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Advice / Career Paths / Exploring Careers

Truth: You're Being Too Easy on Yourself When it Comes to Following Your Dreams

When I was in my teens, I enjoyed scrapbooking. But only to a certain extent. In my “box of stuff” my mom’s saving for me at her house, there are a few unfinished scrapbooks. The first few pages are filled with artfully cut colorful paper, printed photos, and bubble letters drawn with scented markers. But the rest of it? Pretty empty.

This isn’t surprising, though. Because, unfortunately, I have a tendency to give up. When I initially decide to do something, I attack it head on, full steam ahead. I’m so excited about it, and I can’t wait to finish so I can show it off to everyone. But, before I get to that point where I actually finish, I stop. I always suspected it was because I was bored and wanted to move onto my next great idea. But Benjamin P. Hardy, author of How to Consciously Design Your Ideal Future, provides a reason that makes more sense.

“The very act of dreaming stops you from achieving your dreams,” he says. “You’ve played-it out in your mind with such intoxicating detail that you become satisfied enough. You become numbed. And you deceive yourself into believing you’ve actually done something productive.” And I know just what he means.

In the past year, I’ve come up with a few children’s book ideas. In my head, I can see what the cover will look like, imagine how I’ll feel when someone agrees to publish it (which someone will, obviously), and anticipate how I’ll deal with poor sales. And yet, these plans have gone nowhere. I’ve written down preliminary thoughts and tossed them to the side, just as I did with my scrapbooks.

But being content with simply envisioning my dreams (and pretending they already happened) isn’t the only thing going on. I’m also hitting a mental block, the point where I think I’ve done everything I can and can go no further. But here’s the thing: My mind is tricking me. It’s what Navy SEAL David Goggins refers to as the 40% rule, “which essentially means people feel maxed-out mentally and physically, and thus stop, when they are at only 40% of their actual capacity.”

It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Reaching your end goal, no matter what it may be, takes a lot of hard work. And, says Hardy, “Going past this 40% capacity is when it becomes uncomfortable.” I love brainstorming plots for my book and imagining it on the shelves at a bookstore. But it has no chance of getting there if I don’t commit to the whole process, difficult parts and all. Outlining it (ugh), writing it, and then—gulp—sending it off to people and asking them to love it, worship it, and secure me a slot on The Ellen Show.

But, “anything worth doing brings a satisfaction that distraction never can,” explains Hardy. “Don’t give into the resistance. Push through the difficulty. That’s where a joy that those who stop will never taste.”

So, whatever it is, whether it’s starting your own company, asking your boss for a raise, or simply cleaning out your closet, stop only visualizing what it’ll look like when you’re done and get down to business. Maybe that means creating a step-by-little-step list that you can check off each week. Or maybe it means pressing send on that email to your boss to discuss your salary. Or, maybe it just means asking a friend or partner to hold you accountable. Whatever you need to do to push past that 40%, do it.

Oh, and, sometime in the next 10 years, look for my name on a bookshelf near you.

Photo of person with laptop courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.