Make it Happen
We all have dreams, goals and ambitions—things we’d like to accomplish, places we’d like to go, people we’d like to help. How do we get from here to there? It’s not as easy as you’d think. After all, each year only 8% of people fulfill the New Year’s resolutions they make. Why is it sometimes so difficult to move beyond hoping and dreaming to accomplishment?
The answer may lie, at least partially, in the number of excuses that we make or don’t make. Honestly, we all make excuses from time to time, but if we are not living the life we desire, excuses may be getting in the way. We invent excuses to defend our behavior, put off taking action or to evade responsibility. Excuses can have some real power that may stifle our lives.
Excuses limit us.
Excuses have the power to limit us – to keep us from reaching our full potential. They can stop us from taking a shot at success–from growing and branching out. Giving into excuses can leave us settling for a mediocre unfulfilling life. Relationships, health, career—every aspect of our lives can be impacted. We encounter new opportunities daily, but if our minds are riddled with never ending excuses, we will never challenge ourselves to reach new heights.
It’s rare that people regret working towards a dream or taking a chance, even if it doesn’t work out the way they had hoped. Most people do, however, regret the things they did not attempt.
Why do we do it?
What’s up with excuse making? If it keeps us from going where we want to go, why do we do it? Sometimes, we make excuses because we simply don’t want to do something and giving an excuse seems easier than just saying no. Beyond the simple not wanting to do something that isn’t a priority for us, excuse making may signal that something deeper is going on. Many times that something deeper is fear—a fear that can trap us in the safety of our comfort zone. Fear–what are we afraid of? It depends on the person and the situation. We may be afraid of failure, of success, of embarrassment, of uncertainty, of taking responsibility, of making mistakes, of having to sacrifice, or of not having the needed resources.
Fear of Failure– Fear of failure can be immobilizing, causing us to do nothing and stopping our forward progress. We may be aware of it—“I’m terrified of getting up in front of that group and making a presentation.” Or it may subconsciously undermine our efforts. We all experience some failures in life—it’s a part of growing, learning, and moving forward. Failure has positive aspects. We can learn from it, we become more resilient, we gain confidence in our ability to overcome challenges and not give up, and we can gain valuable insights that may not have been otherwise apparent. If we can change our perspective about failure and see it as a logical part of moving forward, the power it holds may dissipate.
Failures stop us only if we let them.
In everything we do, there’s a chance that we will fail. To improve your comfort level with the risk of failure:
- Think through all of the possible outcomes of your action including the best and worst case scenarios. If you can live with the possibility of the worst case, then it may make sense to move forward.
- Have contingency plans for all potential outcomes.
- Rather than jumping off a cliff, start with small steps on the way to bigger goals to build your confidence.
Fear of Success–Success can be downright scary. Achieving success means you are entering uncharted territory, exposing yourself to new pressures and opening yourself up to be scrutinized. You may not be sure that you are up to the challenge. After all, on some level, it’s more comfortable to stay in a familiar situation. It may help to realize having some fear with any change is normal. When you have doubts about your ability to handle success, replace those doubtful thoughts with powerful positive images. Remind yourself about the positive aspects to achieving success.
Some of the fear of success can have to do with relationships and that changes that can occur when your life improves. If the success you are on the brink of is positive for you, work through the relationships. Others may fear the changes in you and your relationship more than you do. Reassure them that you’re the same person, just improved. Keep in mind that success gives you more resources and adds to who you are and to what you bring to the world.
Fear of Embarrassment—Embarrassment can prevent us from asking for advice about how to handle uncomfortable situations—such as a money or health problem. A recent study showed that if we put ourselves into the role of an observer, it is easier to overcome the fear of embarrassment or humiliation. If you find yourself feeling anxious in a social situation, think of yourself as a detached onlooker, rather than the center of attention. This simple perspective change may lower your level of discomfort.
Fear of Uncertainty – Moving out of our comfort zone can make us, well, uncomfortable and we don’t like that feeling. We need to keep in mind that the controllable, predictable life we strive to create and stay anchored to is just an illusion. Nothing stays the same forever. Things can and do change in a heartbeat. We can let uncertainty of change keep us up at night or choose to let go of our attempt at control. We can do our best to accept that whatever tomorrow brings, knowing that we will learn from it and make the best of it.
Fear of a Lack of Resources – Resources can take many forms—time, money, education, and knowledge. We all have the same number of hours in a day. When we are passionate and focused, time is prioritized to meet our goals. If not, maybe this goal isn’t that important to us at this point in time. The lack of money may mean that better financial restraints or creative financing is needed. Education and knowledge can be gained via self-teaching, researching and working with someone who has already done what we are trying to do.
Stop Making Excuses
You’ve seen how and why excuses hold us back, now it’s time to figure out how to stop making them and start getting what we want out of life.
Start by defining what it is that you want. Start with a big overall goal or two and then break that goal down into smaller, more manageable steps. Once you have specific and measurable goals, it easier to stick with the steps you have set up.
Take responsibility for taking the actions needed to reach your goals. It’s not up to someone else to make this happen, it is up to you.
Making changes and overcoming those fears that hold us back takes effort. It’s not the easy road. Stay motivated by visualizing the goals you have defined. Watch motivational videos and put motivational quotes where you can see them. Each day take at least a few minutes to work on your goals. It may be doing research, networking with others, writing out your plan in more detail, learning a skill that will help you, or taking the steps you have already defined.
Don’t compare yourself to others. We each have our own set of skills, resources, personalities and life situations. Our version of success may look very different than someone else’s—and that is okay. Your success is your success. Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses. If you’ve moved ahead and are better off, then you are successful.
You Have the Power to Change.
You have the opportunity to reach your potential, but it will take work, dedication, and some risk. You will face daunting obstacles. You will have some failures that you can learn from and use to refine your goals. Find your purpose, define your goals, research, plan, and set your sails. It’s an exciting life out there—go and find it!