Do you slog through work or even life in general while at the same time holding a vision of a life where you could actually pursue your dreams?
Sometimes the vision is very foggy – only a faint tugging at our hearts, or a deep unease with what is happening, and what we have to do in our daily lives. We may see other people doing things that we’d really like to do – someone with our dream job, someone with the kind of freedom we would really enjoy, or someone engaged in actively changing the world for the better.
We should feel happy for them, but instead we feel only negativity – anger, jealousy, even hate. It’s only until we dig deeper that we realize that these feelings are not because of the other person. They are because we are angry at ourselves for failing to make the leap to what we really want. We are angry because we can’t seem to bridge the gap between what we feel we have to do – our real-life responsibilities, and what we dream of doing.
We feel stuck, so we project our angry feelings on the other person while telling ourselves our dreams are frivoulous. We tell ourselves people in today’s economy can’t afford to be so picky. That we should learn self-discipline, self-sacrifice, and the value of hard work. We have kids to feed, educations to buy and braces to pay for. We have mortgages, car payments, and student loans. We have real life to contend with, and so little feelings like self-hate and dying inside should be stuffed, ignored and buried.
As you may guess, I don’t agree with any of these reasons, though I am not one to tell you to ditch your responsibilities to pursue your dreams (See: Do You Need a Job, Fast?). You see, it’s not just black and white. There’s a lot of grey between ditching responsibilities to pursue your goals and giving up on your dreams altogether, and that’s the grey where I work. These shades, the distinctions, discernments and decisions that need to be made about what’s most important is where the real work of coaching happens.
I wanted to go through some of the most common objections I hear about pursuing one’s dreams and offer a perspective that illustrates where some of the shades of grey exist and how to navigate them.
Objection 1: Financial reasons. Bills, bills, bills. Yes, you have them. They don’t decide to stop sending them just because you’re going in the direction of your passions. So if now isn’t the right time to quit your job, it’s okay. But don’t quit planning. Understand your passions, figure out what you want to do someday – and then make plans so that “someday” actually happens. Look for another job while you work, write that book, plan the trip. Whatever it is, just because it’s not happening today is not a reason not to work towards it and infuse your life with as much of it as you can.
Objection 2: Wasting education or tenure. You’ve spent thousands on school or years securing your current position. If you’re miserable, it really doesn’t matter. Does it make sense to throw even more years of your life down the drain in an effort to lie to yourself and others that the investment was worth it? In some cases (like mine) there is a natural bridge between what you’ve worked for and where you want to go. I spent money on my Master’s in Social Work, and I spent years being trained as a crisis worker and therapist. It gave me pause, but I decided I didn’t want to open a private therapy practice. I decided what I wanted to do was start coaching. Maybe you’ll find a similar connection. If not, don’t let it deter you. Throwing good money (or years) after bad is not the answer. No matter what you’ve done and what you want to do, you won’t be wasting your education and experience. Your past life will somehow offer wisdom and tools that will enlighten your new endeavor.
Objection 3: My spouse disagrees. Sometimes it’s our significant other who is afraid. Financial instability, social pressures, and general fear of change can make anyone take a big gulp. But if you’re ready and your partner isn’t, that can really put a cramp in your style. Don’t throw in the towel. Maybe a deep conversation, a concrete and agreed upon plan, thought out commitments to each other, or some good couple’s therapy can help you navigate the changes ahead. Any good relationship has to allow room for each partner to grow. If one partner is having trouble, the other can do what s/he can to help.
Objection 4: Will people think I’ve lost it? If you’ve reached an age where you care less about what others think and more about what you think then congratulations. But finally making changes in accordance with your own values can look to the outside world like you’ve done a 360. And that can leave them wondering what’s happening with you. Are you losing your mind? Having a mid-life crisis? Unstable? No. You’re not. You’re just finally getting more connected with you. Talking more about this connection can be helpful. A friend sent me a quote that said, “The older I get, the more everyone can kiss my ass.” Well, you don’t have to be so rude about it, but you get the idea. This fear’s grey lies in the fact that you’re actually displaying courage. How you convey that is up to you.
