If you’ll remember, I’ve been working on a couple paddleboards for my daughter and I. And the very last step — the final touch — is that final glossy finish. But I’m finding something frustrating: I pour the epoxy, and it looks AMAZING. Gorgeous. Liquid glass. I leave it out to dry.

But when I come back in the morning? It looks horrific. The amount of dust that has settled into that perfectly smooth surface creates a sort of diseased look.

I soon discovered the problem: my garage. It was impossible to get my garage dust-free. The space just wasn’t ideal to finish this big project, as much as it had been helpful up until that point. 

We’re almost two weeks into the new year, and right about now a lot of folks start to notice the dust in the epoxy of their goals. We falter. We all do it; we’re human. And when we stumble, we have a habit of believing our goals aren’t realistic. But what I want to point out here is that it isn’t always that our goals aren’t realistic — perhaps it’s that we haven’t created the environment we need to achieve them. 

Just as the garage was not the ideal environment for my epoxy curing paddleboards, all too often we pursue goals in a mental, emotional, or physical space that just holds us back. We say we want to write a book, and we do so at the kitchen table, with all the noise of the house around us. Or we try to build that new business plan at night, before bed, when we’re exhausted and can’t think straight. Maybe our goal was to practice a new language, but every time we open the app, we can’t focus because of the stress from our job plaguing our minds. 

The environment for your goals matters. Sometimes, like with my paddle boards, it’s a physical environment that’s holding you back — you need a quiet space to write if you’re going to finish that book! Sometimes it’s our mental environment — building a business plan from a place of exhaustion might mean you miss key opportunities. And if you’re trying to learn a language that crumples under the stress of your daily life, maybe it’s not the time for that goal — maybe it’s better to take time to do what you need to destress! 

Sometimes the environment needs to change. And sometimes we need to change the goal to fit the environment. Either way, if we try to white-knuckle it towards a goal in an environment that is unconducive, we could be dooming ourselves to unnecessary failure. 

Success doesn’t happen just by pushing forward. “Just do it” is a great slogan, but ultimately not the best advice to live by. We build success through strategically building an environment in which we can succeed, and letting ourselves grow in that space. 

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash