NorthBySouth

7 Reasons Not to Give Up on Your Dreams

Giving up. Quitting. Throwing in the towel. A tough option to consider, unless you've decided to stop smoking which is a good thing. It's probably fair to say that none of you like the idea of giving up on your dreams and ambitions, no matter what the reason.

But from time to time we find ourselves gripped by irrational fears and a deep sense of helplessness. Regardless of how hard you try, the fruit of your dreams - that chalice, or Holy Grail - seems just out of reach. At this point you start to question the value of all your hard work and you see only hardship and failure.

Something grates at the back of your mind. At first the sound is tiny, lost in the din of everyday life. Decibel by decibel it grows and it has a message for you. You recognise it as your alter ego - Doubt!

It doesn't take long for doubt to become a constant companion. The rhythm and soothing tones have weight and value. Your dreams are nothing more vapour filled images. You discard your plans. And why not? After all, there's someone else more capable who can get the job done - you might as well leave it to them.

I was there, right on the threshold of pulling the plug to my journey to the South Pole. And I'm not a man who gives up easily, ever.

A short conversation changed my mindset, brought me to back to why I'm doing this and who I am. After a lengthy and sometimes heated phone call I came away with renewed vigour. (Vince, have you ever thought about a career move into motivational speaking? You are a true friend).

Once Vince's attitude readjustment message gelled in my mind I took some time to think about 7 good reasons for not giving up on your plans. Let's go!

If We Give Up Nobody Else Will Make Our Dreams Come True

 

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Yes, someone else might pick up the baton and make part of your dream come true, but they won't achieve every aspect of what you set out to do. When we dream big we're creating a story we want to see through to the end. That tale is personal to us and only we know the subtle variations and interconnected stories that make it different from any other.

Each and every one of us has desires. On paper they might look similar; the how and, more important, the why very rarely is.

We make dreams for a reason. And once you've crafted that image you'd better be prepared to make it come true because nobody else will do it for you.

 

Quitting Becomes An Accepted Route

Every path we choose is littered with debris. The route we take is sometimes winding and takes us a long way out of our comfort zone. That's fine because if we don't experience trials and hardship we will never learn new and innovative ways to achieve our aims.

And in the same way we learn from adversity we also learn from giving up. The constant use of the phrase 'I can't' creates what some describe as a hardwired neural path. I'm not a fan of this description - to me it's a habit and one that can easily take control of your life.

When we constantly give up on our dreams we are creating a default position. We forget to stop and think, to plan our path. It doesn't take long before we give in to the voice we created.

Because Believing in Unicorns is Fun

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Do you believe in unicorns, or do you fall into the camp that says they're just a myth created to entertain children and adult alike? If you're in the latter camp my daughters might disagree with you. And so do I.

Some of my former colleagues might now be questioning my sanity - bear with me for a minute.

Unicorns are very real and for one simple reason: they were created by storytellers whose aim was to deliver a message. The unicorn is a merging of a couple of very real animals - possibly the oryx and a horse, or in some cases the Ghudkhur (an Indian ass).

And our dreams are the same - a union of different stories we make real.

Keep believing in unicorns - they exist!

Giving Up Can Destroy Our Self-Image

Who are you and why are you here? We've all asked ourselves that question at one time or another and most of us have an idea. Some of you probably have your life mapped. A friend of mine, a guy now in his fifties, created a rough plan back when he was in his late teens.

He saw himself joining the Parachute Regiment, moving on to the SAS and finally on to a new life outside of the Armed Forces. And he achieved nigh on everything he set out to do. His self-image is intact.

But when we quit too soon, or too easily, the view we have of ourselves becomes threadbare and transparent. The rich tapestry that is the tale of our lives unravels and soon there is nothing but pile of faded material that was once our dreams.

Because to Keep Going Won't Physically Hurt

We might fail to achieve our aims. It's also possible we could stumble at the very first hurdle. And there is no shame in that. We might feel frustrated or even angry, but at least we gave it a shot.

Look at the world around you - how does it look from where you are? You're reading this post which means you probably have a dream, or a plan, to make some lasting change. To me that means the world seen through your eyes doesn't look complete. And that is why you've started on a journey.

To keep going might see you lose 'friends', money or even your home, but it won't hurt. You'll probably feel the sting of failure and it's something to learn from. The raw weals caused by quitting will hurt you

deep in your soul.

Our Stories Will Never be Told if We Quit

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We started on our journeys because we had something to say. The message might be an internal dialogue or a grand message to an audience keen to feel the rollercoaster through the words and images we craft. Pushing on the escape bar when there's no emergency in sight will rob us and our followers of a rip-roaring yarn.

