What if I told you that achievement is never the end game? As I write this blog, I am beginning my final week of coursework for my Doctorate of Physical Therapy! I do not say that to boast by any means but in a slight state of disbelief that this moment has actually arrived. It almost seems like yesterday when my peers and I gathered for the first time as classmates with many of us having never met before. Each individual came ready to embark on a journey with a common goal to change countless lives for the better. Despite the individual obstacles each one of us had to face just to make it into this particular program, there we were, together in one room, at the starting line of the race to being physical therapists. It was the beginning of one of the biggest hurdles we would face as students, but it would be faced together. As much as I would like to say that I am close to achieving my goal now and “making it,” it strangely feels like I’m only at the beginning, as if I’m just getting started.
In a recent conversation with my little brother, who is currently in 8th grade, about his personal hopes and dreams, I found myself thinking back on how I viewed my future aspirations at that age. As the 8th grade version of myself looked towards my future, I saw it as a destination, preceded by a number of steps including high school, college and graduate school. In my mind there would be a sense of “arrival” when those steps were accomplished. I would have reached the final destination, and according to my viewpoint at the time, would not need to achieve any more. Yet now, looking back, I can’t help but feel as though I’m starting all over again, with the same feelings I felt as an 8th grader, gripping me today. It is a growing realization that despite how far I have come, there is still much further to go.
Change and unfamiliarity cripples many, while comfort and the familiar welcome all. That is why we naturally long for a sense of arrival at a destination in the pursuit of our dreams. I would like to make the argument, however, that a destination is far from what we should desire. Rather, our continued growth as we venture into the unknown should be what we embrace. I am coming to realize that there are 3 key dangers in “arriving!”
- You are in danger of believing that you have acquired everything!
This simply means that you have lost the ability to grow, improve and achieve. In the words of President JFK, “conformity is the killer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” The ironic part about this particular danger is the fact that you can only be at “the top” for a very short amount of time before others with the same potential as yourself, continue to pursue growth and surpass where you may currently be. Constantly find areas of personal growth and development that will present you with endless opportunities to better yourself.
- You are in danger of losing it all! There is no such thing as plateauing when it comes to growth and achievement. You are either moving forward or going backwards. If an athlete reaches their ideal fitness level, and decides to stop exercising simply because their goal was reached, would they be able to maintain what they had worked hard for? No. Within a few weeks they would’ve lost a decent chunk of what they had fought tirelessly to attain. So, to avoid this danger, never stop learning. Take advantage of new opportunities while becoming proactive, rather than reactive, in your actions. The dream is still yours, so don’t risk losing it.
- You are in danger of NOT giving it your BEST! When we claim to have “arrived,” we become comfortable with where we are, and over time, stop giving it our best. In the words of Steve Prefontaine, “to give anything less than best is to sacrifice the gift.” We all want to be excellent at what we do, especially in regards to service as physical therapists. We do an excellent job giving our best when we want to impress and gain the confidence of others. That feeling only comes into play when we venture into something new. Once what we do becomes automatic, without much thought placed into it, there is a great likelihood of not giving it our all anymore because it becomes easy.
Continue to work hard and grind even if no one is watching and your goal(s) will be achieved. That could be becoming a physical therapist, losing weight, having an excellent nutritional balance, and more. When you arrive at you goal(s) however, remember not to see the achievement as a destination, but more like a fueling station! Celebrate the accomplishment because you deserve it, but use it as fuel for your next level of growth and adventure. Believe me, it can be scary, but the plethora of achievements waiting on the other side is worth every bit of the jump. So, if like me, you currently find yourself in a place in your life where you have achieved or are in the process of doing so, but still know and accept the importance of continuing to grow, you too can look into the unknown and say, “ I’m just getting started!”
Thank You For Your Time!
My success and inspiration has come from the guidance of Greg Todd and the Smart Success Physical Therapy course! If you are a Physical Therapist or future Physical Therapist interested in leveling up, I would highly recommend being a part of the Smart Success Season 4! It has changed my life!
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Joses Ngugi, SPT