Have you noticed how sometimes it seems that as you grow older, your dreams grow smaller? Maybe your priorities change over time as your responsibilities increase … Or maybe when you think about a potential dream or a big goal you start to calculate the required effort against the probability of accomplishment and decide it’s not really worth the investment. Or maybe it it all comes down to the dreaded, dream-sabotaging, four-letter word:
When you’re a kid, you weren’t afraid to dream big and set big goals (I want to be President, I want to be an astronaut, I want to be the fastest runner in the world, etc.) and it wasn’t an attack on your self-worth when you didn’t get accomplish that big dream goal.
As you get older those big dreams end up giving way to all of the “what-ifs” and fears you have. You hold yourself back from dreaming big because you’re afraid of what it means if you fail.
- What will people think when I tell them my big goal?
- Will they laugh at me? Think it’s ridiculous?
- What if they don’t believe in me?
- And what if I tell people and then fall flat on my face?
- What will people think? What if I can’t do it?
We decide to remain right where we are because not knowing whether or not we could have accomplished that big goal is emotionally safer than trying and failing. Holding yourself back from going after a goal because you might not accomplish it is like buying a toy and never taking it out of the package to play with it, “Well I don’t want to take it out of the package and play with it because someday it might break and then what will I do?” Not knowing what it’s like to play with your toy prevents you from the heartache of the day when your toy MIGHT break. You let your fears and doubts and what-ifs talk you into either automatically assuming you aren’t capable of accomplishing the goal or tricking you into thinking you don’t really want to go after that goal anyway.
It gets even more complicated when you add in your feelings around what it means to be successful with your goals. W. Clement Stone once said, “Aim for the moon, if you miss, you may hit a star”. The problem is that we define “hitting a star” as “EPIC FAIL”. The stars aren’t the moon so it’s not good enough to just land among the stars. The act of going for after your goals can be just as worthy and fulfilling as actually accomplishing them if you allow yourself to open up your definition of success and be OK with the risk of not accomplishing the goal. You don’t focus on the fear of not accomplishing your goal, you simply accept that the risk of not accomplishing that goal comes in the same package with the possibility of accomplishing it.
I often get asked, “But how do I know if I am holding myself back, or I’m just being realistic?” Sometimes it takes a little exploration to figure out where that line is. But usually if you’re honest with yourself when you do your gut check – you know the difference between holding back because of fear and holding back because of reality. My homework for you is to think about how can you get back to looking at the world through those big wide eyes? Seeing the world through the eyes of possibility instead of the eyes of defeat. Instead of seeing fear and doubt, see courage and strength. What’s a dream you have that feels like it’s a little too big, but when you think about it you feel that spark of excitement in your belly? Take a minute to see the possibility of accomplishing that goal through those big wide eyes and see how it feels to take a step forward. Allow yourself to be excited about the possibility. Allow yourself to be afraid and go for it anyway. Have you been inspired? What dream goal are you going to go after?
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