I've been giving public talks for some time now (to both schools and businesses) and trust me when I say there are many people who want to hear about your journey, especially how you overcame seemingly insurmountable odds (like quitting...)

The moment you quit YOUR story dies.

Being Stubborn is a Good Thing

You know what you and want and you've chosen your path. Nobody is going to side-track you because you're decisive and this in turn drives your perseverance to new heights. Yes, when used in a sensible way stubborn can be an excellent tool for getting the job done.

When we make plans we need to know why we're doing it and where the journey is going to take us. We also need to be willing to make hard decisions along the road, when to glide around obstacles and roll with the bumps and hits we're going to experience.

When we practise being stubborn with our self-made plans we make ourselves accountable. And that's no bad thing.

If I'm Not Going to Quit, What Now?

Back to the plan. I have my good friend Vince to thank for nudging me back on track. Once his words had settled I realised that giving up on this current stage of my plan would have a massive and detrimental effect on the next steps I've envisioned.

Throwing myself in a corner and letting melancholy take over is not me. It's not you either

How to Deal with Frustration

Every now and then we run into that little thing called frustration. The thing about frustration is it can be minor or huge.

About six months ago I thought I was in a position to start wrapping up the last stages of the corporate sponsorship. On paper I had two companies who between them were prepared to sponsor me more than the full cost of the trip to the South Pole.

About five months ago one of them dropped out. A month later the second company pulled the plug on their involvement.

Some of you might think I was angry - I wasn't. There are two things to consider here; the first is that this is a lesson. And the lesson is this: never stop searching for sponsors until you have exactly what it is you need. The second is that, well, the stuff just happens. One of the companies saw a massive drop in profits and decided lay off a large number of the staff. Others within the business were made the reapply for their  jobs. The second company simply decided it could not commit to their original pledge. That's life, these things happens.

Seeing both companies drop out of the running did leave me frustrated. You see, I am now right back at square one. I have a few sponsors in place and I'm talking to more, but I had thought that by now I've been a position to focus purely on raising funds and awareness of supported charities.

What Have I Learned About These Frustrations?

First, never put your eggs all in one, or two, baskets. At the time things were falling apart, a friend of mine asked me an irritating question which went along the lines of, "Mate, why did you stop looking for sponsors?"  To me the answer was obvious - two had already come forward and pledged the full amount. I didn't need anybody else.

As it turns out that my friend was right and even having secured corporate sponsors I should have continued to look for others. Maybe I could have persuaded them to fund either of the two charities.

Lesson One: Never Stop Shipping

Ship the story! Always!

Promises are one one thing, money on the table is a completely different matter. I'd taken both companies at their word. The money was pledged and all I have to do is wait for them to send the cheques to  pay for the trip to the South Pole.

I never expected either company to back out, but that is what happened and I had nothing in reserve. 

Keep looking for anyone who might be interested in investing in the journey and tell them the story (and the voyages you make are investments, for both you and your sponsors)

At the end of the day you need to have a plan for every possible eventuality, even if it goes something like, 'Panic and set fire to own hair'.

Lesson Two. Keep Pushing Until the Money is in the bank.

No money, do not pass go!

This goes hand in hand with the first lesson. Until you see cold, hard cash in your account then you need to keep pushing. Even having secured the verbal agreement of twenty sponsors, you still need to coax them into opening their purses.

Only when you have money in the bank should you relax.

A good guideline for securing funding is to engage as many people in the company as possible. Make it personal and get everyone involved.

Lesson Three. Planning this Kind of Event isn't a One Man Job

During the build up to this trip I have been training 5 to 6 days a week, looking for corporate sponsors, getting news out about the charities and what they do, working my day job and running the social media campaigns. Okay, the latter was sporadic at times, but I've now stepped up a gear and you'll see many more posts.

And I managed to burn out!

Learn from my mistakes and get help. Ask friends, family and even local businesses to help you push out news of your trip. Maybe some of them will help by taking on some of your workload.

There is one major frustration I do have one that is around companies approaching me with a view to striking up a partnership (sounds good, right? Bear with me...) A number of organisations have come forward and stated they would like to have their logos splashed all over my equipment (and naked body - more on that another time). For a time talks progress well and we share thoughts on how we can spread the news further and wider. The problem comes when we stop talking cash - a couple of businesses were surprised they would have to pay for and advertising slot. One suggested that having their log on my gear would be beneficial to me due to their huge customer base. I declined their kind offer!

Let me wrap up this post by venting my frustration: Yes, if you want your logo, or company name, on either my gear, or body, you'll have to pony up some cash.

I have now returned to a state of calm.

See you tomorrow.

