Dying to pursue your dreams? Ready to start a new business? Feeling like you want to do something your heart has always yearned for but you’re terrified to do anything about it?
We’ve all experienced this: self-doubt, paralyzing fear, and way more thought than action. As it turns out, sometimes the biggest obstacles aren’t the outside forces we create, but the inner hurdles we set up for ourselves. Read on for some ways to shake it off and gracefully tell your inner critic to “shut it.”
1. JUMP IN.
Q: Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow? A: Because there’s a good chance “tomorrow” might never become “today,” and before you realize it, you’re stuck putting off your ideas indefinitely. There’s nothing wrong with a good brainstorm session, making a list of pros and cons, or a “what if” session with a trusted friend. In fact, weighing your options and being informed are never a bad thing. But ask yourself this: when does a little planning become over-analyzing? Feeling a huge rush of anxiety while plotting and planning for every minor detail is a sign that it might be time to take a deep breath and just dive in. If your gut is telling you to go for it, don’t stop yourself in your tracks by fretting over every possible detail that may or may not work out. It’s okay to be prepared, but you’ve got to realize that it may never be “the perfect time.” Putting too much stock into that so-called right time can leave you so rigid that you’re unable to roll with the punches if there’s a sudden wrench thrown into your perfectly-laid plans.
You’ll never really know what will unfold until you start. Trust yourself that you’ll know enough to take care ofunforeseen problems as they arise.
2. VISUALIZE SUCCESS.
Sometimes addressing the negative voices in your head can be a good thing. Face your fears, confront them head on, etc, etc. Sure. But past a certain point, you’re really not helping yourself if you’re projecting inevitable failure over and over again. “I’ll never get there.” “I’m just going to fail anyway.” “I must be crazy to do this, I don’t have any talent anyway.” Sound familiar? Would you give this kind of advice to your best friend?
So change the story. Stop wallowing in things that haven’t happened yet and start coaching yourself towards being successful. Get excited about what could be and see it as completely attainable instead of convincing yourself you’ll never get there. Your subconscious mind is always “on,” and the thoughts you feed your conscious mind directly affect the choices you make when you aren’t paying full attention to why you’re making them.
The next time you find yourself wrestling with a snake pit of negative thoughts, try this exercise: spend at least 20-60 seconds every day sitting quietly and existing in the full joy of having attained your goal. Get really hippie with it. Imagine what if would feel like, what it would look like, and how possible it would be for you to get there. This should feel amazing. Got it? Good. Keep that happy space in the back of your head as you move forward.
3. HAVE FUN.
It may be called “work,” but it doesn’t have to be gut-wrenching. Promise! If you really enjoy what you’re working towards, is it ever really so bad? Well … sometimes it can be. Roadblocks will arise, and that’s okay. Not every moment of achieving a goal is enjoyable. You will face rejection, setbacks, and failures. This is normal and part of the process. Don’t get discouraged or angry. Stay focused on the parts that you love and move forward with joy and excitement. When you’re passionate about what you’re doing, it makes the icky parts easier to bear (and by the way, having a good friend to vent to over happy hour is essential as well).
Enjoy the process and try to see every step as an exciting adventure rather than a chore. You have to slog through all of the steps to get to where you want to go, so why not enjoy them? The lessons you learn along the way will help you in your later successes.
4. DO SMALL.
Do you ever find yourself desperately wanting to begin a new goal, only to feel so overwhelmed that you completely give up, grab a bottle of wine, and turn on a mindless TV show? OK, so maybe you don’t cope in exactly the same way that I do (and FYI, I’ve found that marathoning Broad City is perfectly suited for this), but nonetheless, I think we’ve all experienced the feeling of mentally running in circles so much that we never really find a good place to start. How do you stop the cycle? Break it up into a set of smaller goals. Want to be a top-tier lawyer/fashion editor/taxidermist? Consider starting with an internship or an entry level position. Want to lose weight? Resolve to start your mornings with a healthy breakfast or a workout. Want to run a marathon? Begin with one mile runs and gradually build from there. Start with the little habits and actions that will propel you in the right direction!
Every professional was once a beginner. You can’t expect to jump right from A to Z, so familiarize yourself with B, C, and D. When you reach one small goal, stop to reassess and then plan for the next one. That’s it! Keep it simple. One step leads to the next, and then on to the next.
5. THINK BIG.
When all else fails, a little perspective goes a long way. Look at the big picture: in a few decades, when you’re laying on your death bed, will you look back and think, “Wow, I’m really glad I didn’t take that leap of faith when I was younger! I would have been so embarrassed if I’d failed. Thank goodness I played it safe and never pursued my dreams”? Not likely.
If you fail, will it matter in a month? A year? Five years? What’s the absolute worst that can happen? Some of the most successful entrepreneurs have failed spectacularly (see: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson). See your failure as feedback rather than setback. Living in fear of losing will never allow you to put yourself in the right position to succeed. While it’s important to have stability, we live in a world of impermanence. This doesn’t mean that you should be reckless just for the sake of being reckless, but don’t be imprisoned by the safeguards you’ve put up around you.
If you’re having trouble visualizing this one, I would pick up a copy of “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying” by Bronnie Ware (or read an abridged version here). Consider watching an episode of “The Cosmos” narrated by the incomparable Carl Sagan. Go outside at night and lie on your back and stare at the stars. Take a day to go to a nursing home and talk to the residents there about their lives. Open up your viewpoint a little bit. Does embarking on a new career seem so scary after that?
Life is too short to live in pain or fear. Don’t be afraid to make a mess and to have fun doing it. Lighten up and live a little! You just might surprise yourself by what you can accomplish when you tell yourself “I CAN,” and how much fun you can have on the way.