Achieving Your Goals: Do You Recognize These Success Factors?
Achieving your goals is not as easy as it seems. Too often we read, watch, or hear about public figures who are already on top of their games. They have achieved personal excellence and have made it look easy.
What about the average Jane or the average Joe? Or, even better, what about those who have started out with nothing,and with the odds seemingly set against them? As Tony Robbins would say, we often need contrasting models of success: examples of those who achieved against seeming insurmountable odds, for encouragement in our journey toward success.
This week, I came across a very inspiring and challenging article about the life of Liz Murray, whose life story is portrayed in Homeless to Harvard .
Liz was born in 1980 to parents who had bought into the lifestyle and philosophy of drugs, live, and let live. The result was that they both lost their apartment, spent their welfare checks on drugs, became infected with and died from HIV/AIDS.
What were the personal success factors that helped Liz meet her goals, success factors that we can apply to our journey?
Your Choices Can Change Your Life
In 1996, Liz stood at her mother’s grave. Even though she had been the primary caretaker for her mother, her mother was really the only connection that Liz had to something stable in her life.
This is the quote from Liz herself:
Facing the death of someone so primary to me woke me up,” she says. “Even being homeless, I’d never experienced in my entire life up until that moment being so unattached to anything, to not have anything to count on. That moment taught me that life was malleable. If I could have a family and a home one night and all of it’s gone the next, that must mean that life has the capacity to change. And then I thought, “Whoa! That means that just as change happens to me, I can cause change in my life.“
Commit to Making the Change
Liz decided to go to school. Prior to her mother’s death, Liz felt that she needed to devote all of her time to caring for her mother. Now that her mother was gone, she determined to go back to school. Even though she had missed many years of school, she dedicated herself, and finished four years of high school in two years. She had no home, no supportive parents, no bedroom to study in. She had a friend in the Bronx whose hallway was very quiet. Liz would go to the hallway, on the top floor, and spread out her books to study.
Get Rid of All Your Excuses
In spite of all the difficult circumstances she faced, Liz stated that she had to come to a place of saying to herself,
“I’m committed…no matter what!”
Prior to this attitude adjustment, she had always made excuses to herself: “If I get more cash, then I’ll go to school; If I find a quiet place, then I’ll study.” That’s what happens when we are not truly committed to our goals.
In the Liz’s words,
“We’re saying, “I’m committed…unless.’ There’s a big difference between that and an absolute commitment. Absolute commitment means you’ll work in a hallway.”
After finishing her high school diploma, Liz applied for and obtained a college scholarship from The New York Times, which then led to acceptance and a full ride at her dream school, Harvard. Then the media learned about this, and that led to appearances on 20/20, Oprah, and finally a movie on Lifetime.
Don’t Keep Success to Yourself. Pay it Forward!
In her words,
“It felt like, Yeah, I have something I need to share with people. A gift, a calling, something. It’s my belief that your gift doesn’t belong to you. It’s something you’re supposed to share. “
She left college to spread the message of the changes she had made in her life.
Staying on Top of Success: An After Word
Liz Murray taught me a couple of lessons about achieving goals:
Don’t Get Too Comfortable!
Liz shared that once she had an apartment, food, and a place to sleep, it was harder to motivate herself.
I was watching a great video in which Danica Patrick, a top race car driver, talked about the fact that she is always pushing up against fear on the race track. She has to push through walls of fear, driving so fast that she could crash, because that’s how you win!
Are you too comfortable to make changes that will push you to the next level of excellence in your life?
Embrace Uncertainty and Quell Doubt
In times of uncertainty, like what’s going on in our economy now, it’s easy to fear loss of job, house, status, and to believe that if that is lost, we lose ourselves.
Listen to these words from Liz Murray:
“But I know you can lose a lot of things and still have yourself. You’re breathing, standing and still have a pulse. A certain courage comes with that. When I lost attachment to everything, I said, I have a blank slate. Life can be anything I want it to be. “
In terms of dealing with doubt and failure, I especially liked what Ms. Murray had to say on this topic: “…if I’m unhappy with something I’ve done, I know that my mistakes aren’t my identity. ”
If you have lost your steam, or if you are feeling a bit down because of your present circumstances, absorb Liz Murray’s life lessons.
Here’s to achieving your goals!
photo credit: Will Hart