Ever feel like your dreams are never going to become a reality?
It’s not like you’ve completely given up on your dreams. You occasionally think about how awesome it would be if you achieved them, but there are so many other things in the way.
Your job. Your boss. Your kids. Your parents. Your finances. Your mortgage.
All of these problems… I mean, responsibilities.
So you’re afraid of taking the leap of faith.
Afraid of what people will think if you quit your job.
Afraid of going bankrupt.
Afraid of falling behind in the rat race.
Afraid of not being able to provide for your family.
Afraid of not living up to the expectations of others.
Afraid of not living up to your own expectations.
Afraid of failing.
No one wants to be irresponsible, and everyone feels afraid sometimes. But does that mean it’s impossible to realize your dreams?
Of course not. The Michael Jordans, Steve Jobs’, Oprah Winfreys and Mark Zuckerbergs of the world show us that dreams can come true.
“But those people are so much more talented, so much more charismatic, so much luckier than me… I could never be like them,” you might be thinking.
It’s true—you might never be like them. Your dream might not be as big or impressive as theirs.
Your dream might just be to own a house. It might be to start a flower shop. It might be to write a novel. It might be to send your kids to college.
It’s not the size of your dream that matters. It’s the pursuit of your dream that turns your life into a thrilling adventure, an exhilarating story. That’s what really matters.
In this post, I’m not going to tell you about the huge changes you need to make in your life in order to achieve your dreams.
Instead, I’m going to share with you what you ought to stop doing. These are things we all do on occasion—things that quietly sabotage our dreams, sap our energy, and make us less alive.
Don’t do these things:
- Say “I wish” or “I hope”: Whenever you do this, you put yourself in a mindset where the situation is beyond your control. What you can do as an alternative is turn your wishes and hopes into goals. For example, don’t say, “I wish my boss would give me flexible working hours.” Instead, set a goal that you’re going to have a conversation with your boss within the next three days about establishing flexible working hours. When you set goals, you choose to focus on what you can do to improve your circumstances, which is very empowering.
- Complain: This is a favorite pastime for many people. There are always things to complain about: the weather, the economy, the healthcare system, the guy who sat next to you on the bus and hummed a really annoying song… but when you complain, you’re not making your circumstances any better. Instead of complaining, think about the many things you have to be grateful for. I recommend wearing a rubber band around your wrist. Whenever you’re about to complain, snap the rubber band as a reminder not to.
- Blame others: If you want to achieve your dreams, you’re going to need to take full responsibility for your life. That means no blaming your parents, friends, relatives or bad luck for where you are in life. Recognize that some things are beyond your control, but take responsibility for the way every situation turns out.
- Think of reasons why you shouldn’t take action: There will always be plenty of them. Think of all the positive things that might happen if you take action today.
- Settle: Settling for second best is a sure way to prevent yourself from reaching your dreams. This applies to your relationships, finances, career and physical health. Decide that you’re going to create a masterpiece out of your life. Don’t give in to the allure of a comfortable but mediocre existence.
- Procrastinate: You can probably think of at least one thing you can do immediately that will bring you closer to your dream. There’s never a perfect time to take action, so do what you can right now.
- Hang out with toxic people: It’s been said that you’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with. Hang out with negative, critical and judgmental people, and you’ll become just like them in no time. Those aren’t traits you associate with people who make their dreams come true.
- Say “I should”: When you say you “should” learn a new language, start writing a book, or go for a public speaking course, it’s unlikely that you’ll actually do it. Say, “I choose to” instead. This makes you realize that everything in life is a choice. You really do have the power to choose, and to turn your dreams into reality.
- Compare yourself to others: There will always be people out there who are better looking, smarter and more capable than you. But you’re not trying to achieve their dreams; you’re trying to achieve yours. Think about the characteristics that make you special and unique, and about how you can use them to accomplish your dream.
- Watch so much TV: The same applies for going on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. If you’re not careful, these can become major time sucks. Most surveys show that the average American watches more than four hours of TV a day. I hope that statistic scares you. Imagine how much you closer you could get toward achieving your dream if you spent those four hours every day doing something more fruitful. I’m not suggesting that you go cold turkey, but set a daily limit for yourself and use a timer to make sure you stick to that limit.
- Say “I don’t have time”: Do you make time to watch your favorite TV show? Do you make time to update your Facebook status? Do you make time to eat? We all make time for the things that are important to us. If you find yourself saying you “don’t have time” to do something you know you ought to, you need to reorder your priorities.
- Say “yes” to everyone: Many people find it impossible to say “no” to requests and opportunities, even ones that aren’t in line with their values and goals. If you say “yes” to everyone, you’re effectively settling for good, when what you really want is great. The path of greatness is the path of intentional abandonment of everything good, in pursuit of only the best. Think carefully before agreeing to any request.
- Try to be perfect: I’m not perfect, and neither are you. Accept yourself fully—achievements, strengths, weaknesses, failures, flaws and all. You don’t have to be perfect to realize your dreams, but you do need to be committed to personal growth. You can only begin that journey when you accept yourself completely for who you are
- Try to please everyone: Like the saying goes, “You can please all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” Your dreams are personal. You’re not pursuing them to garner applause from the people around you or from society. Don’t make the mistake of trying to make everyone happy, because that’s impossible. So don’t even try.
- Deprive yourself of sleep: When you don’t feel your best, you’re more likely to make impulsive decisions that aren’t in your long-term interests. If you want to achieve your dreams, you’ll definitely have to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gain. If you’re sleep-deprived, you probably won’t have the willpower to make the right decision.
I haven’t achieved all of my dreams. Far from it, in fact.
I do know, however, that pursuing your dreams isn’t easy. Somewhere along the way, you’ll want to quit. You’ll want to run away. You’ll want to go back to your comfortable, familiar, boring life.
But I beg you not to. The world needs adventurers who are fully alive. Most people are barely surviving, barely making it through each day. Don’t be one of them.
Dream big. Start small. Act now—right now.