We all have a way in which we secretly want to change the world, but we’re scared to death to try. I want you to bring that secret desire into your awareness, to feel it in your heart and soul, right now. Maybe you want to publish a novel, or leave your job and start a business. Maybe you want to paint or sculpt or write poetry.
But if you’re like me, every time you try to get out of the box that it feels like you’re in, a thought or two pops up and says “No. Not You. Not Now.”
I’ve found a way to push through those thoughts.
There are a lot of things that probably need to happen for you to realize your dream. And while the whole thing might scare you, there are a lot of pieces that aren’t scary at all. The fear maker in the brain, a walnut-sized region called the amygdala, only gets triggered with urgent, immediate danger. So that means you can sneak up on it with a lot of success. And you can do it a little at a time.
Break your dream down into very specific tasks. Each day, do one specific thing to make progress toward your dream. If it’s writing a book, or a screenplay, start writing in a journal. Write every day. Read things that are similar to what you want to write. Learn and practice technique. You can probably fill in a hundred other things that you need to do to make a book a success. Do them. One at a time.
To maximize your chances of doing this, you’ll want to set up a specific place and time to do this. Time for you and your dream. Every day. Even if it’s only 15 minutes, you’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish, how much momentum you can develop.
Sometimes, even with the momentum you’re establishing, one of those tasks is going to bring up fear. It’s going to feel big and daunting. And here you have a couple of options.
The first one is to do it anyway. To push through. That’s the preferable approach. But sometimes it just feels impossible. Like there is a wall standing in your way. Like you have one shot at something and it has to be perfect. That if you fail you’ll not see a chance like this for some time.
That’s a lot of pressure, and it can paralyze you. But you can break these kinds of scary tasks into even smaller chunks than you did before. This can actually mean more work sometimes, but it can really pay dividends, too.
Let’s say you’ve written a screenplay and your agent (getting an agent was one of your tasks) has lined up a pitch meeting for you. You’ve never done one before and you’re scared to death. Paralyzed.
But I doubt you’re afraid of asking your agent about pitch meetings. I doubt you’re afraid of reading a book on how to pitch your screenplay. I doubt you are afraid of writing a pitch. And I doubt you’re afraid of practice the pitch in a room by yourself (though you may feel a bit silly).
So you can go a long ways toward your goal without bringing up much fear. But there’s even more you can do, and probably should.
What if you gave your thoroughly rehearsed pitch to a person who knows you and loves you and will only give you the most well-intentioned feedback?
And what if you took that feedback and gave your pitch to three more people? To a group you’ve cultivated who support you? And what if you kept doing that, kept tinkering and refining until the feedback that you got was that it was outstanding, compelling, perfect? Until you literally could not find a way to improve upon it?
By the time you actually have to give the pitch, with several rounds of feedback and several drafts, with every word tested and refined, how much fear do you think you will have?
The fear will still be there, but it will be much more manageable. When your thoughts will turn from things you can do to things you’ve already done, you’ll know that you’re no longer making things better. You’re just delaying. It’s time. Time to push through.
By taking on big goals as a series of little steps, I’ve found I can not only accomplish a lot more, but because I am getting feedback along the way, I can also put out better stuff once I do get to the “big day.”
And while I don’t do this for each blog post, I do keep an eye on which ones are shared most, which ones are liked, which ones are forwarded. And every time I write I keep those past lessons in mind.
This kind of focused practice works wonders for our abilities, but it also decreases our fear. Because no matter what we do, we’re always more confident when we’re prepared.
What are the thoughts that keep you from acting? And what do you do to get past them?
Photo by Atilla1000
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11 thoughts on “How to Hack the Thoughts Keeping You From Your Dream”
This is a great post and really well written. I totally agree that taking planned step by step action is the best to boost confidence especially when it all seems so overwhelming. I think most of us have big dreams to contribute to the world. I certainly do and quite often come up with great ideas which seem unreal initially. Thank you for reminding us to keep things simple which sometimes can be our biggest challenge. Like Brain Tracey says within his book Eat That Frog, when planning the day choose the biggest and most ugliest Frog (the task which scares us the most) and take action until completion. The idea is to develop the habit of dealing with most challenging tasks first which are inline with intention and ultimate goal.
I have seen your new blog and wish you well in it’s development. I am also seeking feedback for my new video blog http://www.selfgrowthproject.com which focuses on similar topics.
Thanks, Paul–I’ll take a look!
Thanks Jeff for remind me that practice takes to perfection :-)
Your words will help me to keep in mind that I can’t give up before trying.
There is a price we have to pay for getting our dreams and if we are not prepared to be this price, we will never reach it.
I love the way you speak about the subject: you have lived trough all of these problems, learnt from it and finally put them in practice. That something very powerful.
I love your approach of breaking up all in small pieces to make it manageable and dealing with the fear which can paralyze us.
Thanks for sharing!
Jeff! The most useful for me, so far. Thanks so much for sharing this simple, practical approach to big dreams! h*
As long as our dreams are not immoral or illegal than I would say just go for it. Of course it will feel a little weird or even scary at first but eventually this fear will pass and the new dream will become a reality.
Hey Jeff, just discovered your blog today and am really enjoying your articles. I really enjoyed this latest post because of how you focus on the power of thoughts and how they can wreck our lives.
I think people like Byron Katie and Eckhart Tolle are right, “thoughts are just thoughts”…not necessarily our reality. I think when one truly realizes this and does not buy into our thoughts, we can be free. I know once it really sunk in for me, it changed me.
Anyway, great stuff. Cheers to you!
This is such an inspiring post! Thank you so much for providing this information. It has definitely inspired me to start thinking about things in my life from a different angle.
Excellent post. People lose out on so many opportunities not because they’re incapable, but because they’re simply afraid to move out of their comfort zone. Taking on everything at once is simply too overwhelming; the only sure way to success is to take it one bite at a time, and build your confidence with these small steps. And as confidence grows, fear dissapates.
thanks – i was in my “my book sux” mode just now… i’m working on a book proposal now based on my experience in depression and getting out of it – i haven’t even gotten to looking for an agent bit!
i was really going to give up and scrap the whole thing and go back to looking for a job
thanks for this little reminder
i find also that sometimes, when we are on the verge of giving up, is to walk away from it, step back, allow some distance and breathing space and completely forget about it for a week or so, and then come back to the dream with a freshened up mind
thanks again :)
Thanks for all your comments–great points, and lots to think about!