Life can change at a moment’s notice. Sometimes, it’s those unplanned events in life that help shape your future. Bill Coon is quite the inspiration. As a double heart transplant recipient, he doesn’t take life for granted. His words have helped me look at life in a different way.
Guest Post by Bill Coon
At age twenty, I spent seventy days in the Intensive Care Unit of a Chicago hospital waiting for a life-saving heart and kidney transplant. It was a trying time, to say the least. Since receiving the gift of life and returning to normalcy, I have been asked the same question about my hospital stay by strangers and even close family and friends: “How did you not go crazy!?”
There are many elements that played a role in this, (such as my amazing team of nurses and doctors) but for the sake of this entry, I want to talk about the element of my survival that everyone can relate to: Goals. Because in order for me to survive (or maintain my sanity, at the bare minimum) I had to develop both short-term and long-term goals or things that I envisioned myself achieving either during the wait or after transplant. For example, my short-term goal was to become healthy enough to see the Bears play at Soldier Field. My long-term goal was to return to college the following semester without skipping a beat.
I mention all of this because since receiving those transplants 7.92 years ago (8-year anniversary is in October), I have come to find that the short-term and long-term goal strategy works in everyday life, not only for the ultimate goal of realizing your dreams, but for remaining focused while managing the numerous demands life throws at you throughout the month.
Admittedly, this is not rocket science, but sometimes you just need something spelled out to help you take the next step in life. So here it goes…
Step 1: Discover Your Long-Term Goal
What do you want to achieve? What is wrong right now in your life that you want to fix that only YOU have control over? (Sorry, hopeless romantics, it takes two for love, so I don’t think this will work in solving romance issues). For example, maybe you want to start a business, lose weight or take an unforgettable trip? Right now, right here, this is where you make that decision. Do not advance to the next step until you decide.
Step 2: Sacrifice
I have come to find that whenever I am at a roadblock in life, the reason I cannot advance is because I am stuck in my ways, not willing to sacrifice. Whenever I do sacrifice, that is when I tend to achieve my next big goal. Now that you have identified your goal, what are you willing to sacrifice to achieve it? If money is in your way (i.e. dream vacation goal), what pointless object have you recently purchased that you will use once or donate in 12 months when it is no longer the latest and greatest? If it is clothing, you have clothes. Return it. If it is technology, sell it. If it is the cliché coffee in the morning or lunch with coworkers, find a new vice to get through your day. This part isn’t fun, but it is mandatory. The good news is that you will find that you no longer miss the things you sacrifice after 2-3 weeks.
Step 3: Short-Term Goal(s)
You will lose your mind if you only focus on the big picture. Set miniature milestones along the way. As I say in my book, SWIM: A Memoir of Survival, these should be things you can achieve in the coming 3-4 months. Note: You may fail these goals. That is okay. But create them so that you can taste success early. Once you taste the sweet nectar of achievement, it will only make you thirst for the next milestone and you will find that you will begin to sacrifice even more to achieve your long-term goal.
Step 4: Ignore the Haters
People will think you are crazy if your goal is a moonshot. Ignore them. For example, for several years I dreamed of leaving Corporate America to speak full time. I finally did. It took a ton of work to achieve and the first couple months were scary, but I did it. When I first left the cushy bi-weekly paycheck plus benefits life, 75% of my friends applauded me while the other 25% questioned and doubted my decision. Focus on your 75% and go for it.
I now have a new level of speaking success I want to achieve. The confidence I have experienced in achieving my first long-term goal will help me in my pursuit of the next.
It will take time and effort to achieve your goals, but you can do it. I promise you… you can do it. Your life really is whatever you want it to be.
Bill Coon is a two-time heart transplant recipient, kidney recipient, author and professional speaker. When he is not sharing his story on stage, he is working with other people with incredible stories through his podcast, People You Should Know. Contact Bill at www.billcoonspeaks.com