Change is hard – isn’t it?
Posted February 11, 2010on:
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat. —Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland BY LEWIS CARROLL
A few ideas by Keith Ferrazzi from his book: Never Eat Alone! (http://www.keithferrazzi.com/)
In the study, researchers asked Yale’s class of 1953 a number of questions. Three had to do with goals:
Have you set goals? Have you written them down? Do you have a plan to accomplish them?
It turned out that only 3 percent of the Yale class had written down their goals, with a plan of action to achieve them.
Thirteen percent had goals but had not written them down.
Fully 84 percent had no specific goals at all, other than to “enjoy themselves.”
In 1973, when the same class was resurveyed, the differences between the goal setters and everyone else were stunning. The 13 percent who had goals that were not in writing were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84 percent of students who had no goals at all. But most surprising of all, the 3 percent who had written their goals down were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97 percent of graduates combined!
Countless books have been written about goal setting over the last few decades. Yes, it really is that important. Over the years, I’ve refined my own goal-setting process into three steps. But the key is to make setting goals a habit. If you do that, goal setting becomes a part of your life. If you don’t, it withers and dies.
Step One: Find Your Passion
Step two: Put goals to paper
Step three: Create a personal board of advisors
Have you ever sat down and thought seriously about what you truly love? What you’re good at? What you want to accomplish in life? What are the obstacles that are stopping you? Most people don’t. They accept what they “should” be doing, rather than take the time to figure out what they want to be doing. We all have our own loves, insecurities, strengths, weaknesses, and unique capabilities. And we have to take those into account in figuring out where our talents and desires intersect. That intersection is what I call your “blue flame”—where passion and ability come together. When that blue flame is ignited within a person, it is a powerful force in getting you where you want to go.
At forty-four, Feigles decided she no longer wanted to be a hairdresser; she wanted to be an engineer. From the get-go, there were naysayers, people who insisted it couldn’t be done. Their negativity simply provided more fuel for her fire. “I lost a lot of friends during this whole thing,” Feigles says. “People become jealous when you decide to do what no one thought you would, or could. You just have to push through.”
Her story conveys a harsh dose of reality: Change is hard.
You might lose friends, encounter seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and face the most troubling hurdle of all— your own self-doubt.
Feigles had always planned to go to college. Raised by a single mother in small-town Milton, Pennsylvania, the opportunities were slim. She was married by seventeen and pregnant a year later. She worked full time as a hairstylist in her husband’s salon and raised her only son. Twenty years went by. With her second divorce, Feigles rethought her life. Growth, she reflected, came only from change. And change came only from new goals.
She was working part-time as a secretary at the chamber of commerce when she realized life had more to offer. “I just thought, ‘This is stupid. Why am I on the wrong end of this? Not everyone who has a Ph.D. in physics is Albert Einstein.'” While it’s true not every engineer is a genius, they all know algebra—something Feigles couldn’t claim. So she buckled down and learned the subject within a few months.
After a summer stint at community college, she decided to apply to a top-tier civil engineering school at Bucknell University. The associate dean, Trudy Cunningham, didn’t sugarcoat the situation. “When she arrived, I told her that life was about to get hard. She’s an adult with a life, an apartment, a car, and she was competing with kids who were living in dorms and having their meals cooked.” Luckily, Feigles had always been an avid connector all her life.
She was a member of a number of community organizations, serving on the boards of the YMCA, Milton Chamber of Commerce, and Parks and Recreation Committee. She also had stints serving as president of the Garden Club and the Milton Business Association. She had supportive friends and advisors all around. For the other students, the end of class meant keg parties and football games. For her, it meant a night working at the salon followed by grinding study sessions. Feigles doesn’t remember a day she didn’t think of quitting. She remembers getting back her first physics test. She failed.
“Another student thought it was the end of the world. I told her not to worry, I wasn’t about to commit suicide,” she recalls with the wry insight reserved for someone who’s been through it. She ended up with a C in the class.
Many sleepless nights and several Cs later, Feigles found herself among 137 other engineers in the graduating class of 1999. No one was more astonished than the graduate herself: “I just kept on thinking, ‘What have I done?’ And then repeating to myself, ‘I’ve done it, I’ve actually done it!'”
With her goals completed, her network has grown—and not only in terms of friends and new business contacts. Today, she’s newly married—to her former boss at the chamber of commerce— and busy with a budding career at the state’s Department of Transportation. Recently she became chairperson of the Planning Commission, where she used to take notes as a secretary.
Reaching your goals can be difficult. But if you have goals to begin with, a realizable plan to achieve them, and a cast of trusted friends to help you, you can do just about anything—even becoming an engineer after the age of forty.