Parents. Friends. Colleagues. Ourselves. A pull back to the ‘norm’ by the well-meaning and the rest.
Doubt. Fear. Pride. Inertia.
Lack of prioritization. Lack of skill in moving an idea to reality.
Control disguised as Practicality.
Depression. Exhaustion. Heartbreak. Negativity. Cynicism.
Challenges. Limitations. Addictions, illness, injury, family needs.
Consequences. Debt. Obligations. Bad habits.
Lack of Clarity and Precision.
There are many things that keep us from going after what is in that deep, true place in our heart. That place that reveals the truth of who we are here to be, to experience, to love, to be drawn to, to prefer, to enjoy, to be gifted in, to apply our passion to, to be made for. That place that is breathed into being by God Creator.
It is not about making up dreams and wants and wishes or indulging our demanding egos. It is about exploring and letting our true selves emerge, and recognizing the handiwork of the divine in our life. There is no hope, no dream, no longing that when recognized as divine handiwork, one should not pursue. Many people share with me that, although not connected to formal religion, they have felt, heard, experienced the voice of God, the ‘quickening’ of their spirit by a sense of God. They report recognizing a sense of ‘rightness’ and agreement within them, as if it is meant to be. Often what they see, the vision and call or pull that they feel, seems crazy to others but they are sure of what they are experiencing and know it as divine.
But here’s the deal. Some don’t keep going after what they see. And some don’t start out at all.
Here’s the other thing. There isn’t someone to take your place in your life. You and who you are to be and what you are to do are not interchangeable. Whether it feels like what you hope for or dream about matters, it simply does.
One of the most important things you can do to combat dream killers is to steadfastly act in the belief that your dreams and hopes matter. Get specific and take the first step and then the next, and the next… Keep taking specific, progressive steps toward your dream, not into your fear. Take the risks that realizing your dream requires rather than shrinking your life to try to be safe. Get clear about which step is your next one to take, and take it. As you take it, look out ahead and see what is next and commit to take it. We too often get caught in inertia or decision paralysis when we fail to keep our vision clear and lean into it with our actions. When we show we are serious and create and sustain momentum in the direction of our dreams, we are able to effectively receive opportunities, blessings, help and support.
Begin to discipline your mind. Learn to discern the difference between wise caution and restrictive fear. When dream killer thinking invades your mind, have alternatives/replacements at the ready. Do something else. Quietly pray. Write. Cycle. Read. Call an inspiring friend. Take a specific action to fire your passion. Where your mind dwells becomes your reality. Dwell on where you are going, not the problems.
When I took mountain biking lessons in the Scottish Highlands, I was shaking with fear at the top of a red trail—red denotes a difficult and technical trail with large rocks, jump-offs, hairpin turns, which if missed meant you were going to be airborne over the side of a steep gully. I could not see any other outcome other than a crash. My instructor’s directions were counter-intuitive to me. Look quickly at the obstacles you see every time you turn a corner and in a split second pick your line straight through. Don’t look for ways around, but through. Look at your line and never look at the obstacles again… or yes, you will crash.
Fear wants to wrench our eyes from our line and focus them on the obstacles. Strength of will and vision locks our eyes on our line. People are a huge part of helping us believe what we can’t quite believe yet ourselves. My instructor, who had worked with me and a couple of others enough that morning to make some judgment calls, said, ‘You can absolutely do this if you want it badly enough. And I believe you want it badly enough. You just need to do it. It’s time. See you on the other side.’
This is a Dream Builder kind of person. He observed and assessed and called me forth. Find Dream Builders and engage with them. Do Dream Building actions. Small things lead to big things. I completed a flawless run down that trail much to my own amazement, and I will never forget it. It was about much more than biking down a trail. It always is when we face a fear.
Choose your advisors, confidantes and devil’s advocates carefully. Sometimes you can’t get away from someone’s unhelpful input. Cease arguing or persuading. Refrain from offering any additional information to ‘support your case.’ Ask questions instead about something in which they are interested. Steer the conversations back to how things are going for them, what they are up to, and keep moving on. The energy that is given to these negative interactions is depleting and leaves greater vulnerability to self-doubt, fear, exhaustion, discouragement and other mental torment that distracts us from actually doing anything concrete.
Engaging with people who crush your dreams can be such a distraction that you have no energy left to do anything else. There are times when your heart is more exposed than other times, your dreams are at a more fragile phase, your hope is shaky. This is not the time to share your thoughts and concerns with those who historically shoot you down or those who ask annoying questions that are really only meant to undermine your confidence. Most of us can sense the difference between the kind of probing questions meant to help us vet our path and those that have no value. We can feel it in how it affects us; the difference in attitude and tone. ‘Why would you want to do that?’ can be a completely different question coming from genuine interest and support or instead with the implication that we are foolish or stupid.
Fuel your body. Fuel your mind. Fuel your soul. Fuel your passion. Replace habits that strip your health, your passion, your hope, your money and your time but don’t return value to you. It works well to look at replacing instead of simply eliminating. Instead of ‘I’m not going to eat my morning donut,’ decide what you want to do. ‘I want to have an apple every morning’ and don’t focus on the donut you’re not having. When we focus on what we seem to be losing, we tend to obsess about it more and our resolve breaks down quickly. The little things count because when they defeat us, it becomes harder to believe that we can achieve the bigger things in our lives. ‘If I can’t even control whether or not I eat a donut, how will I ever be able to do (fill in the blank)?
Spend regular time in the company of creative, ‘idea’ people who are also people of self-disciplined action. People who pursue their own dreams, who ride the ups and downs of life with faith and live with passion, hope and authenticity. Ask them to tell you their stories. Observe who they are, how they become that way, what they do, the habits they have.
It’s not necessarily easier for someone else to face their fears. They do have an advantage in living their life because they were meant to live it. Your life is your own. You have advantages and challenges unique to your own path. One person’s path is not necessarily easier or harder than another person’s. It’s just different.
My friend followed my run down the red trail and went airborn, landing down in the gully, thankfully landing on a soft patch of grass between a log and a large rock. He said that it looked so easy that he got over-confident. But the first time I went down, which he also saw, I freaked out and grabbed hold of a tree, yanking myself off of my bike. It hurt. The second time looked easy because I chose to stay on my line no matter what, accepting the fact that if I crashed it would hurt, maybe badly.
I’ve never heard anyone describe achieving a dream as easy or safe. However, it is a path that I often hear people describe as unfolding with a sense of purpose and certainty. Things flow forward even when confronting obstacles and what seem to be setbacks at first. In facing fear and moving forward anyhow, a way through emerges where there seemed to be no way through.
Make it a consistent habit to accomplish things and follow through on what you set out to do, paying attention to the little things. Your experience in small things replaces the noise that distracts and builds confidence.
Life is meant to be entrepreneurial, creative, peppered with crazy, unorthodox ideas, a lot of ‘I can’s’ even though others standing by roll their eyes. Life is meant to be lived in a way that inspires us. To be an unpredictable, exhilarating, stranger than fiction adventure, bathed in grace. Even the ‘quietest’ idea or dream that is breathed into you by God is filled with purpose for you in service to others in love.
Discover what inspires you to be excellent. Gather up the talents and dreams given to you and invest them into the purpose of your life. It matters.
Part One of Following Your Dreams is here.