Don’t Delay Your Dreams

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You know that creative project you never have time for? The one that really expresses who you are? Here’s how to make it a priority.

There’s a book you want to write, a painting you want to complete, a business you want to launch, an exciting possibility that keeps tugging at your sleeve. So what’s keeping you from your dream?

It can feel almost impossible to find time for the daily grind, much less our “someday” ideals. But psychologist Gay Hendricks believes that our biggest obstacle in embracing such pursuits is more of an inner block than a scheduling problem. He recommends first taking a close look at whether you are actually willing to experience as much happiness and satisfaction as your heart desires. Then, stop relegating your dream to someday, and start working on it — today.

Barriers to Overcome

  • Feeling unworthy. “Because of a fundamental self-esteem problem that many people have — even very successful people — they don’t believe that they deserve to be both successful and happy at the same time,” says Hendricks, “and this can block their creative expression.”
  • Fear of failure. “If I get in touch with my true zone of genius, actually do what I really love, and I fail, then I’m really screwed,” says Hendricks with a laugh. “But this possibility is what everybody who wants to do anything creative or extraordinary has to get through.”
  • Fear of success. “Human beings are highly skilled at feeling pain and adversity — we’ve had millions of years of programming for that,” says Hendricks. “All that conditioning can make success feel like an oddly unfamiliar and uncomfortable proposition.”
  • Not wanting to seem strange. Some people, says Hendricks, fear that there is something fundamentally odd about self-expressive work — that people will think we are weird or irresponsible if we give ourselves over to it wholeheartedly.
  • Start-itis. It may have been so long since you last embarked on a thrilling project that you simply don’t know how to begin. Even the mere possibility of starting may seem overwhelming.

Strategies for Success

  •  Affirm your worthiness. “Introducing an affirmation into your mind (such as ‘It’s OK for me to be both prosperous and happy’) gives you a positive idea that you can gravitate toward,” says Hendricks.
  • Start small. “I’ve found that committing to just 10 minutes a day on a creative project works very well,” says Hendricks. “It becomes contagious. After a few days of 10 minutes, you find yourself wanting to do 15, and it can grow from there.”
  •  Create goals and benchmarks.Set deadlines for finishing portions of your project, and consider committing to them as part of an agreement with another person. “If you don’t make a deadline,” Hendricks advises, “rather than beat yourself up about it, notice what happened, ask yourself why, and learn from that.”
  •  Redraw your map of what matters. The best way to do something new or different is to place a higher priority on it than on your everyday activities. For example, work on your project first thing in the morning, if possible, before any activities that seem more “necessary.”
  •  Recommit — repeatedly. “The real test of your commitment is when you fall off it,” Hendricks says. “It’s like learning to ski or ride a bicycle; falling and getting back up are part of the process.”

Expert Advice: Gay Hendricks, PhD, author of The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level (HarperOne, 2009).

Jon Spayde is the author of How to Believe: Teachers and Seekers Show the Way to a Modern, Life-Changing Faith (Random House, 2008).

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