When things don’t go as planned – and it happens all the time – I think about the countless attempts I made to start writing a book. I had the general idea and the basic concept of what I wanted to convey, but as I started to draft up the first chapter, I would find myself backspacing my first round of sentences until the cursor was the only thing on the page.
Self-doubt often creeps in when you allow other people to have a say in the things you do. Familiar voices of those with whom I’d (reluctantly) shared my book idea danced around in my head, smirking and snickering at my ambition. I remember being asked questions like “Why do you want to do that?” and “Don’t you think you’re wasting your time?” as if to imply that I should be content not utilizing my creativity.
When I finally got the nerve to complete a paragraph or two, I’d move on to the next block of writing until I was satisfied with what I’d written, and eventually I finished it. That very first manuscript is still tucked away in a filing box in my attic (a suspense-filled drama about a narcissistic undercover assassin who tries to balance her miserable personal life with the twisted demands of the mysterious agency she works for). I don’t know if it’ll ever be one of my published works, but the point is that I continued to write until I reached my goal and only because I forced myself to listen to myself and not others.
As I look back on my personal accomplishments, I can’t help but imagine what my life would be like if I’d listened to the criticism of friends and detractors alike, if I had let them talk me out of my creative ideas. When it comes to seeing your visions through, sometimes it requires being on guard and being careful with whom you share your plans.
I don’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t share your dream with others, since it can be in your interest to lean on others for help and encouragement (as well as to inspire others on their journeys with your passion and determination), but it’s wise to keep your cards close to your chest. Don’t give away too much. People have strange motivations, usually selfish ones, when it comes to anything related to money and success, and as such they’ll often belittle your attempts or provide their own perspective on what you should or shouldn’t be doing and how.
Don’t let it get that far. Protect your dream. It’s your baby, after all. You gave birth to it and are nurturing it toward maturity and independence. Allowing someone else to dictate how we should or should not tend to our “child” when we’re being guided by faith and intuition robs us of our creative power and decreases any chance we have of living out our dreams.
A friend one told me about his idea of starting a program providing entertainment and activities for assisted-living communities. He often volunteered at several of these facilities and talked about how much joy he gets his time with the residents.
As the story unfolded, he talked about how he shared the idea with friends who tried to dissuade him from pursuing the idea. While his passion lied prominently between helping youth and the elderly communities, instead of encouraging him, those friends were more interested in enjoying his company as a drinking buddy during Thursday Happy Hour than to hear him rattle on about his desire to help the elderly. It’s not that they were being jerks; they were just serving their own interests, or were jealous, or reacting out of envy and frustration with their own lack of initiation.
After thinking things through, my friend decided to ignore them and walk in the direction he wanted to be heading: he began volunteering at local assisted-living and retirement centers. He truly enjoys the work that he does, providing weekly enrichment through music and art. Had he been too caught up with what his friends thought about his decision to launch entertainment-based programs for the elderly, he’d likely have bypassed his own desires and be at the bar right now, throwing back shots of tequila.
Give someone an opening and that little seed of doubt gets planted in your head. It might can even take root and block out the sunlight. It’s enough that you must work to maintain positive thinking habits for yourself – that alone takes discipline, time, and effort. Now factor in someone else’s notions, chatter, dilemmas, problems, or daily highlights, and you may not get the validation you were hoping for.
Follow Your Map
As I’ll explain later, you’ll want to create a map for yourself and your vision. As long as you have that to remind you to stay on the path you’ve laid out for yourself and your ventures, you won’t have to rely on anyone to give you the green light, to propel you into acting, or even to approve of your efforts. Yes, there are advantages to working with others, taking advantage of services, or outsourcing to experts, but as we begin to put things in perspective and set goals in our own lives, cheerleaders are not required.
A lot of people will simply try to scare you out of reaching your potential because they themselves are not equipped for the job. Consider whom you’re sharing your vision with so you’re not discouraged when talking about your plans. You simply don’t need permission to reach for the stars.
We have choices, just as our neighbor has choices. Choose to live your dream by putting aside whatever criticism or backlash you’ve endured if it’s in your heart to truly press forward. I can’t imagine where I’d be if I took every piece of criticism personally or became discouraged to the point that I felt the urge to throw in the towel on my dream. Everyone has their own opinions, but it’s their opinion to have. Don’t be distracted by those who are not on board with your vision. At the end of the day, it’s your lil red wagon to push or pull.
Start by writing down your goals, post them where you will see them every day, and use deadlines: “within six months,” “by January 1, 2020,” “five-year anniversary,” etc. Use specific categories as well: personal, professional, development and training, financial, etc.
Use that courage muscle: think big and think different. There should be some risk inherent to your business, otherwise there’s no element of differentiation for your brand. What are you offering that others aren’t? What part of you are you offering that no one else has? What’s the one stand-out quality of your brand’s offering? What
Always have another goal, a loftier dream. What happens when you reach your first goal? Will you sit back and ride it out (and hope that the success lasts), or will you continue to strive?
Realize that life is complicated and messy. Things don’t always go as planned. You don’t have to tell anyone – just correct course and keep moving forward. Be sure to mentally note this lesson and plan for future problematic scenarios like this.
Check in on the timeline regularly and see if you’re on track. The timeline is fluid, but your evolution should be constant. If you’re not making progress, figure out why. What obstacles are in your way, and how can you use them to your advantage? (See the chapter on obstacles for more advice in that regard.)