If we were to meet at a party and, emboldened by too much wine I asked you this question: “If you could do or change anything in your life right now what would that be?” How would you answer? Imagine that this slightly inebriated stranger seemed relatively harmless and you could liberate yourself and speak your truth. Could you answer honestly that you are living fully and realising your dreams? If you are anything like me, the answer will flutter around inside you like a tiny bird “yes, I have a dream”, and then that little bird will catch in your throat as fear stops you from even speaking its name.
So now, I, this annoying stranger, blurt out another question for you just before you have time to slip away under the guise of needing to go to the loo. What do you think it will be like for you if you get to the end of your life without acting on this dream? If you keep that tiny bird trapped somewhere inside you? There are a lot of things I feel I should do more of in my life (like cleaning my shower for example!), but that feels different from that secret thing inside me. I have been noticing lately that when people ask about my future work plans my little bird flutters its wings. It bangs its tiny head against my clenched teeth. I am caught in a struggle between wanting to boldly own my dream and finding myself frozen, paralysed by the fear of naming my desires out loud.
If you dare to name your dream out loud, to yourself and to others, expect to feel afraid. Translating your dreams into words and actions is, in my experience, terrifying. Fear connects us directly to what is important to us. Rather than something to be avoided, fear can actually be a useful indicator of what you deeply care about. It’s what you do with the fear that matters. Acknowledge and make some space for the fear. Imagine that all you have to do is scoop up the fear and metaphorically carry it along with you as you take small steps in the direction of what you deeply care about. If you stop on your journey to deal with the fear first, you are going to waste precious time on what is likely to be a futile and exhausting exercise.
For me, writing articles like this one and planning my upcoming blog on the human condition are baby steps towards my dream. Fear has been busy doing its thing with me for years now. Paying too much attention to it has kept me stuck, immobilised. Fear is very effective as a survival mechanism. It has certainly kept me safe. It has no doubt spared me many failures, rejections and negative comments. Yet it leaves me empty. Feeling unfulfilled. Holding my secret desire close and letting that little bird remain trapped inside my mouth. But now the pain associated with avoiding acting on my dream is starting to outweigh the fear of possible failure. I know that if I reach the end of my life and haven’t at least tried to touch people’s lives in some small way with my words, I would feel desperately disappointed with myself. I look at my children and hope with every fibre of my body that they create a life that inspires them. That they choose freely, take risks, and not get stuck by circumstance or fear. I want that for me. I want that for you too.
How to Start Moving Towards Your Dream
- Identify what your secret dreams are and drag them out of hiding. Own them, think about them, talk about them and plan what you need to do to make them real.
- Break what you want to achieve down into small steps. Set objectives that you could start acting on right now and attach short, but realistic, timelines to these.
- Partner up with someone you know who also has a secret dream and schedule sessions to talk through your plans and your progress, offer encouragement and support each other.
- Identify and minimise time-wasters and distractions in your life.
- Schedule the time needed to accomplish your small steps into your calendar.
- If you find yourself avoiding the tasks you have set yourself, take some time to notice what you think is getting in the way. It could be that some kind of logistical issue is holding you back, that once identified can be dealt with. It may also be that you need to insert additional steps in your plan to acquire the skills needed.
Note: if you want a little extra inspiration in creating the life you secretly dream about, you may enjoy reading The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris.