Monday, October 21, 2013

What's Holding You Back From Pursuing Your Dreams?

Are you tired of your life being the same, day after day, year after year? Then you need to find the answer to this question. Most people have no real idea of what they want or how to get it.

I've missed many opportunities in my life because I didn't know the answer or take steps to change my future. One of the biggest mistakes I made was turning down a full grant to attend college. Years later, when I had a similar opportunity to teach at a local business school. One of the perks was attending classes for free, and I again turned it down. I had been given a second chance to make up for the biggest mistake of my life, and I didn't take it. I was full of self-doubt and lack of confidence, but also something bigger, the fear of failure.

Does this sound familiar? Have you ever been presented with that golden opportunity that you knew you wanted, but didn't take? What stopped you? Who were you afraid of letting down - your family or yourself?

Growing up, my Dad had two sayings. "Better the devil you know, than the one you don't," and "The grass is always greener on the other side, until you get there." What this said to me is don't take any chances. Like most baby boomers, our parents grew up during the depression. Their generation stayed in the same job until they retired and were grateful to have a job. They believed it was better to stay where you were, with what was safe and familiar than to risk the unknown. They put their hopes and dreams aside to support their families.

This instilled in a lot of us the message that we shouldn't aspire for more. We should be satisfied that we had a roof over our heads, food on the table and our bills were paid. I wanted more. I had hopes, dreams, and a desire for a better life. I didn't want to teach my children to just accept mediocrity. I wanted them to reach for the stars and not let anything stand in their way? I couldn't do that unless I became an example and the change I wanted to see. How would I ever know what I was capable of if I never tried? I might fail, but what if I didn't? Still, it took me years to get past this.

It wasn't until turning 50 that I discovered something. I wasn't afraid of failure, I was afraid of success. I got so used to the status quo, that I didn't know what I would do if I actually did succeed. How would my life change? Was I ready for it? Would I know what to do? I knew how to struggle, but if I reached success could I pull that off? Could I become a leader or would people see through me and realize I was a fake? I didn't know, but I suddenly knew I had to try.

More than half my life was over and I hadn't really accomplished anything. I was no further ahead than when I graduated. My life had turned out nothing like I planned. I felt like I had been sleepwalking through it with no idea of where I was headed or why. It was a major turning point for me. I finally discovered the person I was meant to be. I stopped worrying about what others thoughts or how they perceived me. It was what I thought that mattered. I had dreams and goals and I was determined to achieve them. I knew if my life was going to change, then I had to do it. If it's to be, then it's up to me, became my mantra.

Life took on new meaning. I decided that fear would no longer keep me from experiencing joy in my life. I didn't want to just exist. I wanted a life filled with passion, happiness, success, and freedom. I wanted to try things I had never done before. I wanted to have fun!

I had an opportunity to test this when my daughter took me out for dinner at a little pub. She asked if I had ever played pool. I told her no and I had no intention of starting now. She knew my fear of being in front of people and trying new things. Then I remembered the promise I made to myself. I would not let fear hold me back anymore. Feeling very subconscious, I walked to the pool table and let my daughter proceed to teach me how to play. I even let our waiter give me some pointers. And the most amazing thing happened. I beat her the first two games. I felt like I had hit the lottery. It wasn't because I had won, but because I had stepped out of my comfort zone and tried. I had also taught my daughter a valuable life lesson -"It's never too late to become what you might have been."
~~ George Eliot

This new confidence inspired me to do something else I wouldn't have attempted before. I attended a convention by myself, where I knew I wouldn't know anyone. A little hesitant, I walked into the room, sat down and started a conversation with the person next to me. Later that evening, I introduced myself to a girl that was standing alone and we spent the rest of that evening and most of the convention together. I found myself approaching more people and starting conversations. My fears of being rejected were unfounded. People responded to my openness and honesty and I made new friends in the process. I was so excited. Each time I stepped out of my comfort zone, my confidence increased.

I became aware of how thoughts or words, whether positive or negative, have on our lives when heard over and over again? They have the power to shape the person we become. Just like a song you've heard and can't get out of your mind for days after, negative thoughts can affect us the same way.

Studies show what you focus on most, you'll move towards. If you focus on all the negatives in your life, then you'll attract more of the same. These thoughts eventually become habit. You start to believe them and your life becomes a self-fulfilled prophecy. That's why affirmations are so powerful. They work the same way. Focus on positive thoughts and you'll get positive results. People are attracted to those that believe in themselves.

Here is one of my favorite quotes:

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
~~ Frank Outlaw

Decide now what it is you want. Where do you see yourself in 5, 10 or 20 years if you continue doing the same things? When presented with an opportunity or a challenge, ask yourself some questions. What will happen if I don't take any action? What will the outcome be? Well, most likely, nothing will change. You'll stay stuck in your job, struggle to pay your bills, or live in fear. Now, ask yourself what will happen if you take that risk? You could find a job you love, be earning more money, or have more time with your family. Which of these scenarios appeals to you most? You have a choice. What actions you take or don't take next will determine the course of your future.

Deciding what you want is your first step. Once you know that, make a plan and know your WHY. Without having a clear focus as to what you want to achieve, it will just be a wish. Next, visualize it. See it, feel it, as though you have already achieved it. Visualization is very powerful. If you see it and believe it, your mind will find a way to make it happen. Now, put your thoughts into action.

There is more I want to learn and experience and I'm ready for the challenge. I hope you are too. There's a saying, "the journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step." Are you ready to take it? If not, what's holding you back?

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