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The Truth About Things That Suck: Goals and Effort

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Everyone has a goal they’re trying to attain. The sweet satisfaction of reaching that brass ring, however, relies heavily on the effort we put into grabbing it.

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By Mindy Henderson, Photo by Vanessa Todd, Illustration by Cy White

Jim Rohn said, “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.”

As a coach, this quote really resonated with me. I work with people every day who are working toward specific goals. See people accomplish those goals, and I see people regret not trying (or not trying harder). I looked up the definition of the word “goal.” Merriam-Webster defines it as “the end toward which effort is directed.” “Effort.” Bingo! Even though we may know what the word generally means, I think there is some power in revisiting the precise definition and the words that make up that definition.

What Is Effort?

By definition, a goal is not easy to accomplish. It requires varying degrees of effort, but regardless, one must exert effort. A “goal” is different than a “task” for this reason. If a goal were not harder than any old task, we’d accomplish things left and right and twice on Tuesday. There really wouldn’t be anything to take any pride in or to illustrate any exceptional skill or endurance. And let’s face it. That pride and feeling of accomplishment after we do something hard makes us feel like we can fly!

But the effort is what trips us up. It’s hard. It’s time-consuming. We’d rather be doing something else. The idea of instant gratification versus a potentially really cool result that might not come to fruition for quite some time often wins out. Binge Netflix now or earn my graduate degree in three years?

Effort & Discipline

To sustain effort requires discipline. In the moment, discipline can feel so heavy. But Jim is right. When you compare the regret of not trying to the effort and discipline that goes into accomplishing something—even if you fail—the regret is so much heavier. If you fail, don’t obsess! That stuff is heavy too. If you fail, learn! Learn and try again. Or try something different. People will be impressed that you tried at all. I promise.

In working toward a goal, eventually you’ll reach the end. You’ll accomplish the thing, do what you set out to do. Again, varying degrees of effort and varying durations of discipline. While one goal may take a month to accomplish, another goal may take one, two or three years. But the regret of never having tried? That could last a lifetime.

I see people quit or stall their progress. So many times, it comes down to excuses. While it makes sense to me, when you are exhausted—maybe emotionally, maybe physically, maybe both—you want the pain to stop. Or maybe you’re afraid. Excuses provide the justification. Or do they? What are excuses, after all? Excuses are lies we tell ourselves so we don’t have to do the hard thing we don’t want to do. Or that we are scared to do. Here’s the thing. You live inside your head. There is no escape. (I’ve tried!) You know, deep down, if you’re lying to yourself. I may not know, but you will. I wrote my Master’s degree thesis on accountability, y’all. I don’t like excuses.

No Excuses!

I think the reason I don’t like excuses is because they result in wasted potential and regret. What-if’s suck, y’all. In the end, like Jim says, the work you’d have to do in the moment (and 60 small moments or work sessions can be what create an accomplishment) is so much less difficult than carrying the what-if around on your back for the rest of your life. If fear is wreaking havoc with your discipline, look at it this way. Fear gives you the opportunity to be brave if executed well.

Sometimes we have to make hard choices to show ourselves we can do hard things. So, the next time you feel yourself making an excuse about why you can’t do something right now (or today, or this week), remind yourself that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can complete the work or the task this afternoon and watch Netflix tonight (or Saturday). I don’t know many people who work on their goals 24/7. Put in the work now so you can play later and not have the weight of the excuse or the regret.


mindy-henderson

Mindy Henderson lives in Austin with her husband of 17 years. They have a daughter at Texas State University, a puggle named Mr. PapaGeorgio and a cat named Birdie. Mindy currently works as a speaker, writer, coach, host of The Truth About Things That Suck podcast and is a guest contributor to We Are Austin. This column is a tool she is excited to use regularly to help us all uncover those sucky but surprisingly beautiful circumstances. Connect with Mindy on Instagram at @mindyhendersonspeaks, or on LinkedIn.

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