Have you felt it too? The pain of having dreams you didn’t pursue?
I’ve been a writer most of my life—a writer who doesn’t write. For decades, I dreamed of being a published author, but I did nothing to make my dream come true.
You yearn for this thing that calls to you repeatedly, but you keep pushing it away. It can make you feel terrible about yourself, embarrassed about publicly stating what you want but never acting on it, and angry that you’ve wasted so much time.
So, why do we let this happen? The answer is fear.
And it shows up in all kinds of sneaky ways: self-doubt, saying no to possibilities, procrastination, perfectionism, being overwhelmed by negative self-talk. These and other self-sabotaging behaviors are all symptoms of fear.
I was so paralyzed by it that for years I couldn’t even try my hand at writing. It’s a lonely feeling.
One day, I stirred up enough courage to actually start writing. I was finally going to make something happen. But then I was too afraid to show my work to anyone and gave up on myself—yet again.
The truth is, I allowed fear to take the wind out of my sails and steal my dream over and over. But the good news is I finally found a way to turn the tide on this heartbreaking torment. Today, I use the following four steps to help me honor my calling and pursue my dreams with courage and enthusiasm:
1. Acknowledge your inner wounds.
In the course of being raised by imperfect humans, we all experience some form of suffering and carry with us what I call "The Wounded One." It’s the fearful part of you that wants to be protected from discomfort and pain.
To pursue a dream is to leave complacency behind and leap into the unknown. It is to embark on an adventure, set challenges for yourself, and persevere no matter what.
Kind of exciting. But also scary.
So, your inner Wounded One will come up with all kinds of reasons you can’t go after your dream. These thoughts lead to self-sabotaging behaviors. The Wounded One will do whatever it can to stop you in your tracks and keep you “safe.” But you don’t have to let this part of you run your life.
Be open to the idea that negative thoughts and feelings arise from the Wounded One, and that it's just trying to show you something about yourself.
In a caring way, let your Wounded One know that you intend to pursue your dream no matter what. Ask what it is afraid of and what would help it be less anxious. In this way, you can move forward rather than be incapacitated by negativity and fear.
2. Call on your inner wisdom.
Within all of us is a steadfast source of unconditional love, wisdom, and healing. It is a powerful, life-giving energy in the universe that you can rely on for grace and support.
Some call it Higher Power, True Nature, Life Force, or God. You could also think of it as your intuition or consciousness.
I call it God and experience it as The Wise One within me. Its voice is always calm, clear, and positive. It helps me soothe the Inner Wounded One.
You can connect with this guiding presence at any time, and it will always steer you in the right direction. If appropriate to your belief system, use devotion and prayer to build your personal connection to God or a higher power. If this is not appropriate, you might try meditation, journaling, quiet time in nature, or something else that works for you.
Whenever you’re having negative thoughts and facing fear, focus on your heart and ask your Inner Wise One for help and healing.
3. Recognize your innate gifts.
In the fairy tale “The Ugly Duckling,” a baby swan is raised to think he is a duck, doesn’t fit in, and suffers great emotional pain until he finds out that he’s not a duck at all but rather a swan.
Many of us have struggled to conform to our environment and lost sight of who we truly are. Learn about and appreciate your inborn temperament. Discover your natural talents, the elements of your personality that have always been there. Develop these into strengths with knowledge, skill, and practice.
One way to start identifying your natural talents is to devote some quality reflection time to questions like the following:
- What’s something you did or were attracted to when you were eight years old that still attracts you today?
- What’s one thing you dream about doing that you’ve never told anyone?
- What do you secretly take the most pride in, and why?
- What is it about the state of the world that causes you real pain or heartache?
- What makes you feel fully alive when you are doing it, and why?
The more you operate within your unique strengths, the more empowered you will be in all areas of your life and the more adept you will become at keeping fears at bay.
4. Strengthen your self-trust.
When fear sows its seeds, we either procrastinate or give up on a task before its completion. Building self-trust weakens the influence of fearful thinking and strengthens the power of love within you.
Trusting yourself is a result of being generally happy about who you have become, being able to love others in a committed way, being engaged in meaningful work, being free from addictions, and being capable of handling daily stresses.
You trust yourself when you can face disappointment and frustration without becoming destabilized. You trust yourself when in times of stress, you have the ability to self-soothe and look for strength within rather than escape into self-destructive behavior.
You trust yourself when you act with integrity and live in accordance with life-affirming values, such as generosity, truthfulness, and respect toward everyone.
And as for that dream of yours, choose to trust that it wouldn’t have been given to you unless you had also been given the ability to make it happen.
Moving from fear into fulfillment:
Repeatedly getting slammed by negativity, self-doubt, and fear is painful. Life is hard when you don’t feel good about yourself or the way things are going. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to wake up 20 years from now to realize that I didn’t even try to make my dream come true.
Our wishes, hopes, and dreams are important and deserve to be nurtured. They come from a noble place—the sacred part of us all that wants to be happy, fulfilled, and fully alive.
So, what do you say? Let’s get to know ourselves and develop our gifts so well that negativity can't mislead us. Let’s trust ourselves enough to do the work every step of the way toward our dreams. And let’s encourage one another along the way. Because what the world needs is more people who are fully alive.
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