Ever had a dream or a goal, but thought it was too “out there” to make it happen? What about not knowing what the heck would actually bring you the most happiness? Are you scared shitless that it won’t work out? Do you value yourself enough to put in the work to get there?
Well, friend, I’m right there with ya. Going after dreams can be totally terrifying, and it might seem like a never ending path of disappointment and shut-downs. It might be insanely overwhelming, complicated, confusing, or unrealistic… or maybe ALL of those things.
With all these doubts floating around in your head, what you hope to accomplish might seem, literally, impossible. That’s assuming that you actually know what it is that you want, what type of life you want to live, or what happiness actually means for you. Some people are fortunate enough to know exactly what they want to work toward, but most people aren’t that lucky- especially in the beginning. Or maybe you kind-of-sort-of know what you want, but fear and self doubt are getting in the way.
It’s not always easy (and if it was, it probably wouldn’t be worth it). The good news, though, is that there are baby steps you can take to build a solid foundation for moving forward and going after that dream.
Knowing you deserve to live a life you love
If you really, truly want to start working toward living a better, more fulfilling life, it all starts with knowing that you 1000% deserve it. For SUCH a long time (I’m talkin, like, 10+ years), I seriously didn’t think that I deserved to be happy. Granted, a lot of that came from my battle with depression, but in general I felt that in a very wholehearted way. It’s a devastating way to think about your life, but sadly, it’s all too common.
If you’re feeling this way, please know that you DO FREAKING DESERVE IT. You deserve every bit of happiness, joy and success that comes your way- just as much as anyone else. It’s not selfish to work toward what you love- you owe it to yourself. You only have one life to live, so how do you want to live it?
Becoming aware of your emotions, thoughts and values
Our thoughts are typically on autopilot. Seriously. Our emotions seem to just happen, and we sometimes lose sight of our values. It’s super easy to try ignoring your emotions or negative thoughts, but believe me- the more you try to push them aside, the more likely they will come racing up to the surface, and the more they will consume you.
It takes practice, and a ton of awareness, but it’s super important to be mindful of your emotions. You have to make room for them in your life (because they aren’t going away). Pay attention to your thoughts and self- talk…. Do you constantly think that you can’t do something, or that you’ll never be able to make your dreams happen? Your thoughts lead to emotions, and emotions can often times lead to action (or stagnation). If negative self-talk is common for you, then I encourage you to start making note of those nasty inner voices. The more awareness you have when it comes to your inner world, the easier it will be to shift those thoughts and emotions and turn them into something positive.
Are you the type of person who constantly focuses on the negative doomsday stuff? If you are, you're in good company…. I still have a hard time with thinking positively. But, the more aware you are of your thoughts and feelings, the more you'll notice how negative thinking is actually super draining and doesn't do you any good.
Learning how to reframe these negative thoughts is an important step to not only getting to know your strengths and weaknesses on a deeper level, you'll probably come to realize that things aren't as bad as they seem.
I'm a firm believer in the balance of opposites- there wouldn't be light without the darkness. Bad stuff is going to happen, and that's inevitable- but life is always changing, and with each negative experience you do grow just a little bit stronger than you were before.
Sometimes our inner struggles or insecurities have become so unwanted that we can be blind to what’s holding us back. It’s time to get real and figure out what those are, though, because if you don’t know what’s stopping you, you can’t really expect to overcome those mental roadblocks.
A great way to bring those fears, doubts and insecurities to light is by first figuring out what you’re up against internally. Believe me- you can’t do shit without first knowing what it is that you’re actually battling.
Enter: the free write. It’s sometimes called free association, but it’s essentially writing whatever the heck pops into your mind, no matter how small or insignificant it might seem. A lot of times, our minds are filled with mental clutter, and the point of a free write is to get all that crap out and onto a piece of paper, without thinking about it or censoring what you write.
Set a time limit (maybe 10 minutes to start). Sit down and clear all distractions. Start writing. It doesn’t matter what. It could be something like “Man, I’d love a freaking latte right now” or “I’m so frustrated with my coworker” or even “I’m tired, I’m tired, I’m tired….” Seriously, I’ve done this several times and there are definitely times that my mind appears to be asleep- but once you let it flow, you might be surprised about what your writing can reveal.
Make a vision board
I can’t tell you how insanely important a vision board is. It’s literally something that can change the way you approach life. And the best part? They’re super easy to do and can actually be a shizz ton of fun.
It can be digital or physical, but I suggest putting it somewhere that you can see daily (ie saved as the background image on your desktop, or hung up next to your bed). It’ll help remind and encourage you on the days you don’t want to do shit, or when you might feel defeated or bummed out.
Your vision board can consist of pretty much anything- inspiring quotes, vibrant pictures and graphics, photos of your loved ones, article clippings from magazines, your favorite colors, etc. You can add anything that inspires you to live a life you love.
De-clutter (physical and mental)
You know that mind clutter I was talking about earlier? Kind of like the free write, it’s time to become super clear about your priorities are, and you won’t be able to do that unless you’ve cleared your mind of the unnecessary bullshit. Write it down, record it, talk to friends about it- whatever it is that helps you the most, make sure to do it regularly. Schedule time to get in touch with that clutter, recognize it, release it and move on, stat.
A lot of it also has to do with your physical environment. I’m seriously no saint when it comes to this, but it always helps to clear out the physical clutter and get shit organized. I’m a super messy person, in general, and I always have been… but I will admit that when I actually take the time to tidy up, I feel more focused and motivated.
