“What have I gotten myself into?”
We’ve all asked that question. Parents have asked this question. College students have asked it, Entrepreneurs have asked it. Soldiers have asked it as they sweat through basic training.
By the time we get around to asking, “What have I gotten myself into?” we feel overwhelmed, surprised, overworked, underappreciated, and even lost. If you pose the question to friends or colleagues, the answers may range from “A mess!” to “I don’t know, what HAVE you gotten yourself into?”—offering neither a solution nor relief.
The realization that we’re “in too deep,” brings with it additional stress or worry, as well as physical changes, including exhaustion, inability to think clearly, confusion, and even body aches. Interestingly, these are some of the very same symptoms of dehydration. Even though lack of water is unlikely to be the root of the problem you’re facing, the parallels are remarkable. Water is an essential element for life. Without water, the human body will shut down and die. In the same way, we can fail at achieving our goals—or at minimum, experience unnecessary pain—unless we possess or develop certain key elements.
The Here and Now
In today’s world, we enjoy efficiencies that didn’t exist even two years ago. While this technology should make life easier to navigate, in truth, each new application brings with it an expectation that we can do more with less. Unfortunately, we end up just filling our lives with more. So, even with all this “efficient” technology, it is as difficult as ever to spend quality time with our families, enjoy our hobbies, or even learn new skills because rather than being streamlined, we’re just plain busy. If you can relate, this book is for you.
When we reach the point of asking, “What have I gotten myself into?” it is far more important to determine what brought us to the feeling of being overwhelmed than it is to answer the question. It is rare, however, that people reflect on the cause of the emotion.
The best place to start the search for relief from stress and busyness is at the precise moment that you ask the question. Reflect upon the events leading up to the moment. In some cases, you will immediately realize that a specific event made you feel empty, overworked… emotionally parched. In other cases, you may recognize that something is missing from your life. In truth, if you have reached the point of depletion, something is definitely missing.
Just like water is essential to your physical wellness, five elements are required to ensure that any initiative—or life—is successful:
These elements are the waters of success. When any of them are missing, “dehydration” will occur and the initiative will fail. The concept holds true in business as well as in the challenges we face in our personal lives.
The first element, information, can be in the form of facts about the past or future. It can be training or a roundtable discussion. It can be received during an interview when we’ve applied for a new position. It can be in the form of a contract when considering a publisher for a book. When information is lacking, whether it’s because someone didn’t offer enough information or we didn’t ask the right questions, in most situations, it exists somewhere. I’m certainly not trying to sell you on the idea that it’s possible to think of every alternative for every situation. I am, instead, a believer that a lack of information is the primary contributor to the overwhelmed feeling we get when we wonder what we have gotten ourselves into.
The second element is planning. What happens when we’re so excited about an idea that we don’t spend enough time planning? Anyone who has ever read a personal-development book or article knows the familiar cliché: When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
Or, maybe we have an amazing plan based on plenty of information, but lack the third element: motivation. In general, people do things for personal satisfaction. At the core of motivation is the question, “What’s in this for me?” For many who volunteer their time to help others, the satisfaction of knowing they are making a difference provides enough motivation to drive through any adversity that will potentially deter them from giving their time. Some take on a new role or position because they are motivated by a pay increase or the potential for gaining more status. Motivation is unique to each person and is driven by personality, culture, society, personal history, future goals, and many other factors.
For the element of support, I invite you to reflect on a time when you’ve thought, “Am I the only one who wants this?” Even though you were carrying out a well-thought-out plan with all the information you needed and had all the right motivators in place, the amount (or lack) of support was clearly a crucial element. When more than one individual is included in and affected by the same initiative, lack of support can cause it to fail.
The final element needed for success and clarity when faced with a challenge is leadership. Behind every great initiative, be it in the business world, volunteer work or personal situations, is great leadership. I’m not only talking about the executives, managers, supervisors, and positional leaders. I’m talking about the individuals who offer anything worth repeating. Even among a group of friends, the leader of the group changes regularly. Sometimes, it’s the one who comes up with the great restaurant idea for dinner, or the one who provides comfort to another.
When you combine great leadership with the other elements, you can accomplish amazing, even seemly impossible things. A great leader can identify what motivates each person on their team and, with that awareness, inspire others to tap into and satisfy their personal or professional motivators.
When leaders engage in a well-developed plan, provide accurate and pertinent information, engage others so they are motivated and continually offer support, the initiative will carry so much momentum, that it would be nearly impossible for it to fail.
Since you’ve made it this far in the book, I assume you realize that the concept behind the five waters of success is not rocket science. These ideas are fairly basic. This book will bring these ideas together in a format of helping you better identify when one or all of these items are missing from your own endeavors. You have likely also noticed by now that the book did not come with a magic wand, so you shouldn’t expect that by the end of these pages that you will be able to solve every challenge and never become overwhelmed again.
One single event in my life gave me the idea of gathering all the elements into an organized format. I first shared the ideas presented in How Much Water Do We Have? to a small group within. Their opinions and responses, helped me to further develop my thoughts. From there, I presented the message to a room of nearly sixty supervisors and managers. Since that specific presentation, I have heard several stories of people reaching out to others in email or over the phone and the conversation starts with “I need some water over here.” or “I have some spare water if anybody needs it.”
I will explain in depth throughout the book what this water is, and why it’s so important, but first I’ll share the story of my own real-life experience that gave birth to How Much Water Do We Have?