How many times have you wished for a different circumstance? Maybe you have a set 40-plus hours per week schedule and you wish for more flexibility in those hours or the freedom to work from home. Maybe you have a job that no longer inspires you and you wish to write a screenplay or to hike the Appalachian or Pacific Crest Trail or to retire.
I cannot count the number of times when people have heard I’ve written books that they said, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to write a book.” But upon further probing, I’ve learned that most people who say that do not write even sporadically let alone regularly and have many excuses (lack of time, too busy with other things, fear they aren’t good enough or no one will want to read it, anxiety about getting started, etc.) as to why they hadn’t achieved what they claim they want.
Mark Manson in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a [email protected]%* writes about being in love with an outcome but not with the process of getting there. He uses an example of wanting to be a rock star when he was a teenager, but hating to practice guitar and to study music and all of the things that go into being a musician. He said he would fantasize for hours about being a star but did very little to make that dream a reality.
Kathy Caprino, a career coach who helps men and women live bravely, called that “mistaking fantastical wishful thinking for action” on ThriveGlobal this week on a list of eight things successful people don’t do. So why do hold ourselves back? Are we, like Manson’s rock star fantasy, in love with an outcome but hate the process? Odds are if that’s the case then our fantasy and that outcome isn’t really for us.
Reasons We Don’t Take Action
- Fear. Many times we don’t follow our desires because we are afraid and we let that fear control us. We may be afraid to begin, afraid what people might think, afraid of failure if we do start or afraid of any number of things. But if you stop and think logically about it, fear is just a made up idea. It is literally in our minds and causes reactions in our bodies when we give into it.
- We put everyone else before ourselves. How many times have you put off doing something because your kids or significant other or the dog needed something, or your boss wanted you to take a business trip or lead a project and you didn’t want to let anyone down? We sometimes get so busy working and taking care of everyone and everything that we forget to have a life or go after the things we really want.
- We hate change or are comfortable where we are. This point can be tied to fear or we may appreciate the familiar. But doing things outside of our comfort zone is the only way we grow and the only way to achieve our dreams. Our comfortableness sometimes equals complacency, which can be dangerous since it keeps us from seeing ourselves as we really are (with positive and negative attributes and as works in progress).
- We don’t know where to begin. The adage says that every journey begins with a single step and that is equally true when you are starting a new business venture, working on a piece of writing or drafting a design, starting in a recovery program or expanding your personal or professional network. Thinking of the whole of what we want can be overwhelming, but when we break it down into smaller pieces–as small as you need for it to seem actionable–beginning can be easier.
Actions to Undertake to Get You On Your Way
- Tell fear to get out of your way. PsychCentral is filled with articles with helpful tips on how to do this. If you’d like to read more click these three links: Overcoming Fears, Phobias and Panic Attacks, 5 Mindful Attitudes to Help Overcome Fear and Anxiety and Overcoming the Fear of Making Mistakes.
- Prioritize yourself and your dreams. Schedule 30 minutes per day where you focus on your dreams, not in a fantasy or a daydream way, but by making connections, researching how to do what you want to do, watching a YouTube tutorial, reading a related book, taking a class or doing some strategic planning to launch you where you want to go.
- Find a mentor or an accountability partner or group. Having people who will support your dreams and expect a report on the actions you’ve taken to get there can keep us on track and force us to be “acting”. Accountability can be to a friend or business partner, a hired professional such as a life coach or career counselor or to a group who meets for coffee or a meal regularly to report to each other on how you are achieving your dreams.
- Set Yourself Some Goals. Just like you have quarterly or annual goals or a performance plan at your job, you can set some goals related to your dream in achievable increments. If your goal is to learn a foreign language, fluency may not be possible if you’re starting from scratch. But installing the software or buying the CDs for the car and listening to them for 20-30 minutes per day for a month is an achievable goal, as is joining a local MeetUp group who speaks the language to practice what you are learning. Set new goals every time you reach the older ones and pretty soon you will find you have accomplished your dream.
Taking action to achieve our dreams is often about getting out of a our way mentally speaking and determining that our desires are worth the effort. And after taking action, you may realize that dream you’re pursuing isn’t really for you, and that’s okay too. That’s part of the beauty of going after what we want: it’s a far better teacher than daydreaming or wishing. So what have you always wanted to do? Make up your mind and take the first step today to make 2018 the year you take action.