What have you always wanted to do? What do you dream about doing that you dismiss, put off, or tell yourself that it can’t happen now or you just have to wait until the time is right? Everyone has a dream. Everyone. I don’t care if you are 100 years old. I know you have one. If you think you don’t, you are lying to yourself.
I’m just being honest here. I know that we are often too self-critical, but there are parts of our lives where we just flat out lie to ourselves, keeping us from living the life we were designed to live. Our words are the most powerful tool we humans have. So powerful that they can destroy generations—yes, words… even the non-verbalized words we speak in our minds. The flip side is that words also have the power to transform. That’s why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (nutshell: learning to recognize the lies we tell ourselves and replace them with truth) has been scientifically proven to successfully treat a myriad of mental disorders. Did you hear what I just said? The basis of many of our problems are the conversations we have with ourselves. These lies we tell ourselves prevent us from living the life we dream about.
Lies we tell ourselves about our dreams and goals:
It’s too late
If I just had _______ in place I could attain my goal
There is only one solution—one way to attain my dream
I lost my chance
I don’t have enough money
Others are just lucky
I don’t have enough time
I’m not smart enough, good enough, etc.
It’s not my time… I just have to wait
Why we lie to ourselves:
To make us feel better
It is easier to stay in a stuck place if we tell ourselves it is not under our control. But it is under your control. You may not believe it or don’t want to hear it, but it really is! For decades, psychologists have studied this concept as locus of control (LOC). The more internal our LOC, the more we believe our own efforts determine what happens in our lives. The more external our LOC, the more we feel our lives are controlled by outside forces (chance or powerful others) (Levenson, 1973; Rotter, 1966).
Research has linked external LOC with poor mental and physical health, passivity, anxiety, depression, and learned helplessness; and internal LOC with greater happiness, health, success, and the ability to cope with challenges (Burger, 1984; Hahn, 2000; Kobasa, 1979; Peterson, 1979; Peterson & Stunkard, 1989). Sometimes just believing you have control and acting on that belief makes all the difference in the world.
Often, we allow life to get in the way and trample those dreams. We lie to ourselves that they don’t matter anymore or weren’t that important. Sometimes we feel that we have made critical life mistakes or bad choices that keep us from attaining our goals. Life is a great teacher. Learn and move on! I have never heard a success story that doesn’t include failure. Think about that one. If you haven’t failed yet, you don’t even have the foundation for success. Many of us (myself included) have the failure part covered, so that’s good news! Don’t allow the fear of failure to stop you. We humans were designed to persevere and thrive, not just exist. It is never too late.
I have never heard a success story that doesn’t include failure.
So, what now? I have found that the solution to attaining your goals is focused attention. Yes, small amounts of focused attention on your goal. Everyone has time for that. If you dedicate just 30 minutes a day, five days a week, to whatever your goal is, you will accomplish more than you have in the months and years you have spent thinking about what you would like to do one day. Those 30 minutes a day are the beginning of your pursuing and preparing. Roman philosopher Seneca reminds us that we make our own “luck,” describing it as preparation meeting opportunity. This has been proven true over and over again! Prepare for that goal. Get ready now, even if it seems unattainable. When that opportunity comes, you will be ready for that perfect storm!
I have outlined below some steps that you should be taking as you start pursuing your goal in just 30 minutes a day:
First things first: You must have a space. I don’t care if it is a corner in your closet. Create a dedicated space because you can’t waste your 30 minutes setting up every day. Have everything in your space so you can be up and running when you start your 30 minutes. Next, you must identify your goal. Start by creating a list of your life goals. I’m not talking about a bucket list. I am talking about a personal dreams and goals list. Everyone should have one. Then pick one (just one!) that you will work on for the next six weeks. List out 20 small (yes, small) steps that will lead you to that goal (number one on that list is setting up your space). Now start stepping. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the financial means right now. The first few steps may just be about what you need to do to attain the means to fulfill your goal. There are always steps that don’t require money that will put you in that prepared place for when opportunity strikes. Once again, you do what you can in those 30 minutes to move yourself closer. Last, don’t give up and don’t let discouragement overtake you. Even if you spend your first few days looking at a blank paper, the focused time spent will pay off. You will be surprised at the transformative power of focused attention.
I hope this gives you the encouragement you need to process and work towards your goals. Just take it step by step. Applying your grit and grace, you can absolutely do it!
Burger, J. M (1984). Desire for control, locus of control, and proneness to depression.Journal of Personality, 52, 71-88.
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