Do you think you have the courage to live the life you really want? Most of us would say yes (because that’s the answer we want to hear), but when we take a closer look at our truest desires and our biggest dreams and compare those to the way we are currently living our lives, are we still so sure?
It’s understandable that many of us dream about a life we want, but know that it’s a life we may never actually pursue. We choose not to chase our dreams because we’re not sure if we have the courage to do what is necessary to achieve them. Quite simply–we’re scared.
Scared because we may have to do things we’ve never done before, things we could epically fail at. Scared because we may have to work so much harder than if we just stayed put.
Scared because we may have to make hard sacrifices, like having to choose between one of two things you truly love.
Scared because if we do this, we become responsible for our own growth and our own success.
Scared because we’ll finally see what we are truly made of.
So we choose the certain path. We choose the boring 9-5 so we can wear the nice suit and drive a car with leather seats. We choose not to ask for what we really want so we don’t “rock the boat” of our relationships. We buy a house in the suburbs because the “look” of success makes us feel secure. This certain path does have its benefits of course. We’re safe, we look good and we never fail.
But sometimes, and for some of us, the pull within us to chase our dreams is too strong to ignore. We are more scared of what our lives would be like if we didn’t chase our dreams than the fears we face when we actually try. But how do we get past these fears? How do we make that transition towards the work we feel we were meant to do? Towards the relationships we feel we deserve? Towards the life that we want to be living?
Understand Fear & Courage
Before you can take on your fears and embrace your courage you need to understand what they are and how they work so you can take advantage of them. Fear is not such a bad thing. It’s a natural and healthy emotion that we need for survival–if we didn’t feel fear, we wouldn’t be able to protect ourselves from legitimate threats and if we didn’t have at least some level of fear when making big decisions, we’d end up making a lot more bad ones. The key is not letting your fear stop you. You must decide that it is more important to have courage to get where you want to be than the security you feel staying where you are. But courage is not just saying yes this one time despite your fear. There are actually four types of courage that you will need to rely on as you veer off onto the road less traveled:
Bravery – courage to not shy away from a challenge.
Perseverance – courage to finish what you start.
Honesty – courage to be your authentic self.
Zest – courage to approach life with ebullience, not doing things halfway or halfheartedly.
The truth about all these types of courage is that they are all a state of mind that each one of us can cultivate. If you really believe that you were meant to do something different than the life you are currently living, but you feel too scared to change it, know that you can cultivate the courage necessary to do so. This next step may help you do that.
Make a Game Plan
It is not courageous to just quit your day job to become a comedian (for example) if you’ve never told a joke. There is a difference between being courageous and just being plain stupid. If you’ve made up your mind that you must follow your dream, no matter how radical it may be, you need to make a game plan. You need to do your research, volunteer, work on it in your spare time, read books on the topic, and get advice from friends and family, especially from those who are already living your particular dream.
So if a comedian is what you want to be (let’s keep going with this example), you should watch as many different comedians as you can on TV or on YouTube, start attending local comedy events, meet the comedians, ask them how they got started, how they plan for a show, and how easy or how hard it is to write new jokes. Ask them about the lifestyle, the pay, the odds of making a decent living or the odds of making it big. Once you’ve done your research, you may realize that although it’s something you would really love to do, you are not willing to sacrifice your evenings and weekends for it or the pay is not enough to provide you with certain comforts you’re not willing to compromise. You may also realize that a life as a comedian is perfect for you and with all your research and knowledge and new contacts, you can begin stepping into that dream with a little less fear and little more confidence.
Making a game plan is all about making sure you have a crystal clear vision of what you want and what you are willing to do to get it. It’s about getting to know your real purpose and values. And there is no shame in changing your mind along the way. That’s the beauty of making a game plan. It opens your eyes to the realities of what your dream life would really entail and allows you to make smart decisions that reflect who you truly are and what you really want.
It’s easy and even exciting to think about the life of your dreams and to plan for all the great things you are going to do. But it’s taking action that really counts. No amount of reading, research, and planning is going to make anything happen for you. The knowledge will inspire you and the planning will help prepare you, but there comes a point when you have to just dive in. You need to trust the game plan you have created and have faith that your determination, your passion and your hard work will see you the rest of the way.
The bottom line is, we can let the world choose who we should be instead of following the beat of our own drummers. We can let our pride and our ego and our love for expensive shoes or a benefits package affect our decisions. Or instead, we can choose to surrender to the fact that what we most love to do will take a lot of work, perhaps a lot of tiny paychecks, and perhaps even more failure, but it also has the potential to lead somewhere we’ve always dreamed of being.
There is no right or wrong path here. Deep down we know what is right for our individual selves. But if you feel that pull inside you to chase a dream and find yourself frozen with fear, try these three simple steps to help get you past them. Understand why you are scared and that the fear is good. Know that you can cultivate the courage to get over those fears and step lightly into making your game plan. And if you get to that point where you think, “Yeah, this could be my life. I can do this,” then dive right in.
Vicki Anne Melo is a freelance writer and aspiring author. Follow her @vickiannemelo or vickiannemelo.com.