Why are you making excuses for your dreams?
It surprises me how many people find the Holy Grail in their lives and lose it. They have worked out exactly what it is that they REALLY want to do in life, but then they make excuses for not taking charge to actually go and DO it.
What seems to be holding many of these people back is not forces beyond their control, but in fact, their own mindset.
It saddens me when people aren’t pursuing their dreams because they have succummbed to a ‘victim’ mentality. That is to say, when they blame other people and other circumstances for holding them back from pursuing this dream.
Now I’m not a wise, weathered person who is claiming to have pursued my own dream (because I have so many that I just tend to flit all over the place attempting to do them all at once). But I do want to share some points for people who want to pursue a dream but feel they can’t. I do realise that, of course, there may be extreme circumstances in which your goals and passions must take a back seat – so this list is for those people who do have some freedom and independence in their lives.
What you can do to really successfully pursue your dream:
1. Change the way you view setbacks.
Setbacks happen with anything challenging. They can come out of the blue, they can come when you’re young and starting out in your career, they can come when you’re older and have had a string of fantastic projects. They’re not necessarily a ‘sign’ telling you to pull the plug and they’re definitely not a reason to give up. They’re simply reminding you that what you’re doing is challenging and not everyone will have the stamina to pursue it. Passion overcomes setbacks. Simply step back, reassess, talk to people and then try a new tactic. The feeling of overcoming a challenging setback is much more fulfilling than having your dream handed to you on a plate – that would just be boring, you’d have nothing left to look forward to!
2. Don’t dwell on it
“It doesn’t do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” – A very poignant quote from that wise old Dumbledore (but really from that even wiser JK Rowling) in Harry Potter.
Take that in for a moment and think about your own life – if you’re finding reasons holding you back, then you are most definitely dwelling on your dream and forgetting to live! Start small projects that are in the same vein of your passion or join other people’s projects so that you can start enjoying your passion today. The huge benefit of this is that you meet lots of likeminded people who are pursuing the same thing you are and you can support each other! Which leads me to the next point…
3. Look for your people!
We’ve got a great group of school friends, uni friends, work friends but you know what makes life great when you’re pursuing a passion? A great group of friends who love that same thing too!
Head to Gumtree or find a website/forum that brings like-minded people together (e.g. photography forum, painters collective, gamers LAN meetup, choir etc) and meet up with these people on a regular basis. Meetup.com is also fantastic for this. I recommend joining a collective where you meet in person, meet regularly and work on an exciting project together. Simply chatting to people online isn’t fulfilling enough and simply meeting for “networking drinks” can keep things very surface level – you won’t properly bond with these people over your passion. Getting together and playing music, or making a film, or designing a robot, or making clothes to sell at a market – whatever it is that you’re pursuing – will really ignite your spark. It’s that idea of a team working together to achieve a common goal – it’s really fulfilling in itself and even better when it helps you achieve your own dream. Which leads to…
4. Hold onto your muses
Not necessarily Greek goddesses or women I might add. When you find the people who truly inspire you to try new things and who reignite your spark when it fades, you need to treasure them. These people are rare. I’ve definitely found that when I pursue an exciting project on my own I fall victim to that self-doubting voice in my head – ‘that’s a stupid idea’, ‘why would you do that’, ‘that’s not very financially smart’, ‘why bother with creative pursuits anyway’… and it’s enough to put me off the entire thing for a while. Until, inspiration strikes, often by talking to these “muses”, these passionate people who are on your wavelength! Beware the anti-muses too – those who discourage the very thing that makes your heart sing. Trust your inner judgment and don’t spend too much time with them. It isn’t always obvious who they are, but if you get home feeling uninspired or depressed after hanging out with these people, you need to spend less time with them.
5. No excuses!
Imagine a strict person is telling you “no excuses!” when you explain why you can’t pursue your dream. They’ve just said to you “I don’t care, make it happen!” And so you have to go away and find a way to make it work. It might be a super manual workaround, it might be a really unconventional way of going about it, it might mean you have to ask around, it might mean you have to get people to help out, it might mean you have to set aside extra time to work on it. But you can’t let this scary strict person down, you’ve got no choice – you’ll have to find a way…
And then… eureka! After putting in the extra time to get this done, you’ve found a solution. The strict person is happy and you can tick that difficult task off. Except, that this strict person was you, and you have now actually found a way to pursue the next step of your dream! You’ve done one better than pleasing someone else, you’ve made it happen for yourself! If you still feel guilty about putting out all the stops for yourself – then let me be the scary anonymous blogger who is telling you “no excuses!”
That’s right make it happen, stat!
6. Drive it forward
It’s your dream and you have to make it happen, no one else can. And if you get people on board to help you, you have to help them first and foremost. They’re helping you achieve your dream, even if it’s a group project – you still owe them everything. Most of all you owe them gratitude and fun times. Lots of fun times! No one joins a project to be miserable, so don’t scare them off with talk of “needing to make a serious committment” and “putting in the hours”. If all of you are excited about the project then the commitment will naturally happen (it’s rather like a relationship! Funny that). They’ll choose to put more time into it rather than feeling forced to. They will also look to you as the leader of the project so it’s up to you to keep momentum, don’t sit back and leave it to anyone else.
7. Tiny steps
Don’t just dream big. Look at small actions to get you started. Would you rather be sitting in your room dwelling on a huge dream like playing guitar to a stadium or booking a slot at the next weekly open mic night? Guess which one will be the most fulfilling and actually get you on track towards to the stadium dream? Even if you don’t reach that elusive stadium at least you had a heck of a good time heading towards it!
8. Read about Imposter syndrome and self talk
“I’ll embarrass myself, I’m a no hoper, I’m not good enough.” We all hear these way to often. And it’s why confident people can achieve their dreams even if their actual talent is questionable. I love what Neil Gaiman said about making good art. “Be on time, be good and be polite. And you don’t even need to be all three. If you’re on time and you’re polite you don’t even have to be good!” You can see that quote stuck with me because I never quite feel like I’m good enough at the things I pursue so I remind myself that I’m polite and generally on time (most of the time!) so that’s all that matters! It’s fantastic to have a term for Imposter Syndrome too. It is the feeling that you a fraud who is just waiting to be found out. For example I still have Imposter Syndrome with playing keyboard on stage and composing music because I only had two years of keyboard lessons and I don’t have a certificate proclaiming that I can officially compose music. I just hit keys and write down what sounds nice. It’s this irrational feeling that one day someone will take my piano away and say you can’t read music so you’re not allowed to play anymore. This is Imposter Syndrome and learning about it is the first step to allowing yourself to simply laugh at it.
9. No more blaming
Don’t blame yourself, don’t blame others, don’t blame circumstance. It’s the victim mindset and it will succeed in ensuring you don’t start pursuing your dream. It will succeed in keeping you miserable for the rest of your life. The next time you go to blame anyone, anyone at all, stop and look for the way forward instead. Someone pulled out of your team right before a competition? Don’t blame them for making you less likely to win, work out how this setback will give your team even more drive to win! It reminds me of this time when I had a stomach bug during an exam so I asked for compassionate consideration and they made me sit the test anyway. I sat there freaking out about the potential for a sudden burst of vomit on my paper so I had to focus intently, and after running to the bathroom to vomit I had to work even harder than I normally would to make up for lost time. The exam result? The best mark of all my papers! Crazy! Now if I wanted to blame the health department I would have to blame them for my good mark.
So there you have it. My 9 keys to following your dream. Now it’s just time I took some of this advice myself!