The story we tell ourselves affects our quality of life and shapes our behaviors. If your internal narrator is telling a negative story, you can change it with these four stepsRead More
Chasing dreams is scary work. Really scary. There are a number of reasons why we engage in the self- defeating behavior of analysis paralysis. We make excuses that we cannot move forward because we’re not educated enough or we have more research to do or the time just isn’t right. We like to use our circumstances as an excuse and declare that our situation is unique and no one else, ever, has had to overcome similar obstacles. The thing is, we are all unique people so therefore every circumstance for every person on this planet must be unique. Now you see why analysis paralysis is nothing but an imaginary boundary that we lock ourselves into. It keeps us from moving forward but gives the safety net of protecting from falling. Failure. And that feels good. No one wants to fail.
To break free from that cycle and propel your dream chasing journey forward, there are three steps you can take.
1. Set a firm end date
If you truly must do more research or take another class or get that certification in order to do the work of your dreams, then set a firm end date for it. Determine how much time you’ll need and then mark it on your calendar so that when the day comes, you’re ready to go. The mistake I made was that I spent years, literally, doing research, reading books and blogs, taking courses, obtaining impressive credentials, before I actually sat down and wrote. It’s kind of hard to be a writer when you don’t write. It was the fear of failure that kept me stuck. Don’t do that to yourself. It’s a waste of time.
2. Take one step every day
One of the best questions I ask myself and my clients is “what is one step that you can take today get closer to your goals?” The reason is to keep your focus on your goal, keep it fresh in your mind and to keep momentum going. It’s easy to stop taking action on the small tasks as you do your research but it doesn’t change the fact that those things still need to get done. While taking a writing course, for example, you can do any related side work that can be done to get ahead of the game. If you want to be a writer, start a writing routine. Get a domain name to start a blog. Look for hosting services. Search for someone who can set it up if you are not technically savvy. Find freelance opportunities- there are a ton of things that can be accomplished that will give you momentum.
3. Redefine the word “failure”
Because in all likelihood, it is the fear of failure that is keeping you stalled. But failure isn’t really the bad word that we’ve been conditioned to believe. If you try something and it doesn’t work, you’ve gained knowledge as to what you did and why it didn’t work. You can tweak your approach from there. Or you may have realized that you were pursuing something that you came to realize is not what you truly want. Or maybe you learned that doing things a certain way will not yield the result you are looking for. There is an opportunity to learn in every one of these situations. The fact is- you cannot learn it unless you take action and go for it.
4. Know that the stars will not align. Ever
Waiting for the perfect time to start is, quite honestly, the biggest waste of time you can engage in. Today is the best time to start. Right now. You are smart enough, talented enough, brave enough, courageous enough and you have enough life experience and insight to help/move/affect at least one person in this extremely large world. Right here, right now. There will always be obstacles and challenges, no matter what. That is why this very moment is the best time to start.
I once read something a former Navy Seal wrote. He said that in the military, it doesn’t matter which direction you move when under mortar attack, just as long as you move. I’d say the same applies in dream chasing. You cannot find clarity or achieve goals if you remain stagnant and stuck. So take action, any action, to put yourself in motion. Get disciplined in setting timelines so that you are ready to hit the ground running. Don’t worry much about failures- they will come. Count on it. Learn from them and use them for your betterment because inside each one is a gem of knowledge and opportunity waiting to be plucked. The mortar attack has started- which way will you move?
This morning, I was watching “Dora the Explorer” with my daughter. Not yet two years old, this beautiful child has been singing since before she could talk and dancing since before she could walk. It doesn’t matter what kind of music, or even how long it lasts, if she hears a beat or a note, she drops whatever she is doing to move to the rhythm. This morning was no different.
When one of the songs came on during the cartoon, she started singing. She didn’t know all of the words and given that she is not even two, she couldn’t even pronounce half of the words. It didn’t stop her. She hummed in perfect timing and pitch with the song! It was amazing- this girl just has an innate sense of music. I watched her closely and not knowing the words didn’t bother her in the least. Didn’t slow her or stop her in her tracks. She simply kept right on doing what she was doing and with a smile.
She will wiggler her little hips to a song, or twirl in circles on the carpet, or stretch her little hands to the sky as far as they will go, or walk around on her tippy-toes. Whatever the kind of dancing the moment calls for, she doesn’t hesitate to jump in and have fun! She has fun in just about everything she does.
My son recently turned four. He is the most creative kid I have ever met. Ever. He loves to sing and play with his guitar and keyboard. He plays drums on my bed and says “Daddy, this is a good rock and roll song”. Then he proceeds to make up a beat, strum his guitar and tap the piano keys, and make up his own lyrics! Let me tell you- the kid is talented. At bed time, we used to read a book every night. Lately, we started making up our own stories, usually at his prompt. He contributes, he is not just a passive listener but rather a very active and vocal participant.
He brings home projects from preschool. I picked him up early about two weeks ago and got to see him doing his color, cut and paste project. It was completely evident he was enjoying what he was doing. Creating. Learning and doing something new. I got to talking with his teacher and she mentioned his talent and affinity with numbers. How he can count to 100 and beyond and knows which numbers are larger and smaller than one hundred. When he doesn’t know- he asks. She commented that the work we are doing at home with numbers is clearly paying off. I commented that yes, we do talk numbers because he wants to talk numbers and that I was glad they were going over this in school because that was really paying off. She was confused- she said they are working on the letters of the alphabet and things that correspond to each letter but they haven’t delved into numbers yet (except basic counting).
