No one wants to feel stuck in life with only one way to go, to trudge down an unpleasant or difficult path. Often it can feel like we have no options at all, when in fact we have several. Even if we recognize all of our options, we may “justify” them right off the list, not because they might be impractical, but because we perceive them as downright impossible to achieve. But why? Are they really impossible or are we just afraid that they are impossible?
We live in a fear-driven society, so it stands to reason that many people make decisions based on fear – we worry about whether something will or won’t happen, we’re apprehensive about failure, and we dread not finding happiness. Sure, not everyone lives in fear; there are risk-takers. They’re usually viewed as either wildly successful or completely down on their luck depending on which options they chose. Perhaps because most of us don’t want to take the all-or-nothing risks, we play it safe. But does safety bring happiness? Does it alleviate stress? Does it bring us to the life we truly want and deserve?
As my readers may know, I’ve been housesitting for a few months. I put all of my belongings in storage (again) to do this. My friend will be returning home in a few weeks, at which time, I’ll be going “home.” Wait! I don’t have a home. Where will I go? What will I do? Since I’m working part-time from home, I can work from anywhere; so I can go wherever I want, right?
At first, I thought I had no options. Then several presented themselves, and I suspect a few more will show up at the last minute as well – something that tends to happen frequently for me. I’m like a cat in that respect; I always seem to land on my feet. In the meantime, however, I let the fear of the unknown cloud my thinking. I stress about becoming homeless and I wallow in anxiety over not finding full-time work. The fear of losing everything consumes me. It’s a scenario that’s played out for me a few too many times in recent years.
When we let ourselves slip into that dark part of ourselves – the part that convinces us that we can’t win, won’t be successful, don’t deserve happiness, or whatever other negative thing we latch onto – our energy is pulled toward the negative and we end up with the very things we don’t want. Recognizing this is the first step to avoiding the abyss. Taking a step back to gain a different perspective is the next thing to do in order to turn around and start heading in the opposite direction, toward the light – and I don’t mean that in terms of the afterlife.
How do you gain that different perspective?
It helps to have a voice of reason, a sounding board, someone who will point out the obvious that we’ve failed to see. That’s when epiphanies can happen, or as Oprah Winfrey calls them, “Aha!” moments. Once the options become visible, it’s time to write them down. Study them. Compare them. Make a list of pros and cons. This helps to weed out the impossible from the possible. And often times it brings to the forefront the not-so-impossible things that we might never have considered if someone hadn’t propped them up right in front of us. That’s when we face-palm ourselves, shake our heads, and groan about missing the obvious. At least, that’s what I do because I often overlook the obvious.
When I was stressing about what I was going to do after my housesitting gig ended, my sister told me to do what I want to do, not what other people want me to do or expect me to do. She said, “What would you do?” Now whenever I have an idea, my initial reaction is still, “But I can’t because <fill in the blank with any ridiculous reason>.” Then I hear her voice in my head, asking me that question again.
Dig deep into that bag of dreams. Pull out the one that makes your heart sing. Write it down. Make an announcement that this is the dream you are going to pursue. Announcing it may be scary. What if you say you’re going to start your own business and it fails and everyone calls you a loser? That might happen, but again… it might not. By not announcing your plan to anyone, you give yourself permission to fail, to not put 100% effort into making it happen. You could change your mind and no one would ever know. But you would know.
By announcing your plan to pursue your dream, you invite others to come along on the ride and share the joys of each accomplishment. Someone might offer you an opportunity that would be helpful, which they might not have done if they didn’t know what you were trying to do. Friends will share the excitement and tell others who in turn will tell more people. If your dream is to start your own business, that’s free advertising. And when you find success, everyone can celebrate with you. In the event of failure, they will be there to help pick up the pieces and encourage you to try something else. Sounds like a win-win to me.
So what would I do? Not what should I do, but what would I do… if I weren’t afraid?
I’d live the life I’ve always wanted to live and find a way to make a living doing what I enjoy doing – writing. I don’t want to worry about meeting my basic human needs of food and shelter. I want to spend my time and energy being creative and immersed in my craft. Maybe I’d move to Portland, OR, and start my own business (or rather, breathe new life into Wandering Spirit Beads). No matter what I end up doing or where I go, I want to make a difference in people’s lives and I want to be happy. When I do finally make my decision, I’ll be sure to announce it.
Steve Jobs said: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
What is your dream?