5 Steps to Challenge Success

This goes in the “easy in theory, hard in practice” bin. Just like constantly attempting to be IN it is a constant practice.

Daily, consistent work is not my strong suit.

Are you the same?

I’ve had need over the last few weeks to focus on achieving a goal. Thinking about what helps us to achieve, makes those tricks repeatable and breeds more success.

So to remind myself as much as anything, here are my 5 tips to pushing through and staying the course that I think are applicable to any agenda:

1. Start
2. Focus
3. Challenge
4. Flex
5. Share

Easy right?

Well if you’re like me, perhaps a little more depth and explanation is needed. So let’s take each part in turn.

Note: A physical challenge variation on those themes appears today over at my side-project Tredecem — the halfway point of my 6-pack abs challenge to raise funds for Pencils of Promise.


“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao Tzu

This should be the most straightforward, easiest, simplest, accomplishable step. “Just do it” right?

How often do we just not?

We know we should do the work. We ruminate on the work. We want to do the work. We plan the work.

We find crazy ways to delay and postpone just simply starting the work.

Starting often poses the biggest obstacle.

We procrastinate. “Oh but I work better under deadline.” Right? While that might be true, it doesn’t get the good work done.

What of projects with no deadline? Those big life projects we really want to achieve? Or ones that actually take consistent practice?

We have to start. Not do laundry, wash the dishes, rearrange our desks, check Twitter one last time, make a list, work on that one little quick thing… No.

Stop it.

What are you delaying?

Now start it.


Ok, we’ve — however begrudgingly — started. Kudos to us.

But now the reason we didn’t want to start (it is hard, mundane, boring, challenging, outside our comfort zone…) rears it’s ugly head and we want to quit.

1 – Don’t.

2 – Refocus.

I’m not just talking about truly focusing on the task at hand here though that of course is important. What I mean by “focus” is concentrating on the right part of what we are doing to insure that it is we continue doing it.

If we fixate on how much we don’t want to be doing the task at hand — be it making phone calls, entering data in a spreadsheet or holding a seemingly endless plank — the more it is going to suck. Finishing is going to be that much harder and likely we aren’t going to do a good job.

If we shift our focus to a positive horizon, breathe deep and relax into it, then the task becomes easier and we manage it much more effectively. If we embrace the suckage and then tuck it away, we are freed to focus on the good and right.

And more (seemingly) quickly will complete the assignment and move on.


This is another variation on the delay tactic that prevent us from starting. Don’t put your sweat into the small stuff.

If the task or achievement is too small, likely we won’t do it.

I know the reciprocal is true — that the big is daunting so we shy away from undertaking it — but that is the important work. It is supposed to be hard. The difficulty reminds us that it is important.

We must challenge ourselves big so we accomplish big.

This can take the form of setting ourselves to a daily practice (hello “I will work on Italian 20 minutes a day for the next month”) or giving ourselves some big life goal that requires consistent work to achieve. Once we are started and working — if the ideal big enough — it is that much easier to set ourselves to the work to continue.

Once we get going, we don’t want to break the string of successes. It isn’t worth it.

Seeing how far we have come, how much time and effort we have already put in towards the large or consistient, helps us stay the course to completion.


Every great plan needs some degree of flexibility and room to adapt… we just can’t get carried away and derailed.

It is important to take breaks when we need them and be kind to ourselves when we slip but we have to avoid allowing that to slippery slope into breaking faith entirely.

We are really, really, exceptionally good at talking ourselves into and out of doing what we ought. (see #1-3) So we must keep our deviations constrained. We have to be honest with ourselves and call ourselves on our own BS.

I find it is helpful to thus call the delays-slips-misses-self-convinced-breaks what they are: cheats.

We can and should allow ourselves to splurge. But we must keep it in mind that we are indeed splurging and we will refocus and rededicate back to the real work. For the rule is more important than the exception.


Social Pressure. Again, we are admiringly good at creating for ourselves the most flimsy of reasons for not doing what we know we ought to do. Peer pressure can work towards our advantage.

If we share our goals with others, with the reasons behind them, we self obligate into achieving them.

It also makes it easier when social pressures are working the other way and on the side of our splurgy gremlins.

How many times do we hear: “Oh just take a break for a night and come out.” or “You don’t want to miss this one opportunity right?” In those moments, if we have laid the groundwork previously, instead of trying to explain or — worse — giving in, is easy and quite effective to say:

“I wish I could but you know that goal I am working on that I told you about that is super important to me? I really got to do that.”

This is actually a win, win, win, win: We are more likely to start because we just said we are going to (Start). We have rededicated ourselves to the purpose, concentrating on the positive (Focus). We feel more obligated to do the work because we are giving up something to do it (Challenge). And we saw the splurge for way it was but — this time — chose to not take it (Flex).
"actions speak louder than blogs" #realitycheck #travel



Oh and through it all…

Always Be IN,



PS – Did I mention I am halfway through my abs challenge? Public Accountability right? I’m raising money for Pencils of Promise and you can help! If you are short on $, a click and a share are free and help me for my Social Media Class. Feel good of the day.





  1. That was thorough, Jo! I have seen many posts like this one, but this one lays it out in better detail and very logically. “Once we get going, we don’t want to break the string of successes. It isn’t worth it.” Yes, yes, Tom Hanks BIG, yes. When I began to see results it was simply impossible to quit. Ya can’t unlearn success or unlearn what will prevent it.

    • Thanks CJ! I love “You can’t unlearn success or unlearn what will prevent it.” I do find the reminder of what we know to be helpful though, especially when we might feel a little stuck. Hope you are enjoying a string of successes and they are building upon each other towards a big win!

      • It is not often I say something others are willing to repeat, so thanks!!! And I wish the same for you. Can’t wait to see what you next post!

Speak Your Mind