The destination is a marvelous sight to behold.
When we’ve set sight on a direction of growth and genuine excitement, it’s time to build, forging the path to our goal. Whether it’s trying out a new fitness regimen, changing careers, or embarking on a new relationship—building a new part of our life is when enthusiasm gradually gives way to muscle, mindset, patience and perseverance.
Moving from Explore to the Build phase is the beginning of a trek that can last from months to many years. This is where you hone intent, lay out a plan and execute the steps. It’s the practical, hardworking and laborious part of the journey. Build generally starts off with high energy and optimism with a dash of necessary foolishness. In new territory, we’re bound to be naïve in certain areas as we research, learn and figure things out as we go along.
For some of us, we get stuck at the beginning of the build.
We may fall in love with the idea without fully committing to the work it requires. It’s easy to be intimidated and overwhelmed by a big goal you’re unsure of how to accomplish. It may feel safer to gaze at a distance or endlessly plan and research. Whether it’s wishful dreaming or analysis paralysis, there’s no action. Dreaming and planning each have their role in the building process, but nothing will happen until you finally do the work.
Once we get started, it’s initially exciting.
The excitement and naïveté help us to get started. This tends to be an inspiring time, when we spend hours engrossed in learning, planning and creation. It’s hard work that barely feels like work because we’re so enthusiastic about what we’re doing. We’re focused, passionate and in flow. Hours pass by and we forget about eating or other commitments. We want to spend all our waking hours and energy working, our minds are constantly working and playing with ideas.
Relish in these high-energy moments and use the momentum to your advantage. By riding the waves of inspiration and enthusiasm, you can get a lot done without burning out. The early stage of Build is when the early foundational plans are made. The early drafts are likely to be found ineffectual later on, but every ounce of effort is a valuable learning experience. Through iterations, you’ll start developing a foundation that allows you to move forward in your goal.
At some point, the pace will naturally wane down.
The enthusiasm we had will lessen and the work becomes more ordinary instead of exciting and new. It will be important to remember this is a normal part of the process. The fervent speed of the early part of the journey isn’t sustainable for long.
Building is a marathon, not a sprint.
This is where the unglamorous and underestimated part of the building process comes in. It’s possible you’ll spend months or years working towards your goal without any recognition or praise for what you’re doing. It’s often a lonely trek, especially when family members, colleagues or friends don’t understand what you’re doing. As well meaning as they may be, it’s hard when critics and naysayers question your credibility or chance of success.
You may experience the many forms of the fear of failure—from the seeds of doubt to the crippling “what-the-hell-am-I-doing” moments that cause us to pause and consider turning back. During tough times, you wonder if you’re on the right path, or if anything will come out of what you’re working towards. You encounter imposter’s syndrome and doubt if you really have what it takes.
With so much to do and so many uncertainties, the Build phase is definitely more than a walk in the park. Here are four ways to better forge your path in the laborious and longest phase of REEBO.
1) Understand that most things take longer than we anticipate
The more worthwhile a goal is, the more time and work it will take. And just like in nature, progress is often slow and unnoticeable to the cursory eye.
A slow and steady pace will be your best strategy for the Build phase. You may start off sprinting, but at some point you’ll need to pause, take a water break and rest. Perhaps you’ll even need to walk for a length of time before you can jog again.
If you’re in too much of a hurry, you may miss opportunities or an easier route. Keeping a steady pace and taking breaks help in finding creative solutions to problems or discovering another perspective. Trying to push or force the pace also increases your burnout risk. Your health and relationships are more likely to suffer if you’re constantly trying to do more and more. At worse, you may lose passion for the project with all the pressure you’ve put on yourself or give up prematurely.
Real change and results take time. Even if it feels like little progress is being made, know that little steps add up over time.
2) Be aware of how fear shows up for you
There’s something about big, meaningful dreams that makes the fear of failure much more foreboding.
The fear of failure strikes in many different ways. When we allow the fear of failure to overcome us, we become paralyzed in our progress. The most common way of dealing with the fear of failure is procrastination. When it’s time to get to work in an important area, many of us conveniently find inspiration to do menial tasks or chores that we previously had no interest in doing—like cleaning the closet or doing laundry. Or we seek to distract ourselves or escape by playing video games, watching TV or filling up our social calendar. Another common behavior is to pursue perfection.
