You're here because you have a goal. You may be here because you want to lose weight, get in shape, improve your blood pressure, get off medications, walk a 5K, or run a marathon. No matter what your goal is, today's question is:

How bad do you want it?

Do you want it as bad as Hamlet?  Hamlet is a teeny tiny baby piglet who is very interested in eating a bowl oatmeal. The only problem with his plan is that the oatmeal is downstairs, and he's terrified to walk down the stairs. 

Watch Hamlet's video:

In the beginning, Hamlet wants the oatmeal so bad that he can taste it. He stands at the top of the stairs with his nose in the air, trying to retain the smell of the bowl of oatmeal that has just passed in front of his face.

Do you want it so bad that you can taste it?

Hamlet takes one fearless bound down the first step. But then he stops. He is paralyzed by fear. He pauses for a moment, and then hops back up to the top of the stairs. His fear caused him to take a step that pushes him farther away from his goal.

Sometimes we take the first step toward our goal before we are prepared and fully ready to commit to the goal. The consequence of not being ready to commit is to take a step backwards, moving ourselves further from our goal. This can feel frustrating, and taking a step backwards can feel like failure. But it's not really failure, it's a part of the process. When we're here, we need to be kind to ourselves and understand that going backwards is a legitimate step in the process. We've gone backwards when we're not fully ready to commit to overcoming the barriers that stand in the way of our goal.

"Now you've got to do that stair over again." Hamlet looks down the stairs, and for a moment he gives up. If the pig could talk, he might say "To heck with this!" He actually walks away from the challenge that the staircase represents for him.  He disappears for a moment. But then the lure of the goal is so strong that he peeks back over the precipice of the stairs.

Sometimes we need to take a break, and walk away from the pursuit of our goal. This is a time when we gather our reserves or quit. We have to choose whether we want to take action or give up on the goal. We're keeping the goal in mind while we walk away and take care of the things that are necessary for the full pursuit of the goal. We might talk to people about what they did to achieve their goal, gather information, and check out the options that are available to us. We prepare for pursuing the goal without making a full commitment.  We talk about our goal in terms of things we are "thinking about" doing, "planning to" do, or "trying" to do. This is also a legitimate stage in the process of change.

 After mustering his courage, Hamlet resumes his pursuit of the oatmeal. He's reminded of how much he wants the oatmeal, and he focuses his attention on it. He makes another leap. It takes a lot for him to make the first leap. He paces back and forth before taking the first step. But he takes the step.  He paces back and forth before taking the second step- because that's what worked the first time.

Sometimes we make change seem harder than it has to be. It took so much preparation and effort for us to take the first step. We can make the mistake of assuming that it should take the same amount of preparation and effort to tackle the next step. For example, if we happened to read a whole pile of diet books before we chose a food plan to follow, we might think we need to spend a similar amout of time researching exercise plans before we try them. We don't yet realize that it's not necessary to do these things. We're just doing it because that's what worked for us the first time. We can get discouraged. How are we ever going to achieve the goal if every step is so hard?  We may not yet understand that every step isn't going to be so hard... but eventually we'll learn we can just wing it and take the next step. 

By the fifth step, he doesn't need to pace back and forth on the stair before taking the next step. Each step becomes easier for him as he grows more comfortable with the task. And the goal is getting closer. In his enthusiasm, he even slides down one of the steps on his belly.

This is when we are just doing it. We are fully engaged in the process of change. We might even get excited that we're moving along and getting closer to our goal. We might get a little sloppy. This is the territory where plateaus or injuries could happen. We think- "I got this, I know what I'm doing" - and a small lapse of attention could lead us to make a mistake and delay our own progress on the path. When we're here, we need to stay focused, not allowing any bad habits to derail us, but also enjoy the journey. Pay attention: This is the fun part.

At last Hamlet reaches the bottom of the stairs. He pauses again and hesitates slightly. Then he makes a flying leap and he dives into the bowl of oatmeal. He's lying in the bowl while he eats, getting messy and feeling delighted in the reward for his journey.

It's not uncommon for people to hesitate when the goal they have been pursuing for so long is finally within their reach. We may have to confront some of the same issues that are lingering from when we started the journey. The pause doesn't mean that we don't want to achieve the goal. During the pause or delay, we're taking care of anything else that needs to be cleared up before we achieve the goal. By taking care of these lingering concerns, we can devote our full attention to how great the experience will be when the goal is achieved. We might not look so graceful in that final leap... we're getting dirty but truly living as we are enjoying the moment. For example, look at people as they cross the finish line of a marathon. Many people's running form is terrible and has taken a beating from the miles. They might look bent-over and haggard and sick, but you can't wipe the smile off their faces as they receive their medal.

In the end, our teeny tiny baby piglet Hamlet overcomes his fears and reaches his goal. He was hungry, he wanted it bad, and he achieved it.

What's at the end of your staircase? How bad do you want it? What will you overcome to get it? Can you stay hungry? 

"They say you gotta stay hungry. Hey baby, I'm just about starving tonight." ~Bruce Springsteen, "Dancing in the Dark"