Burn the Ships

Rachelle Disbennett-Lee

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One of the keys to reaching your goals is to eliminate any escape routes. It is tempting to retreat to safety and comfort when challenges and difficulties arise. To avoid turning around and abandoning your goals, you must make going forward more compelling then going back.

When striving towards a goal, you must focus on what you want to obtain and avoid the impulse to go back to what you know and to what is comfortable. When Spanish Conquistador Hernando Cortez landed in Mexico, one of his first orders to his men was to burn the ships. Cortez was committed to his mission and did not want to allow himself or his men the option of going back to Spain. By removing this option, Cortez and his men were forced to focus on how they could make the mission successful.

Eliminating an escape route creates a compelling reason to focus on the goal and to keep moving forward. However, it is important to keep in mind that although Cortez had his men burn the ships, he did not have them burn the food and supplies. Cutting off an escape route to increase motivation and create the desire to press on where you might otherwise give up is totally different from throwing caution to the wind and taking undue risks. Reaching your goals still requires prudent planning and managing. All goals contain a certain degree of risk, but it isn't necessary to create undue risk and stress by not properly planning and thus lacking the necessary tools and supplies to achieve your goal. Take risks, but don't be careless or foolish and simply hope that everything will be okay.

Before you decide to burn your ships, make sure you have the supplies and tools necessary to achieve the goal. Something like quitting your job might sound like a good way to close the escape route, but it might also be a fast way to bankruptcy if you don't have resources to carry you through. Creating a savings account balance or having a journey job (a job that is a stepping stone to what you really want) allows you to take the risk of leaving your current job without creating undue risk. I once took a six-month leave of absence from a job while I was deciding if I wanted to move to a different state. Although it was difficult making the transition as I was very homesick, once I found a job in my new location, I resigned from the job I had waiting for me because I knew it would be too tempting to go back.

Close off the escape routes and make sure that you have a compelling reason to move forward. However, at the same time, make sure that you plan for the risk and have the tools, supplies and resources you need to achieve your goals. You can't eliminate risk but you can plan for it. Don't just jump in without thinking through the process and having a solid plan for moving forward.

Coach Rachelle Disbennett-Lee, PhD, is a Certified Master Coach specializing in working with business owners and professionals in being more profitable and productive while staying sane and balanced. Coach Lee is the publisher of the award winning e-zine, 365 Days of Coaching. Her first book, 365 Days of Coaching – Because Life Happens Every Day (Universal Publisher, 2004) was named a finalist for Best Book 2004 by Publish.com and has a five star rating on Amazon.com.


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