How to Reach the South Pole - Step 1

About 20 months ago I was invited to a small music session being run for disable people. The idea in the words of Soundabout, the charity running these events, is that, "...people with learning disabilities should have a musical life that is interactive, that enhances their lives and learning". But what does this mean? On this particular day, I was granted access to a session being run for young children. Some of those boys and girls are severely disabled.

I'm not a cruel person, but I did wonder what value music could bring to the lives of these, a number of whom needed almost constant care and were unable to perform even the basics functions many of us take for granted. Scepticism is a useful addition to our mental bag of tools. On that day the sceptic in me was pummelled into submission (and not by the staff of Soundabout, who are a delightful group of professionals).

Today is not the right time for telling you the story of my first visit to Soundabout. The meeting did have a dramatic impact on how I view the world and I like to think I came away a better person.

Fast forward a few months and I was preparing to fly out to Norway in preparation for my Last Two Degrees ski to the North Pole. Charities had already been chosen for this journey, but my mind kept searching for ways to raise funds for Soundabout. And then it hit me: number two on my ten year plan is to ski solo to the South Pole. What better way to raise awareness and funds for those amazing people; the staff and the children and adults who take part in the music sessions.

It was at that point I realised I'd found a reason. It really was that simple.

Step one in my journey to the South Pole has been ticked off - I have a reason.

A short intro, back tomorrow.

No Matter What, Keep Smiling

As many of you will know, I have just returned from two weeks in Norway. The plan had been to ski from Finse, on the edge of the Hardangervidda, down to Hellevassbu and then back (distance of about 500 km).

Sadly, my skis were not loaded onto the plane at London, a delay that cost me two days. Worse, the region was hit by a number of storms which reduced visibility to almost zero and made travel dangerous. Coupled with thick mountain mists and very deep, soft snow I was forced to adjust the overall distance planned. In the end I managed to cover about 250 km in eight days and a half days.

To be honest, I am fairly happy with the mileage I got out of this small expedition. The conditions made the journey more draining than last year's trip to the North Pole (I mean that). Pulling a 70kg pulk through snow drifts, some knee deep, was hard work. Each night I slept sound in my sleeping bag (except the night i forget to zip up the fly sheet - a mistake I discovered in the morning).

And there's another reason for the big smile on my face - I found away to keep the loneliness and doubts at bay.

This is no big secret, but before I go on I'll explain a little about positive thinking (a practise I don't believe in).

For many years, gurus and scientists have produced books and seminars showing how you can propel yourself to success using only the power of positive thoughts. You know what I mean - visualise yourself achieving your goals, picture your perfect future, and it will all come to be. Once you've planted the seed in your mind those clever neurons will find a way to make it happen.

There's only one problem - it doesn't work!

And why not?

Because of this...

Our Lazy Brains

Really, I mean - my brain is lazy and so is yours. That lump of grey matter in your head will do all it can to find a way to make life a little easier.

Here's how it works:

Scientists have found that visualisation can be an effective means to motivating us to complete the challenges we take on. Imagining a desired outcome should motivate our brains to achieve. Sadly the human brain doesn't really recognise the difference between imaging and doing. By simply picturing your wishes you make you mind think you have already completed what you set out to do. In other words, there is no longer any motivation for you to continue striving for what you want.

But more recently traditional thinking has been turned on its head. You see, the visualisation process works, but instead of simply imagining myself achieving a result you have to picture yourself going through the process - imagine the potential problems you could encounter and then mentally rehearse overcoming them. And it does work.

There is one little issue - the problem of the here and now. Often we'll find ourselves bogged down in some difficult or arduous situation and it becomes all to easy to give in; our willpower flags and before you know it we have surrendered. And that's something none of want to do.

So what is the trick?

A simple smile. Really! Putting a huge smile on your face and, instead of telling yourself, 'I can do this', you say, 'I am doing this.'

This little mind hack works. There were a number of times during my Norway ski where I found myself exhausted. I was sometimes knee deep in soft snow as I dragged a 70kg pulk over the mountainous terrain of the Hardangervidda. This alone was enough to drag me down into what felt like an inescapable pit. It was during these lows that I recalled Richard Wiseman's advice in '59 Seconds' - smile and you'll instantly feel your spirit lift.

The advice Wiseman gives is counter to the old adage of think good thoughts and instead focusses on acting to promote good vibes. Research by Wiseman and his peers has shown that by forcing yourself to smile you trick your mind into believing you are happy. Sounds crazy, but it worked for me as it did for  many of the subjects of his experiments.

Obviously feeling good doesn't remove the feelings of fatigue. What it does do is squeeze out any doubts you may have in your mind - there's simply no time or room for negative thoughts.

And this is one very powerful method I used when times looked bleak or when my blisters started to complain.

Crazy as it may seem, lifting up your head and letting a huge grin spread across your face could mean the difference between success and failure.

Try it.