What’s that one big dream you have for your life?
Is it to build your own business? Scale your company globally? Continuously advance in your organization and become an executive? Sell your company and then be able to invest and help other people build their dreams?
Does it include meeting that partner you can build a life with? Or, perhaps packing up and moving somewhere you have always dreamed of?
One thing I have learned in my work is that everyone has their own very unique dream. I probed one of my clients—a talented and successful 37-year-old graphic designer with her own design company—on what her long-term professional vision and dream for the future was.
Without hesitation, she told me: “My dream is to have a petting zoo. I love animals and I want to be able to bring joy to people’s lives through animals.”
“Petting zoo” was quite definitely the most unique answer I had ever received. While this happened to be my client’s retirement dream, why not start making that dream a reality now?
Many of us get locked into mindsets that dictate what we think we should do or what or how we think we should be—you know—according to society, culture, or family.
We have the propensity to take those outside pressures, internalize them, and then impose them on ourselves. But, you can learn to let go of these stifling mindsets to truly live and lead authentically.
Most people are held back by more than one of these mindsets, but usually one is more pronounced than the others. This is the mindset you should attack getting rid of first.
1. People Pleasing
Mindset: You have a constant need to please and be liked by others. You don’t speak up and voice your true opinion out of fear of not being liked or not pleasing others.
Barrier: You don’t take risks because you fear what others will think of you. You don’t speak up and offer your difference of opinion in a meeting, and your company ends up making a big mistake. You often commit to too much, and you feel a constant sense of overwhelm.
Action: As a recovering people-pleaser myself, I’ll tell you what has helped me let go of this mindset. Start with blurting out what’s actually on your mind. Ditch the people-pleasing filter. And, start playing what I call “The Disappointment Game.” Practice disappointing someone every day.
I am not suggesting that you go around being a jerk, but instead I want you to start operating in a way that is true to yourself, which in turn might happen to disappoint some people along the way. This could mean saying “no” to social commitments or that non-required project at work.
Mindset: You constantly compare yourself to others. You say things to yourself like, “She’s smarter than me,” “They are so much more creative than me,” or “He can do it better than me.”
Barrier: By constantly comparing yourself to others, you punish and put yourself down. You do not take risks because you have convinced yourself that others can do it better than you. So, you watch other people achieve your dreams.
Action: Start keeping a tally on how many times per day you find that you compare yourself to others. Awareness is the first step to squashing this mindset.
3. Rule Following
Mindset: You feel the need to constantly follow the rules. You do what you think you should do, not always what you want to do. In fact, you may not even know what you want.
Barrier: You keep your ideas to yourself because they might go against the grain and break the rules. You are scared to stand out, so you stay small. You maintain the status quo.
Action: Intentionally break a “rule” every day. I’m not suggesting engaging in illegal or illicit behavior, but make a point to break a social norm every day. For example, if your social norm is going with the flow, be the leader in the group and offer your opinion before anyone else.
Mindset: You feel the constant need to strive for perfection and for your life to appear perfect.
Barrier: You don’t take risks out of fear you will make a mistake or you won’t do it perfectly. This is a self-destructive and addictive mindset with an unattainable goal: perfection. You hide behind the constant striving for perfection, which prevents the world from seeing you for who you truly are—imperfections and all.
Action: First take these words from Dr. Brené Brown to heart: “Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.”
Then watch Dr. Brown’s Ted Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability” and read her book: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.
Mindset: You work all the time and do not take time for yourself. You think you need to constantly work to prove yourself and to live up to the expectations of others. Your work defines you. You are burnt out or at the brink of burn out.
Barrier: Your personal life suffers. You may work to avoid feeling lonely. You don’t live in the moment because even when you are not at work, you are thinking about your work. Your relationships suffer. You might be stuck in a career or job that you don’t even realize you don’t really like because you have never taken time for self-reflection.
Action: Start with self-care. Book a massage, go for a run, plan a dinner with a friend, take a spontaneous weekend trip. Start by doing something one time per week that is just for you and not work related. When you are ready, start making sure you do something for yourself every day.
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