I often coach people who come to me because they feel stuck in a soul-sucking job, who feel they are stuck on a treadmill and who know their passion lies somewhere else. They want to write for a living, work for an environmental not for profit agency or work less and go back to school. They carry their “shoulds” as well as those of other people on their shoulders. They know what their dreams are yet their own voices in their heads and the voices of those around them tell them it’s not possible. And yet it stares them in the face and simply won’t leave their thoughts. Stop doing what you think you should be doing and start doing what you love. Because when you do what you are meant to do - you do your best work.
If this sounds like you – grab yourself a journal ask yourself these 10 questions:
1. If money was no obstacle and you knew you couldn’t fail – what is possible?
Take your time with this question. Once people let go of restrictions that lack of money, time or fear of failure brings they are often crystal clear about what they want and a picture begins to take shape. You can’t create your impossible future unless you create it and stand in the middle of it. Notice that the question is “what is possible?” We often go to “action” or “doing” – this question is so open you could go anywhere (including action).
2. What is it costing you to stay where you are?
Be honest and tell yourself what it is costing you. It can be your health, happiness, but also how you are with yourself and others. Be specific in what it is costing you physically, mentally, socially, spiritually and fiscally.
3. What can you pull from?
Take some time to reflect on:
a. When in your life did you go after what you really wanted to do?
b. What strengths did you use then?
c. Which ones can serve you now?
Answer these questions one at a time. Sometimes I ask this question differently: “What got you here?” The answers I have heard include: “ I am smart, I work hard, I knew it was the right thing to do, when I want something I don’t give up…” What is possible if you applied these strengths to your passion?
4. What is holding you back?
This question brings up any real or ‘imagined’ obstacles. I use the word ‘imagined’ because many obstacles exist only in your head. Sometimes the obstacles are very practical “I need money to live”, others are about fear of failure, still others are about judgment of others or not having enough skills or knowledge. Write them down. When you write the obstacles down you can tackle them and assess how you can tackle them. You can assess what’s underneath those fears and obstacles. If money is a fear – be clear about how much money you do need to live. Every obstacle can be overcome.
5. What are the parts that need to come together for you to move forward on this?
For some people this question is answered with a straightforward action plan. For others the answer is a thinking framework or data points for reflection. For some it is clarity of focus. The more clear you can be about this – the easier it is to figure out where to start or where the blockage points are that require further thinking.
6. Who can help / support you in this?
Who can help you? Whose support will make a difference? It could be those who are successful at what they do. It could be joining a group of like-minded people. It could be the support of your boss, peer , friend or spouse. We often think we have to go it alone You don’t. People love to support others in their dreams. Ask for what is helpful to you and share your dream.
7. What IS possible?
We focus so much on what is not possible. This question is about what IS possible. Seeing new possibilities often requires a mental model shift. How can you see what is possible right now? Describe what is possible AND take note of what mental shifts need to happen.
8. What steps will you take to make this happen?
Anchor your thinking in action. What steps can you take in the next 2 weeks? Break your plan down in small, actionable steps. Then work on something every day. Where your focus goes, your results will flow. Imagine doing one small thing every day for 100 days. Watch where you will be.
9. Ignore the nay-sayers
There will be people who will say it is hard, that it is impossible. That you can’t make money as a writer or a musician, that the VP job will kill you or is out of your reach. And one of those voices will be in your head. Ignore it or work to prove it wrong.
10. Be courageous and say it out loud
This is your life and you get to be the driver. Is it going to be hard? Probably. Is it going to be scary? Perhaps. It is also life-changing, worth it and possible. Put it out there and ask the Universe.
And if you needed a little more encouragement, watch this moving commencement speech by Jim Carey about how his father inspired him to follow his dreams.