PEOPLE AT WORK COLUMN: When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Stay Focused!

THE BRIDGE to dreams and reality is made up of hard work. The CEO of a top multinational IT company says it succinctly, “The problem is in the execution, which can be equated with hard work.” And hard work is something many people are not prepared to do. Thus, they don’t get to see their dreams become reality.

I know, because I am on that bridge struggling to keep my balance as I work towards my dream of bringing world-class learning to people at work through mass media. Sometimes, the hard work gets to me as it fills my days—and nights—with so many tasks to be done as soon as possible.

If you are determined to realize your personal vision, you must be prepared to do hard work. This means doing all those numerous tasks that need to be done, clambering over obstacles in the way of getting things done, and staying focused on accomplishing your vision. Sounds unexciting? You bet. How then can you make hard work exciting? Here a few tips culled from my three years experience since I gave up my corporate cocoon:

  • Give yourself “candy” for each task completed. When you make your to-do list for the day, week or month, place opposite the task what “candy” you’d like to reward yourself with when you finish that task. The “candy” may be something as simple as a bar of chocolates or something more glamorous like taking a holiday. The more you dislike doing the task, the sweeter the “candy” should be. This is somewhat like programming yourself to associate hard work with the sweet pleasures of life. If you do this long enough, you’ll eventually savor doing the hard tasks, even without the “candy.”
  • Don’t pack in your day with too many things to do. Leave enough spaces between your schedules for you to breathe. It is twice as stressful if your day is so tight that you can’t even exchange pleasantries with a friend or a loved one or just spend quiet time with yourself during the day. Most importantly, at the end of the day, don’t schedule anything but keep it free for whatever spontaneous activity that makes you happy. You need to rest and recharge if you want to find the energy to handle the next day.
  • Keep away from negative people. Hard work is hard enough without negative people constantly saying you can’t do it. They may be envious colleagues who think you are having it easy or outsiders who want to cash in on your achievements.  If they call, email or text you, simply ignore them!
  • When you encounter obstacles in accomplishing your task, be creative in how you can get around, over and under the obstacle. Or, like the characters in the popular television show, Charmed , vanquish them. In pursuing your personal vision, ruthlessness is essential. Any wavering on your part will just be fodder for the many people who get satisfaction in seeing a fellow human being fail.
  • Be narrow-minded. This must be strange advice from an HR person, but what you need now is focus. Why do you think horses need blinders when they pull a carriage? So they don’t get distracted from the path by strange people and noises. If you want to convert your vision to reality, you must be focused solely on that goal.
  • Listen to yourself. There are many people close to you who may have your best interests at heart. But they may be the same people throwing in the pebbles that make you stop as you walk towards your dream. If it feels right in your gut, go ahead and do it. Your personal vision is your own; you do not need to be democratic (get consensus or consult many people) in the process of achieving it. And even if you do choose to get their inputs, remember that only you can make the final decision. They may criticize you, throw worst-case scenarios, and fill your head with all sorts of reasons why you should give up. Don’t let it eat at you or your resolve.

Remember, turning your dreams into reality is risky business. The chasm between dreams and reality is deep and to ensure you don’t fall into it, build a strong bridge of hard work. Stay focused on your dream don’t give up and go the easy way. Remember that everything you do today will help create the life you really want.

Author: Regina Galang Reyes. Published in Metro Working Mom June 2003

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Founding Editor, People at Work, Business, Phiippine Daily Inquirer

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