The great philosopher Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” And Andrew Carnegie said, “If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.”
What goals have you made for this year?
Maybe you’ve decided that you want to become more physically fit and lose weight. Or perhaps, you want to start pursuing your passion and become an entrepreneur. Maybe you want to face your fear of heights and go skydiving!
Think about that goal for a second. How are you going to get there? What steps are you going to take to achieve what you’ve set out to do? Maybe you’re not really sure where to begin — you just know where you want to end up.
The secret to achieving your goals is changing your habits — the little things you do every day. For example, if you want to lose weight and get in shape, you could begin your day with a walk instead of scrolling through your phone. This may seem like a small change, but if you stick to it, you’ll see changes both physically and mentally.
Today, I’m thrilled to have Rich Roll back on The School of Greatness because he is the perfect person to explain what it takes to achieve our goals and sustain transformation. We will also discuss how to break free from perfectionism, create a new identity that aligns with your values, and gain confidence. Let’s get started!
At age 40, after years of struggling with drugs, alcohol, and unhealthy living, Rich committed to only eating plants and using his body for purposeful action. Today, he is a vegan, ultra-endurance athlete, full-time wellness & plant-based nutrition advocate, husband, father of four, and inspiration of courageous and healthy living to people worldwide.
Rich battled alcohol addiction from the age of 17 to 31. When he finally went to a treatment center, he spent 100 days there, instead of the typical 28 days. But it changed his life, and he never returned to his previous bad habits. When he got out of the treatment center, he pursued a career most people would consider ideal and made a great living. The problem was, it wasn’t the life he wanted, and it physically took a toll on him.
After having a brush with death in his late 30s, Rich pivoted his life to be in alignment with his values. That’s what set him on the path to becoming a successful athlete, motivational speaker, podcast host, and all-around incredible human being — exactly what he’s doing today.
I think you’re going to be blown away by Rich’s simple yet effective approach to life. While he’s accomplished a lot, he’s truly down-to-earth, easy to talk to, and incredibly understanding. If you want to make 2021 the year you don’t give up, then this is the message you’ve been looking for!
I truly believe that people who are living a good life have the biggest struggle changing because things are already going well. When life is good, everything is okay, and things feel comfortable, so putting in the effort to get to the next level is uncomfortable. But living comfortably isn’t how we achieve a life of greatness. We achieve greatness by continually improving ourselves. And, as Rich said, improving ourselves takes work.
“The truth is, a lot of people don’t appreciate the fact that doing anything exceptional requires a lot of work. … And so there’s a level of conviction and commitment to self that’s required that I think you develop over time. … But if you don’t appreciate that doing something hard is going to test you and is going to compel you to get out of your comfort zone, then you’re going to struggle [getting to an exceptional life].” – Rich Roll
In other words, if you’re not prepared for the road to greatness to include some struggle, you’re probably not going to stick to your goals. Another reason most people don’t stick to their goals is that they set the wrong goal. The right goal for you doesn’t need just to meet the S.M.A.R.T. — specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound — criteria. A good goal also needs to mean something to you — it needs to be linked to where you want to go in life and the kind of person you want to be.
Rich said he helps people identify the quality and staying-power of their goals with these questions:
“If somebody comes to me and says, ‘I want to do an Ironman, or run a marathon’ … my first question is, ‘Why? What is it that you’re trying to learn? How is that process going to lead to your growth?’ If they can answer that question and there’s clarity around why [it’s] important to them, … then that’s great. But if they’re like, ‘It sounds cool.’ … That [goal is not] going to have staying power.” – Rich Roll
In other words, if it’s inconvenient or you want to sleep extra long, you’re not going to take action on a goal with little to no staying-power. However, when you choose a goal that aligns with your values, you have more motivation to keep working toward your goals even when you want to sleep in or it’s inconvenient. A good goal has staying-power!
And the bonus to all this is increased self-confidence and the feeling of being fulfilled. According to Rich, people feel most fulfilled when they have accomplished a hard thing, stepped out of their comfort zone, and stayed with their goals until they achieved them.
“Anybody who has done hard things in their life knows that you feel most alive when you have the courage to step outside of your comfort zone, test yourself, and put yourself in an uncomfortable situation where you’re going to have to rise to the occasion. Those heightened moments are when you feel most fulfilled, most purposeful, and most connected to yourself.” – Rich Roll
I believe you can have all the outer fulfillment in the world, but you’re selling yourself a false version of satisfaction until you create inner fulfillment. And, like Rich said, inner fulfillment usually comes through routinely overcoming a challenge and saying, “Okay, I’m building confidence by doing something hard.” In my personal experience and observation of others, the more consistently we choose to overcome challenges, the happier we are.
Before you move to the next section of this post, take a minute to review the goals you set for 2021 and ask yourself, “Why did I set this goal? Where is it getting me?” Make sure your goal aligns with your values, and if it doesn’t, set a goal that does.
You were created for a life of greatness, but that doesn’t mean it will be handed to you. You’re going to have to go get it — one step out of your comfort zone at a time!
It’s one thing to achieve a goal and a completely different thing to sustain that change for years after the achievement. Transforming from an alcoholic to a vegan athlete is a change that Rich has sustained for 14 years. That means he’s gone through some rough times since reaching his initial goal without slipping back into his bad habits.
Rich said his secret to achieving and sustaining his goal is being able to see it as two separate parts. The first part is the big inspiring goal, and the second is the daily next-right-thing action.
“I think the key [to sustaining change] is that … big goals that scare you and hold this lofty aspiration for a better version of who you are, [act] like North stars to help guide your direction. But once you set those … it’s really just about what’s happening at the moment.” – Rich Roll
He illustrated this point by talking about his commitment to be sober. When you choose to be sober — never drink alcohol again — and then you think about the bachelor party and trip to Vegas you have in the next six months, you’re going to want to give up. All you’re thinking is, “How am I going to get through those things without drinking?” That’s overwhelming, and ultimately it leads to abandoning your goal.
