination’ can feel like such a cliche at times, especially when we look through rose-tinted glasses at the ‘glory of the destination’. Savouring the adventure means turning ‘…to face the strange’ (thank you Bowie), ditching the metaphorical flip flops and with sturdy boots and specialist guides setting off to enjoy the laughter, sweat and the doing of it all.
Go gently, hold steady, stay the course.
All the best, Thor
PLEASE NOTE THAT THOR A RAIN IS NOT A MEDICAL DOCTOR. THE HELPFUL CLINIC IS NOT A MEDICAL CLINIC AND THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE. FOR MORE INFORMATION CLICK HERE