Objection 5: Afraid of change. Changes often require, well, change. Whether your passion takes you to a new company or a new continent, there’s a ton to be afraid of. You can choose to look at it as fear, or you can choose to look at it as adventure. Feel your fear. Do it anyway. Most of the time fear is indicating a problem needing to be solved (good thing you’re a born problem solver!) or something you need to release or understand. Don’t let the fear keep you stuck. Let it be a sign post of an area of growth.
Objection 6: Failure. Fear of failure can keep us stuck in lives that suck the life out of us. Sometimes it feels safer to stick with the devil you know. So if you’re not ready to go whole hog, dabble a bit. Learn what you can about your quest, talk to people, try out any aspect that makes sense to try. Eventually, the time will come to make the leap, but by then maybe you’ll have enough practice to make failure seem like a remote possibility. If you do fail, keep going. When attempting anything great, most people have failures along the way. It really is just part of the process.
Objection 7: Family Responsibilities. Now that you’re a parent, making a major change in your life can feel like a gamble with your kids lives too. This is an example of having multiple things that are meaningful. Maybe you feel compelled to make a difference in a war torn country and at the same time you have tiny children. So moving to the combat zone feels like a bad idea. Or maybe your concern is actually a concern with Objection 1 (financial) Here’s the grey: Find a way to balance needs. The truth is that the security your kids need (financial and otherwise) is only a part of the equation. They also need an example, and you have an opportunity, to show them that they can do or be anything in the world, and that the difficult navigation from here to there is manageable. You have a chance to make them proud, teach them about their own power and the importance of happiness, and do what you love in one fell swoop. Pretty cool.
Objection 8: Afraid of Starting Again. This objection is much like #2, but with a twist. Instead of being afraid of wasting what you have paid for or accomplished, this is more about fear of being back at the beginning. You’ve probably gotten used to a certain level of respect and responsibility, and starting at square one may seem like no fun. It’s kind of like the bumper sticker though: A bad day golfing/fishing/shopping is better than a good day at work. If you love what you do, and you have a vision to move toward something even more spectacular, a day doing what you love is probably better than a day doing what you hate (even in a corner office). Remember, too, that someday you’ll probably get to the same level (or propelled by passion, even higher).
Objection 9: My Passions are Silly: Many times, people have trouble believing in themselves or taking themselves seriously. They think that the job they have is real, but what they really want to do isn’t real (doesn’t earn money), and therefore is silly. It seems foolish to them to throw away a good job (in this economy! When I’ve got kids!) just to pursue a silly dream. Of course, you don’t have to throw away your job. You just have to take yourself and your dream seriously enough to nurture it until it gets to the point that it’s obvious that you should make the leap.
Objection 10: I Don’t Know What to Do: Sometimes you don’t know what you love, but you know that you’re dying inside and need to do something different. The lack of clarity keeps you stuck in what you don’t like, because not understanding what you do like is like shooting in the dark. If you have no idea what direction to go in, there’s hope! Journal, get coaching, wander through a bookstore to see what you are drawn to. You don’t have to figure out what you love AND how to make it a viable career all in one day. Just start at the beginning and stay committed to the journey.
Objection 11: Afraid of Costs Involved. Sometimes making a change (whether you do it in a dramatic sweep or take a slower course) involves expenses. Taking classes, hiring a coach, giving up extra paid work to free up time to explore your passion – they all cost money. But the grey is that life can’t be calculated in dollars and cents. That’s only a piece of the puzzle. There are real costs involved in not pursuing your dreams including regret, self-loathing, lost potential, unhappiness, and maybe even poor health. If you could measure the costs of going through life without giving yourself a chance to rise to your full capacity, this one would be a no-brainer.
These are the top objections I hear about as people work to navigate from where they are to a life filled with what brings them the most joy. Are there other objections you can think of? Please leave a comment below.