If your work area is covered in crap and you don’t really know where anything is, that in itself can cause unnecessary stress, time wasted and a sense of not being in control. When I’m feeling super distracted, I can oftentimes attribute it to a messy, scattered and cluttered room or workspace. So, do what you can on a daily basis to help cut down the clutter!
Take action steps to get there and make a PLAN
When you figure out what you actually want to do and how you want to live your life, now it’s time to focus on how you’re actually going to make shit happen. Big, crazy hopes and dreams can be scary, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible if you give it your all! For reals… you can dream as much as you want, but if you don’t take action the dream will remain a dream instead of a reality, and living a life you love most likely won’t just happen.
An easy way to make a plan is to think of what the overarching goal is, or the main task, then think about all the small steps you can take to achieve it.
Pssssst…. Here’s an example:
Main task: Write blog post (writing a blog post takes a shizz ton of work and planning)
Do research for topic
Brainstorm/ free write
Choose keywords to focus on
Write blog post
Again, that’s just an example, but breaking stuff down into smaller, more manageable chunks will lead to much less overwhelm than just trying to tackle everything not really knowing where to start. Once you figure out the smaller tasks, make a plan to work on those and check off one thing at a time. Don’t try to work on multiple things at once (hello, shiny object syndrome), because chances are it will be distracting instead of productive.
Accountability and finishing what you start
So, you have your shiny new plan in place, and you’re still probably thinking “holy shizz, how the heck am I going to get ALL THE THINGS done?” It comes down to accountability so that you actually get shit done.
You could find an accountability buddy- someone who will be supportive but will also call you out on your bullshit (the “I don’t feel like it” and “I’ll just do it tomorrow” bullshit…. ammiright?!). You can also set up a reward system (if I finish x, then I can do x) or something to keep the motivation going.
I’ve found that it’s crucial to actually finish what you start. Let’s be real, we all know that when we get excited about something, it’s easy to get into it for a while, then forget about it. But if it’s something that’s truly important, or something you’re insanely passionate about, you have to finish what you start, and preferably before moving onto something else!
Weekly, monthly and yearly reviews
With all these amazing, lofty goals, it's also important to review what's working and what's not. Personally, I have a tendency to schedule WAYYYYY too much shizz, underestimating how long a project will take or overestimating the time I can dedicate to it. I did this for a few months, until I realized:
- While creating a plan of action, it should be centered around the highest priority task (the ultimate, game-changing whatever-it-is that you're working toward or dreaming about).
- Schedule the above in the order of importance and urgency to get a better idea of what needs to be done versus the fluff tasks that might be fun or enjoyable, but might not really get you anywhere.
It's always helpful to schedule reviews (weekly, monthly and yearly) to know exactly where you stand with your progress, and what needs to change moving forward. If you had 20 things scheduled for last month and you look back and realize you only completed 3, chances are there's a huge disconnect. You won't necessarily be conscious of it if you don't actively do reviews.
COntinually seek inspiration (find a mentor or ^)
There will totally be times when you don't feel like doing shit. There will also be times when you just feel like giving up. I totally get that- I'm pretty sure everyone feels that way at one point or another. If you do actually give up, though….. you will always wonder what could have been. If it's something that you truly, 100% want, with all your being, you owe it to yourself to KEEP AT IT.
So, find stuff that will actively inspire you to keep that fire going. Find podcasts in your niche, find people you admire and follow them on Facebook, read books having to do with your goal, or hell, just motivational books in general are always awesome.
Bottom line: follow what you love, and keep reaching out to find motivation and inspiration.
Things won’t always go the way that you want, but remember this: with each setback, there is an opportunity for learning and growth. You are NOT your failures, and sometimes failing is necessary for progress, and at some point it becomes inevitable. Have you ever met anyone who was literally perfect at everything they do? Probably not, but I’m willing to say this: The better someone is at something, chances are they have experienced a shizz ton of failures and disappointments along the way.
Celebrating the small victories
Like I said, failure is typically inevitable, but guess what? So are victories! When one door closes, another one opens, so take full advantage of that.
Take me, for example…. I initially started this blog over 6 months ago, hoping for immediate results and people begging me for more content. Yeah….. that didn't really happen, but then again I wasn't doing anything consistently, I didn't have a plan, I was obsessed with my failures….. but, you know what? I pretty much said “fuck you” to the roadblocks and busted through them anyway. That, in itself, is a major win…. But what's more is that when I fell off the grid, people were actually, for reals asking when my website would be up and running again. That's huge! I basically went from a “I can't do this so screw it” to “wait a minute….. people are asking for more posts?!?!?!?! I have to keep going!”
And so, here I am. Slowly but surely I am making shit happen and acknowledging every.little.thing (good or bad) that's happened along the way.
You deserve to celebrate the shit out of your wins and accomplishments, so don't think otherwise.
Make self-care a priority
Self care is important anyway, but it becomes particularly imperative when you are starting to feel burnt out, tired or stressed.
It's crucial to know what revitalizes you when you're lacking energy, what relieves stress, and what makes you feel good in general. Bubble baths, hiking, reading a good book, curling up and binge-watching Netflix, getting coffee with a good friend…. Whatever floats your boat, DO IT. You can only do so much before you need to do something nice for yourself.
Remember, it’s always about the journey, but it’s important to remind yourself of the destination.