28- Never lose sight of your goals

Never lose sight of your goals

A lesson from Buzz Aldrin

Goals in sight

Did you know that the first time Buzz Aldrin applied to be an astronaut he was rejected? His application boasted such achievements as a B.S. in Military Engineering from Westpoint, a Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a distinguished career as a fighter pilot during the Korean Conflict. With these great achievements, he was not accepted into the program because he hadn’t been a test pilot. However, he was determined and applied to the program a second time. He knew he had a lot to offer to the program and that he would not be content until he met his goal. Because he did not lose sight of his goal, he was accepted into the third group of astronauts in history.

Buzz played a role in developing many space innovations such as orbital rendezvous and underwater training. Would NASA have executed a mission that landed on the moon without him? Perhaps. Would they have done it as quickly without Buzz on the team? Doubtful. Buzz’s resilience benefited not only himself, but also the rest of the world. Presumably, with his brilliance and training he would have been successful in many other careers. However, his goal was to be an astronaut and he didn’t give up the first time someone said “no.”

We can all learn from Buzz’s resolve. When you are moving toward your goal and are faced with rejection you need to have thick skin and resilience. Instead of giving up on your goal, take a step back and assess the situation. In Buzz’s case, he was rejected the first time because he wasn’t a test pilot. Earlier in his career, when given a choice, he chose to be out in the action as a fighter pilot instead. He couldn’t have known then that this would affect his NASA application. Take a lesson from Buzz, harness these types of experiences to be successful and not mediocre.

The first career rejection I remember was when I visited my hometown during Christmas break. At a family dinner a friend asked what I was going to major in. I told her Civil Engineering. She rudely laughed at the table and told me in front of my family that I would “never make it through the program.” Her words stung, but also helped build my fortitude to reach my goal of graduating with a B.S. in Civil Engineering. Throughout the next three and a half years there were times when I thought the classwork was too much or too difficult. However, each time I thought of giving up, I heard her laughter in the back of my head and resolved to get through to the next step without losing sight of my goal. You will certainly experience similar rejection throughout your career. When it happens, turn the table on the rejection and use it for positive motivation.

Occasionally, motivation is not enough and you stray from the path toward you goal. Even if you are an expert at the task you are working on, if the conditions around you change, you need to assess the situation and make your own appropriate changes to the process. It is easy to make excuses for why you are not reaching your goal. Consider Felicity, a law school who is tasked with writing a term paper. Just like in high school, Felicity spends several days methodically doing research, writing outlines, and composing her thoughts on her computer. She turns the paper in and expects an “A” to adorn the top of her paper when it is graded. However, when she checks her email, the paper comes back with a disappointing “D” on the top. This poor grade causes Felicity to fail the class. The first thing Felicity does is complain that her roommate distracted her with loud music while she was working on the paper. Indeed, her roommate was distracting, but Felicity didn’t consider that she could have asked her roommate to turn the music down or gone to a library to compose the paper because she was used to writing papers by following a certain process. Like Felicity, most people have a difficult time understanding that circumstances are rarely optimal for achieving their goals. There will always be distractions and obstacles. To succeed, you must learn to adapt and find a way to overcome the adversities that will undoubtedly surround you without losing sight of your goal. Felicity realized this, took the class a second time, and went on to become an attorney.

It is likely that you will have several setbacks while trying to achieve your goal. For example, not getting the job or grade you wanted. While it is important to learn from your setbacks, it is equally important to focus on the bigger picture. Personally, I find that the closer I am to achieving my goal, the more obstacles appear. For example, my husband and I have a goal to pay off a home equity loan. The same month we were scheduled to pay off the loan, a pipe burst in the bathroom, which cost a lot to repair. A few days later, we had a medical issue in the family that set us back several thousand dollars. These two setbacks had a dramatic impact on our budget. However, instead of giving up our goal of paying off the loan, we revised (and tightened) our budget to pay off the loan as quickly as we could while still taking care of the immediate needs.

At some point in your life you will experience setbacks while trying to achieve a goal. When you experience a setback resolve not let it control your future choices. Remember, the big picture is the most important part, not the small steps you take to get there. Stay focused on your goal and you will succeed.

To keep your goal in sight: use rejection to motivate you, adapt when your circumstances are not ideal, and focus of the big picture instead of getting tripped by setbacks.

What is your advice for overcoming setbacks?


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