Legend has it that ancient Greeks (I promise this won’t be a history lesson), having arrived on foreign shores for battle, torched their boats on the beaches behind them. With no possibility of retreat, they had to succeed – or perish. It strengthened determination.
(Now – I asked my military-historian husband about this, in the interests of bringing you historically-accurate metaphors, despite being of the view that one should never let the truth get in the way of a good story. He kindly sent me a long and detailed email in response, full of battle statistics and dates and words that I couldn’t pronounce, which I ploughed through as far as was humanly possible, until I found myself prostrate on the couch with a soothing herbal tea, watching the Tomliboos on endless repeat with my toddler.)
Eventually, I finished the Honey & Lemon and Peppermint and Apple & Cinnamon, and was down to Dregs of Tea circa 1996 (‘circa’ – a word littered through my husband’s email). There was nothing for it but to return to his missive in a Tomliboo-and-herb-induced stupor and, to cut a very long story short, I still can’t tell you whether or not the ancient Greeks burnt their boats.
What can we take from the story, if they did? Should we quit our day-jobs and pursue our dreams? Sell our homes and move interstate with nowhere to live?
We could. It might be a debacle. It might be the best thing we ever did.
Burning the boats is about increasing risk in order to increase motivation. It’s about ditching the safety net and giving yourself a kick in the pants to get on with it. It’s about upping the half-hearted and playing at 100%, as if your life depends on it.
So often, we shy away from risk. We dip our toes in the water. We cling to what we’re used to and dream of how it could be, if only we had the guts to throw ourselves into a ‘sink or swim’ scenario.
What if succeeding wasn’t a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘must have’? What would you change in your approach, right now?
Say you’re overweight and unfit and you’ve been mooching along in your comfort zone, thinking ‘one day I’ll fix this’. Then, BAM, you need surgery and the doctors won’t touch you until you lose 40kg. Your boats have been burnt for you – you must succeed, no ifs or buts or ‘later ons’. You’re propelled into action.
But what if there’s no such desperation behind your goal? What if nobody’s got a match? What if you’re well aware of the battle ahead but you’re lazing on the deck of the boat, reading a novel and sipping margaritas? (Or, in my case, sitting at my desk in my PJs, flicking aimlessly through Facebook and watching You Tube clips from the Brady Bunch – a rabbit hole I fell into after Googling Davy Jones this morning…)
Let’s say that my dream is to have a column in a newspaper or magazine (because it is) and let’s imagine that my boat (my other work and my aforementioned husband’s support, which he may withdraw after reading this) is now smouldering behind me.
What would I do differently?
- Go to bed an hour earlier
- Walk in the morning to clear my brain
- No Facebook/surfing til after dinner
- No Brady Bunch
- Write one article per day (no matter how blah)
- Submit one article per day (preferably non-blah)
- ‘Professionalise’ my blog
- Focus and tighten my business activities
- Profess my dream to my media contacts and ask for their advice/mentorship
Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and grow wings on the way down. (Note to hubby: I don’t know who said that, so can’t reference it properly.)
If you have a big enough ‘WHY’ the ‘HOW’ will take care of itself. You don’t need the safety net to collapse, or the boats to burn, to work out who you need to be, and what you need to do, to have what you want. You just need to want it badly enough.
Photo: © drhfoto – Fotolia.com