It was the height of the Space Race. The Soviets had just launched the first man into space and the Americans were kicking themselves that they were coming second in a two-horse race. In response, on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy made his famous speech about man going to the moon.
“My fellow Americans. Unfortunately we won’t be going to the moon. I may have spoken in haste earlier. We would like to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, but we have to be realistic. So we will have to make do with doing the other things. Man has not gone to the moon yet for a very good reason – it can’t be done. Well, not at the moment anyhow. Let me explain some of the reasons why we decided to abort the project. First, it would cost a prohibitive $25 billion to fund the Apollo program. Second, we don’t have the technology to build a lunar module that could safely land on the moon. Third, the metal alloys needed to withstand the extraordinary high temperatures of atmospheric re-entry do not exist. Fourth, the integrated computer circuitry required for guiding the modules hasn’t been invented yet. And finally, to be brutally frank, trying to land a manned spacecraft on a moving target hurtling through space a quarter of a million miles away and then return it safely to earth is a bit like trying to fire an arrow blindfolded at a moving target positioned behind a tree. Not easy at the best of times. But nevertheless, rest assured that if it can be done, if someone works out how to do it, then we, yes we, will definitely be the first to put a man on the moon. I make this solemn pledge to my fellow Americans. Thank you and God Bless America.”
Of course, these were not the destiny shaking words that the President uttered that day. In the speech he delivered he committed the entire resources of the country to a specific goal by a specific deadline and he broadcast it to the entire world – the United States would land a man on the moon and safely return him to earth before the end of the 1960s. Talk about putting your reputation and integrity on the line. Supreme folly or an act of stunning audacity? Well, you and I both know what transpired.
On Monday, 21 July, 1969, schoolchildren across Australia were sent home early to witness an extraordinary life-changing event. At the stroke of 12:56pm on a cloudy day in the city of Melbourne, I along with my three elder sisters and mother all hunched around our black and white television set watched spellbound as Neil Armstrong planted his left foot tentatively on the powdery surface of the moon. And with that small step suddenly ANYTHING was possible. Anything. The world instantly became a limitless sea of opportunities. Man showed that when he is utterly and incontrovertibly 100% committed to a task the wheels of providence begin to turn and with each revolution the vibrations of destiny echo throughout the universe seeking out favourable circumstances turning dreams into reality.
We see these forces at work every day. When a baby bounces back to his feet after stumbling, when a child learning to ride a bike jumps back on after falling off, when a girl refuses to be content with a grade of B+ in maths and resolves to improve her grade, when a university graduate succeeds in gaining employment after repeated knockbacks, when every four years Olympians continue to break “unbreakable” records, when scientists make radical breakthroughs further contributing to the health and wellbeing of the community, and when ordinary mums and dads get out of bed every morning committed to taking care of their families. In all these cases people refused to say the words “I can’t”. Instead they told themselves “I can”, “I will” and “I am” – and they did. When you choose to say these words and you commit to them with your entire being certain things begin happening to help you realize your goal – circumstances become more favourable, important contacts are passed your way, you become more solution-oriented rather than problem-focused thus increasing your creativity, you notice more opportunities, and your self-confidence improves as you assume greater control of your future. There are a number of things you can do to avoid becoming a prisoner of “I can’t” self-talk.
Avoid using handbrake terms. Don’t use terms such as “I can’t”, “I don’t”, “I won’t”, “I shouldn’t”, “I mustn’t”, and “I ought to”. They are laden with expectations and are built upon assumptions about what you can and cannot do. What evidence exists for these assumptions? Just because you couldn’t do something in the past does not mean you cannot succeed the next time. Remember that successes are always built upon numerous trials. Rarely does anyone succeed with their first attempt.
Challenge your assumptions. Why can’t you? What evidence is there that you can’t achieve a goal? And if you can’t achieve the goal right now, why can’t you achieve the goal in the future (with more training, more funds, more contacts)?
Avoid using grey terms. Don’t use terms such as “probably”, “I’ll try”, “maybe”, and “I wish”. Such terms lack commitment and suggest that you are relying on luck and the lottery to achieve your goal. You are the captain of your ship. Take control. As Yoda said, “There is no try, just do or do not”.
Use positive present and future-oriented terms. Develop the habit of using terms such as “I can”, “I will”, and “I shall” which promote future thinking. Ideally, use the term “I am” as often as possible as it expresses commitment and anchors you in the present.
Back yourself. Consider your major accomplishments in your life. Were you initially doubtful about some of these achievements? Probably, but you persevered, worked at your weakness areas, and eventually realised your goal. If you could do this once you can, and will, do it again. You are your greatest resource. Also, make a list of all the things in your favour in regards to an upcoming goal (qualifications, discipline, creativity, supportive family and friends). Your shortcomings represent areas you simply need to work on, they are not reasons to back away from your goal.
Tell others of your intentions. One of your greatest resources when striving for goals and remaining future-focused is the support and encouragement of your family and friends. Involve them in your efforts and request their assistance. Telling them about your goal is also a wonderful way for you to publicly commit yourself to your goals and deadlines.
Recruit supporters. Surround yourself with people who believe in your endeavours. They will support you through the tough times when your commitment wavers and help keep you focused. Stay clear of doubters, particularly those who have never achieved your goal. Also, talk to people who have accomplished a similar goal and ask their advice.
Dr. Bruce Wells presents seminars at Stay Tuned Corporate Health on a variety of topics such as; stress management, maintaining motivation, work-life balance, and emotional resilience.
ContactStay Tuned Corporate Health for more information.