While it may feel safer to procrastinate, distract, escape, or perfect in the short term, it will feel increasingly stagnant in the long term. With little to no meaningful progress, you’ll feel more guilty and disappointed with yourself and over a long period of time, you’ll start to lose hope and confidence in yourself.
The antidote is progress—any small amount or tiny step will do.
For those high-level, difficult tasks, break them down to the tiniest step possible. Even if it’s working on something for five minutes, that still adds up. Some people fool themselves into thinking only big pushes of effort are worthwhile; these are the people who end up making zero progress while waiting for the wave of inspiration that never comes.
Just start working. If you end up working longer than five minutes, then that’s great. If you’re just able to do five minutes, that’s still progress made. Give yourself credit for taking a step forward and continue the progress tomorrow. Focus on getting the shitty first draft done first. As you tweak and revise, be aware that finished is always better than perfect.
We may also be incredibly self-conscious about what others may think about us. Everyone who makes a transitional change is a bit of an imposter at the beginning. We all need to start as a beginner with little to no experience. We need to believe we can do it before anyone else will believe it too. This is where having the mindset to dance with change comes in. You need to believe you can do it, even with difficulties and opposition from others.
It’s important to know yourself and how you react to the fear of failure. I find it helpful to write in a journal when I’m feeling weighed down by fears and concerns. The act of writing helps me get a better sense of what I’m really nervous about; it helps me process and learn to deal with the fear as I verbalize what’s really going on. By facing the fear through journaling, during meditation or through a motivating exercise, the fear loses its power over me. Avoiding or suppressing the fear through procrastination or the other roundabout ways will only increase its power over you.
3) Take care of yourself and enjoy the process
During the marathon of building, it’s key to practice self-care and enjoy the process lest you burn out.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of overworking yourself with so much to do. While it may feel difficult to balance all the work that needs to be done with time for yourself and the people around you, such a balance is crucial for your long-term success and well being. There’s a time for serious work, and then there’s a time to relax and enjoy life. The balance between diligent, focused work and the simple pleasures of life enables us to better enjoy the process.
During each day, take time for simple pleasures in between the hours of work. Relax with a book, take a walk, spend time with family and friends, or go do something fun. Likely you’ll find renewed energy for when you return to doing work!
Respect your energy levels and listen to it. There were periods of time during the building when I was extremely low energy. And it was little wonder. I was battling imposter’s syndrome while learning and going through new experiences. I was overwhelmed and exhausted.
Protect your energy levels during low energy periods by reserving time only for the most important things. Be protective of your finite amount of time and energy in a day. Learn to say no to others, projects or fire drills that are not a priority.
If the low energy period persists for a longer length of time, you may need to reassess the path you’re on. If you’re constantly feeling like you’re pulling against the flow, maybe the path isn’t right for you. While building can be hard work, it shouldn’t feel soul sucking or a constant uphill battle. Perhaps it’s back to the Explore phase for you on what might work better. Or maybe you need a different strategy. What works for one person may not work for another. We each need to find our own path and method.
4) Embrace failure and trust that you’ll find a way
Failure is part of the process you’ll face at some point during building.
Much of our life doesn’t pan out the way we expect. In the process of finding your own way and learning new skills while building up to your goal, there will be missteps and setbacks along the way.
Instead of viewing failure as a personal flaw, view it as simply part of the learning process. By staying open and persevering, eventually you’ll find a way. Trust that everything will work out somehow, someway as long as you keep working and learning.
What I often say to myself is, “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”
With all the unknowns and things that could go wrong, building can be an extremely difficult time. For the really tough times, it helps to have a solid support network of likeminded people who are working on similar projects. Building a community that reflects where you want to go will accelerate your progress. These people will understand what you’re going through when your old circles of family and friends may not. You can also learn from their mistakes. Getting connected to likeminded communities of people is easier than ever through finding local events, conferences, webinars, online communities or websites.
To build to your goal, you need to practice grit and perseverance. It’s just like any muscle. With practice, the uncertainties will become less of an emotional setback and simply part of the process of learning and building.
The Build phase of REEBO is often the lengthiest part of the cycle in making a meaningful change in your life. That’s why it’s important to work at a sustainable pace, understand your fears, and embrace failure while enjoying the process. As someone who’s still in the Build phase of where I want to go, I know all too well how hard it can be. Building can be tough, but anything worthwhile will take effort and time. It can take months or years to build to the favorite phase of many—Optimize—where the effort from Reassess, Erase, Explore and Build all come together in harmony. More on that in my upcoming article!