Some people look toward the future and feel a rush of inspiration and excitement. Others look forward and feel guilty, anxious, dissatisfied, or paralyzed by perfectionism: They never feel like they’ve done quite enough or achieved everything they should have. These feelings drive them to be hard on themselves – and on others around them.
Even the most successful people can be demanding and critical of themselves. Why is that? The answer lies in the way the human brain works, which makes us all susceptible to a kind of negative self-evaluation I call “The Gap.” It’s often especially evident among people who have big ambitions, like entrepreneurs. In this article, we’ll give you a handle on what The Gap is and show you how you can get out of The Gap once you recognize that you’re in it.
Ideals, goals, and the actual.
Lets start by examining some structures that exist in all of our minds. As humans, we have the ability to conceive of perfection–the ideal–in any situation. An ideal is like the horizon: Even though you move in its direction, it always seems to be just as far away. Just like the horizon, ideals are mental constructs. Rather than relating to them as attainable, the best way to treat the ideal is as an infinite source of inspiration for creating goals.
Goals, on the other hand, are more concrete and measurable. Goals require that you look at where you actually are now, then set measurable objectives for where you’d like to be in the future. When you get to that point, you can look back and identify exactly how much progress you’ve made.
Definition of The Gap.
The Gap is the permanent distance between the ideal and the actual. When you’re in The Gap, it’s because you’re measuring your progress against an ideal that is, by nature, unattainable, instead of looking back to where you started and comparing that to where you are now.
Achieving your goals gives you the opportunity to learn, to grow, and to celebrate. People fixated on ideals seldom find reasons to celebrate; they’re too busy making demands of themselves to stop and acknowledge the progress they’ve made. They may feel that the constant pursuit of ideals keeps them in motion, but what they’re missing out on is any enjoyment of their accomplishments and the opportunity to use these wins as a platform for increased confidence and capability.
Uses of ideals.
Ideals do serve a vital function. They can inspire us to create big goals, help us endure hard times, and lift us from our everyday perspective so we can glimpse the big picture. They’re indispensable – as long as we recognize them for what they are.
In working with your future as a tool, use the ideal as a beacon to show you the direction, but be sure to honestly acknowledge where you are now and translate your ideals into workable, attainable goals.
Your get-out-of-The-Gap-free card.
If you find yourself feeling stuck, unable to take action, you might be in The Gap. The way to free yourself is to shift your focus from perfection to the progress you’ve already achieved.
Here’s where your past is a valuable resource: Set aside some regular time for yourself, perhaps at the beginning of the week, and write down your 10 biggest achievements from the past week, along with what makes them significant to you.
You might be surprised at how much you’ve accomplished, and you’ll be able to see what you can do next to continue this progress. Now is always the time to enjoy your success!
[Ed. Note: Dan Sullivan is the president and co-founder of Strategic Coach®, a global organization that has helped tens of thousands of entrepreneurs grow their businesses exponentially while enjoying an exceptional quality of life. He is the author of more than 30 publications on the subject of entrepreneurship.]
The Right Way to Look to Your Future
Coming To Grips With “The Gap”
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A New American Dream
Dan West, a young student in northern Sweden had been blindly chasing his American Dream for over 4 years, always falling for the latest “get rich quick” ideas and always jumping between projects. But in the last six months, since following the advice in Early to Rise and on InternetIndependence.com he’s put an end to that bad habit. Instead, he now focuses on creating value for others, and this is starting to pay off with his international website business. “I recently launched my first product ever and have made 16 sales so far, and I expect the sales to increase exponentially in the coming months,” Dan explained. “I graduate from college this coming spring, and my goal and expectations with my international web business is to generate enough income to enable me to say ‘No thanks’ to the corporate world so that I can continue to build my business and financial independence full time after college.” Dan follows the Early to Rise lifestyle, getting up each morning and taking action and knows that only this approach will bring him what he wants in