I am not sure where he gained the interest of numbers (though his dad has an affinity for numbers as well), but it doesn’t matter. I was blown away that he took an interest in something new, something unfamiliar, and learned it almost entirely on his own at a level that is far beyond his age.
This might sounds like me bragging about my children (and maybe it is a little) but really, there are lessons to be learned. I certainly learned from these experiences with my toddler aged kids. What they taught me was that there is magic and power in creating and doing in the absence of fear. Kids don’t know fear. They know play. They know inquisitiveness. If fear enters their little thoughts, it doesn’t cause delay that is for sure. From them I learned that it is of the utmost significance that we enjoy what we do with our time and have fun and smile while we’re doing it. Not just because it makes life fun, but it also extinguishes the dangerous flames of stress. They taught me that curiosity leads to learning and that learning is a key ingredient to a wholesome life. My children show me that it is more than OK to jump in and do, even if you don’t know the words or exactly how to do it. And that if you do jump in and do without knowing all of the words, you won’t look silly or make a fool of yourself, rather you will find something wonderful waiting for you. Kids do it right. They live life right.
Maybe I knew some of these lessons before, but it really is easy to forget when life gets busy and there seems to be a never-ending list of things to get done and just not enough hours in the day. But watching my children play, seeing and feeling their magic—it has inspired me to live my life as a creator and someone who will keep moving forward even when fear is present and clearly competing for my attention.
When we enter adulthood, we often become entangled in the mindset and habits of paying the bills, working full time and then some, fixing whatever is wrong with the house, maintaining the lawn and the thousand other things that occupy the mind. The freedom and lightness with which we approached life in childhood seems lost in time. A lifetime ago. It doesn’t have to be. We can and should change our view of the world and our role in it and see things through the eyes of a child. I’m not saying abandon your responsibilities and quit your job, I am simply suggesting to experience the joy and wonder in what you do in life. Even if only for a little while each day. Just like a child does. Because after all- kids do it right.
I’m amazed to realize that we are already nearly one quarter of the way through the year. Research reveals something even more amazing — 36 percent of Americans who made a New Year’s Resolution have already given up on it. That number jumps to 54 percent in the next sixty days. Simply put- most people have the best of intentions but never achieve what they set out to achieve. Most people quit very early on, never giving their dreams a fair chance to become reality. That is very sad.
Do you want to be a part of that group? Do you want to be a statistic of unfulfilled aspirations? Do you want to look back with regret filled thoughts of “What if?” If you have not quit yet, keep going and use the following to help you achieve the things you truly want in life! If you have given up, do not beat yourself up. That only makes it worse. Instead, take action. Try something different. You can treat today as January 1st and renew your resolution and commitment to follow through. Can you think of one good reason why today is not a good day to start bettering yourself and creating the life you want? If you are one of the soon to be 54 percent of poor souls who have abandoned their resolutions, realize that you can get right back to it. Today. Right now.
Here are three tips to help you keep you on track:
1) Start small
Make one change at a time and increase the chances of success exponentially. When I am coaching using cognitive behavioral techniques, this is key to achieving success. For example, if someone wants to overcome a fear of flying, the first step of the approach to help them accomplish this is to first drive by the airport. That’s it. Step two is to watch planes take off and land. Step three is to go into the airport and just observe. The fourth step might be to take a walk through an airplane (if possible) or to watch videos of planes in all stages of flight. Doing this visualization exercise helps one “feel” what it is like to be on a plane. The final step is to get on a plane and take a short flight (and utilize breathing and calming techniques). But as you can see, this is intentionally done in small increments so conditions are primed for success.
2) Do not be hard on yourself
This one is important because people who have difficulty setting and achieving goals have a tendency to be hard on themselves. If you have a setback, remember it happens to everyone at some point. And your past is not an indicator of what you are capable of doing right here and now. Rather than feeling guilty, admit to yourself that you got off track and then utilize positive self -talk. Tell yourself that you have the ability to get right back on track IF you choose.
3) Get it on paper
This applies two-fold. It is always smart to write down your goals. Psychologists found that people who work at and make consistent progress towards goals live happier and more fulfilling lives than people who don’t. The additional benefit of writing it down manifests when you find yourself struggling. Simply writing down your past successes can help you regain confidence. Surely you have accomplished something meaningful—a solid relationship, a college education, a promotion at work, a compliment someone gave you after you helped them. Write it down and use it as fuel. You’ve been there already. You can do this!
The choice really is yours. You can choose to carry around the weight of disappointment and the knowing that you gave up. If you do, chances are you’ll start yet another resolution next year and repeat the process of stopping before mission accomplished. And this can happen year after year after year. Or you can choose to start again right now, knowing that even though you faltered a step or two, you did not fail because you have the courage and resourcefulness to get back on track whenever the moment is right for you.
No date on a calendar can dictate such powerful self-awareness. Working at it, not just wishing for it will get you there. Do this and you will accomplish what only eight percent of Americans accomplish — seeing your resolution through to the end. Now that is a group that you should want to be a part of!