Back when I could run I ran 5K races. I usually came in last, often as the race committee was taking down the tables and banners and everyone had gone home. But that's not why I ran. I ran to finish something hard. The carrot I was chasing was discipline. It didn't last long. I hurt my knee, got tired of the pain and stopped running. I looked for ways to develop discipline elsewhere. I learned that finishing running races wasn't really what I wanted. At my last race, curious about what drove other people to run, I asked a woman standing next to me why she ran.
"For the t-shirts," she said. She could have just bought the shirt, or gotten the shirt when she signed up, but she followed through and actually ran the race. What the t-shirts represented to her was that she was part of an elite tribe - people who run, endure pain, and race for FUN. Whether she wore her race shirts to the grocery, or to clean house in, that sense of "being special" stayed with her. She didn't particularly like running when it was hot, hard, and exhausting. But she did love the feeling she had afterward. She basked in the accomplishment and told me the glow she felt would easily carry her through until her next race.
I'm sure if I asked everyone who raced why they did it they'd have their own reasons. Some would cite health, improving their time, or being with other runners as their motivation. What I learned from my 2-to-3 years of training, running, and racing was that I was doing it for all the wrong reasons. I learned that if you're going to do something, do it, but do it for the right reasons. The right reasons means knowing what you really want out of something, not just what you think you want.
For instance, I dated a guy in college who told me he was obsessed with old cars. He bought and sold classic model cars restoring them, and driving his current until he attracted a woman who was attracted to the car. Then he would sell the car when they broke up and start the hunt for the car and a new woman all over again. Years later I figured out (although I wonder if he did), that he wasn't really obsessed with old cars. He wanted the kind of woman who was attracted to them. The cars were just a way to meet women who appreciated classic cars.
The advertising industry has capitalized on this. They don't just sell toothpaste. They sell the white smile that attracts men/women. They're selling sex, love, attraction, not teeth whiteners. A great marketer can take any product, and tie it to something bigger, better, and sexier in order to sell it. They don't sell us things. They sell us dreams. We don't buy clothes, shoes, jackets and expensive purses to have the items. We buy them because owning them makes us feel richer, more important and more desirable.
When you know what you want you can bypass the THING that you've been told will bring you your heart's desire. Eliminating the middleman means you can go directly after the thing you truly want. If you want, as I do, to write books that change people's perceptions about life, then I can bypass the usual shiny objects around the writing lifestyle and focus just on what I want - to write the kind of books I want.
One of the hardest things to do in life is say "no," to things that distract, derail, and divert our attention from our goals. That's because a lot of us don't really know what our goals are, or what we want. When your goal is crystal clear it's easy to say "no," because we ask ourselves the simple question, "Will this bring me closer to what I want?" If I'm tempted by a soda I ask, "Will buying/drinking this bring me closer to my goal of normal blood sugar?" the answer is pretty clear. It's a much better question than, "Do I really want this soda?" (the answer always being yes).
That's why I say, "Knowing what you want is half the battle..." Why do you write? Why do you work? Why do you travel, or binge watch movies, or eat what you eat? Becoming mindful, and taking a step back to see what you chase and why you chase it will free you up to get what you really want, not just what you think you want.
Try it. You might be surprised to find that the things you've been convinced you had to have, whether skills, or clothes, or experiences, or your career or lifestyle are just masquerading as what you want.
Consistency Matters More Than Talent
You don't have to be talented to succeed. You do need to be consistent.