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I live my life in the gap.  Every day.  And I bet you do too.

I’ve always been this way.  A former boss and one of the best mentors I’ve had professionally, Neil McLean who is an EOS Implementer used to tell me this regularly.  He knew it.  He saw it.  The pursuit of creating value, building community and making a difference drives me.  Where I am right now today is not as good as where I’ll be when I accomplish the next thing (sound familiar?).  That’s the gap.  The “gap” between where you are today and where you want to be in this “ideal” future. It was coined by a guy named Dan Sullivan, who has been a growth coach for high achievers for decades and has even written a book about this called “The Gap and The Gain”

For many, living in the gap can be a tremendous motivator, pushing you to achieve more, create more value or impact more people’s lives.  But for a lot of us, it represents a moving target that we’ll never reach…leading to tremendous frustration, angst and dissatisfaction.  

Translation: Being unhappy whilst simultaneously working your ass off.  No bueno.  

The best analogy I can give is the distance runner that finishes a race and immediately signs up for the next marathon..never taking a moment (hell, take a bloody day) to pause and appreciate what they have accomplished.  

This is me and it has brought me as much pain as fulfillment in my more than a decade of being on my entrepreneurial journey.  Think about the mind fuckery behind this concept.  If you’re “living in the gap” constantly, then every time you accomplish something, your brain tells you that you haven’t reached your goal yet.  Living in the gap tells you that what you just did is not good enough.  And for me…it’s just simply exhausting…

I bet you can imagine all sorts of ways that this could screw you up. You do something meaningful for your life partner and their response is “great, but did you do the other thing I asked you?”  A kid gets his first hit (ever) in Little League, but strikes out the other three at bats and his father says “Not bad, but you could have gotten four hits.”  A founder who tracks her KPIs every month, but is comparing those metrics to where she WANTS to be and not to where the company was a year ago and feels like she’s never making progress.  

Does this resonate?  Did you just twitch a little?  Are you crying in a puddle of your own tears?  It’s cool.  Because now you know about this thing called the “Gap”.

This month in the SOCO Community, we’re celebrating the halfway point of this year and taking some stock of where we are and what’s next.  So in that spirit, I wanted to explore how we might be able to live in the gap in a more meaningful way.  Here are five things I’m trying to do to be more present and live more meaningfully in the gap.  🙂 

  1. Recognize it and Own It
    Acknowledge that you are a person that lives in the gap.  That you might never get out of the gap and that it’s okay.  Acknowledge that this might be who you are and practice some radical acceptance of that.  It’ll free you (a bit).  Now that you know about it, you’re going to see it everywhere.  Take stock of that, recognize it for what it is and give yourself some grace when your “gappy mcgapperson” rears its ugly head. 
  2. Take a Break
    One of the best ways to combat this “living in the gappedness” is to force yourself to take a break to invest in other areas of your life.  Physical wellness, mental wellness, emotional wellness or relational wellness. Because let’s face it.  If you live in the gap, you’re dragging the people in your life along with you.  And that ain’t right. 
  3. Turn Around, Dummy
    Listen.  One of the most powerful ways that I’ve combatted the gap in my personal and work life is by just pressing pause and turning my head around 180 degrees.  Take a look backwards 6, 9, 12 or more months to see how far you’ve actually come in relation to whatever it is that you measure (business KPIs, miles run, etc…).  9 times out of 10, the chances are that you’ve made progress.  And that’s worth celebrating (just a little bit 🙂 ).  As Dan Sullivan said, “When you measure backward, you increase your confidence, energy, and satisfaction”. 
  4. Get Rid of Ideals
    Ideals are visions of future success that are unattainable.  Sometimes they are ideals that you have imposed upon yourself.  Sometimes they are ideals that society, your community, your culture or your family have imposed upon you. Get rid of them!  Dan Sullivan nails it when he talks about ideals being like the horizon.  “You can see the horizon—you can drive toward it, and it will point you in the right direction. But nobody ever arrives at the horizon. Even if you were to arrive at the exact point you were envisioning on the horizon, you’d never know because it would feel just like where you were before.” 
  5. Measure Small and Often
    I’ve found one of the best ways to deal with the gap mentality in addition to the above is to measure small and measure often. What does this mean? Have metrics of success you track?  Look to make small progress on those regularly (maybe even daily).  Ever heard of 1% Every Day? Great example of living this idea. And here’s a great video on the Kaizen way.

I’ve been living in the gap my entire adult life.  I’m just now starting to come to terms with that and working towards living more meaningfully between where I am and where I want to be. Hope you will too.  

PS: Want to dive deeper? Listen to my partner Gene Crawford and I as we dive deeper into this topic on Communal, The SOCO Community Podcast here.   

Sources:

  1. Best Goal Measurement – https://resources.strategiccoach.com/the-multiplier-mindset-blog/the-best-goal-measurement-strategy-for-entrepreneurs 
  2. Dan Sullivan – https://www.strategiccoach.com/ 
  3. Gap and The Gain Book – https://gapandgainbook.com/ 
  4. The Art of Manliness: Get 1% Better Every Day – https://www.artofmanliness.com/character/behavior/get-1-better-every-day-the-kaizen-way-to-self-improvement/

By Greg Hilton

Passionate about building innovative, entrepreneurial and dynamic companies and communities. I like big ideas, going against the grain, and working with incredible people. Stuff I’m a part of: Period ThreeSOCO Coworking Space, Rolling Rock Investments, 1 Million Cups Columbia SC.

Greg Hilton is an active entrepreneur and has launched and worked with over 100 early stage ventures. He’s the Cofounder and Managing Partner for SOCO, the region’s first coworking community and is Chief Opportunity Wrangler at Period Three an industry leading web design shop.

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