Instead of thinking about your goal changing the rest of your life, Rich said you need to break it down.
“You have to break [your goal] down into bite-sized chunks and say, ‘I know I’m going to that bachelor party in six months, but today I just have to not drink. That’s all I have to worry about.’ … It [comes down to], ‘What are you doing right now? What’s the next choice that you’re making?’ When you break it down into its smallest components, it becomes digestible.” – Rich Roll
This process works for any goal, like running a marathon, starting a podcast, or working through childhood wounds. It works because instead of trying to accomplish the transformation or breakthrough, you’re focused on taking each step to get there. Rich said this creates emotional space between where you are and what hasn’t happened yet.
“[Breaking your goals down is] about putting distance between yourself and whatever that imagined future might be because it hasn’t happened yet. … It’s just about one day at a time. … That’s all [you have] to worry about. … When you begin to master these small tasks and you’re just eating away very, very gradually at these goals, over time, they become less intimidating and much more doable.” – Rich Roll
As the goals become less intimidating, you start to associate who you are with that goal. In other words, you create a new identity for yourself that aligns with your values. When you take action from the place of your new identity, you begin to sustain your transformation because the transformation has become part of who you are. Here’s how Rich explained it:
“As you master these tasks, they become rote — they don’t expend a lot of mental energy. [And] you’re like, ‘Oh, this is just what I do.’ So your actions start to align with a value system. When your actions align with your values, it’s less about achieving a goal and more about just acclimating your lifestyle around these various actions and principles. … And the goal is achieved — not because you’re working hard towards it but because it just becomes the person that you are.” – Rich Roll
In other words, the outcome doesn’t matter as much anymore. You still have your goal, but because you’re behaving like the new version of yourself, all the little wins are exciting to you, and you love your life. And here’s where the greatness shows up: When you love your life, you are happier, more appreciative, and start attracting more good things your way!
In an online training that I did a month ago, I asked the participants, “How many of you have had a goal or a dream for the last year and haven’t taken action on it?” A lot of people raised their hand — virtually, of course. Then I asked, “How many of you have had that same dream for five years?” Most people kept their hands up, and they held their hands up when I asked if they had had the dream for ten years or more.
After helping people own their story and achieve greatness for over a decade, what I have seen keep most people from putting their work into the world is the fear of judgment, failure, and opinions of other people. In other words, people are paralyzed by perfectionism. Rich said perfectionism stops many people because instead of showing up as their true self, they’re trying to control how other people perceive them.
“[Perfectionism is] a control mechanism, and I think it’s also about external validation. Like, ‘This has to be perfect, or I won’t be loved,’ or ‘If this isn’t perfect, then people are gonna think differently of me than I want them to think.’ A lot of it is based on trying to control external perceptions.” – Rich Roll
What’s really involved here is a risk. By pursuing your dream or putting your work into the world, you’re risking failure and other people thinking bad of you. If you’re ready to stop being held back by perfectionism, you need to develop a healthy relationship with risk.
Here is the advice Rich gives to anyone who asks him about breaking free from perfectionism and start moving towards their dreams:
“What I always say to people [stuck in perfection paralysis] is it’s not about quitting your job. … If you have [a] dream that you’ve been harboring for a decade, but you haven’t done anything about it [ask yourself], ‘What’s the least risky thing that [I] could do to actually breathe a little bit of life into it? Like maybe you … want to be a standup comedian. Write a joke. … That’s all you have to do today. Write a joke. I’m not asking you to go onstage. I’m not asking you to quit your job. Just do that one thing.” – Rich Roll
Just like achieving and sustaining your goals comes down to small daily decisions until you embody the new version of yourself, living out your dreams does, too. You don’t have to start running a multi-million dollar company tomorrow or fill an auditorium for your comedy show just because that’s your dream. Instead, you just have to start — do one thing that will move you closer to that dream you’ve been carrying around for years.
Guys, if you enjoyed what you read today, make sure you listen to the whole interview where we dove into why most people don’t achieve their goals and how to leverage addictive tendencies for good. You can also check out the other conversations I’ve had with Rich — Episode #619, Episode #169, and Episode #10 — and hear more about his inspiring transformation.
As always, it was an absolute privilege to have Rich join me on the School of Greatness podcast. I hope you were as inspired as I was! If you are interested in learning more about plant-based diets or just want to learn more from Rich, check out his podcast and connect with him on Instagram. You can also see what he’s up to and grab one of his books on his website.
If you’re looking to get clear on your goals and are ready to accomplish them this year, no matter what, I have something for you! My newest program, The Greatness Coaching, is your high-performance system for 2021 and beyond. It includes coaching, accountability, community, and my Greatness Playbook, where I guide you through reflecting, planning and creating goals that align with your values and move you toward your dreams! If this sounds like something you’ve been looking for, you can learn more and apply to the program here.
If you got something from today’s message, please share it with someone you know. Just take a screenshot of this and share it on Instagram. Tag us both — Rich, @richroll, and me, @lewishowes — and let us know what your biggest takeaway was. If this is your first time here or you haven’t subscribed yet, make sure to go to Apple Podcasts and click on that subscribe button, and leave us a rating. Every time we get a subscriber or new review, it helps us spread the message of greatness to more people. So by taking a few minutes to do that, you’ll be helping more people improve their life!
Now, don’t let perfectionism have the final say in your life anymore. Give the greatness inside of you a chance by taking one small step towards your dreams today!
Thank you so much for spending your time with me today. I’m so grateful for you!