“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.” ~Buddha
A decade or so ago, when I was twenty, I was supposed to settle into an “arranged marriage,” a common concept in India. I would never have known what it means to be financially independent, to go after my passions, and to be true to myself.
Until then, I had only wished to have a career—to go to a big city, live independently, and explore my identity. But those were merely daydreams. I had accepted that in my community, girls are married off after graduation, and whatever they want to make of their lives, they do it after marriage.
Though I had accepted that reality, I wasn’t at peace with it. I still dreamed of pursuing higher studies in a field that was my passion and forte: Mass Communication. The institute I aspired to attend would take no more than forty students per subject and no less than the crème de la crème of the country.
It was only prudent that I brush the dream under the carpet, because, even if I tried, it seemed unlikely. Also, I didn’t have any time to prepare for an exam like this, which was a month away, and I couldn’t take the exam the following year. My family wouldn’t wait “that long” to see me married.
I realized this might have been my only chance to shape my life as I visualized it. I had a month to prepare for this high-profile exam. Those thirty days could determine the next thirty years of my life.
I wondered, “What would happen if I put every single grain of my brain, my heart, my soul, my blood, and my bones into this one dream?” And then I found out!
My fears gave way to determination, a sense of purpose replaced my complacency, and my day dreams faded as I adopted a “now or never” sense of urgency.
Today, I am so proud of myself that I dared to make that attempt, against all odds. I did not resign to my fate, and as a result, I made it into the top forty league of students at my dream school, where I pursued my passion. Those thirty days changed my life forever.
Since then, I’ve worked for top notch corporations, I’ve started my own enterprise, and I’ve left it all behind to home-school my daughter. Every time I decided to make a fresh start, I initially felt terrified, but then conquered my fears to be true to myself.
It’s crucial to be aware of exactly what you want and don’t want. By this, I mean being so connected with your mind, heart, and soul that you need no external stimuli to understand your heart’s calling. It means to know what you ache for and choose not to do the things that drain your spirit.
Awareness does not come easy. But being aware and then making a start is equally difficult. Making a start and going all the way—that’s mammoth!
I’ve made numerous starts in my time, and I have confronted and overcome some major hurdles. If you can identify your hurdles early on, it will be much easier to get started.
Here are some of the hurdles you may come up against:
1. Lack of drive
The drive to pursue your heart’s longing will emerge only when you recognize and accept that you’re not passionate about what you’re currently doing.
When you stop being complacent and acknowledge that your life that doesn't excite you, you will feel an overwhelming need to take that first step toward your dreams.
Do you enjoy how you spend your time and feel like you're making the impact you want to make?
2. Risk of failure
Enormous, long-term goals with micro-level planning may sound like they will cover the risk for you. But, in my experience, they do just the opposite. They can create a terror in your heart even before you make the start. They may even be so overwhelming that they prevent you from beginning.
It’s not prudent to get caught up in long-term plans at any stage of your project or entrepreneurial journey. A better approach is to focus on the small steps that connect you to your passion and conviction.
The Agile methodology suggests designing short-term goals to arrive at the long-term mission. It recommends working toward a two-week or a three-week goal and assessing what you’ve achieved frequently.
This helps you respond to change quickly and efficiently and allows you to create value at greater speed and frequent intervals. When you're creating value every week, every day, no matter how small it is— rather than achieving something tangible an year down the line—you will be firing motivation on all cylinders.
You won’t have to worry about failing at something huge because you will experience small successes at every step of the way.
3. Lack of clarity
Often we have clear dreams but hazy thinking on how to convert those dreams into reality. We get so busy with our day-to-day living that we don’t make the time to think about what steps we need to take.
Until you create the time to think about what you want and need to do, you will keep spinning in circles within your head, waiting for the day when you suddenly feel enlightened or prepared.
Buddha said, “We become what we think.”
Only when we are thinking consciously will our thoughts carry the power to execute.
4. The need to do things perfectly
The perfect time, the perfect method, the perfect idea—these are all illusions that keep us distancing from our dreams. They may be excuses for procrastinating things years away: “When the kids grow up…” “When I get my next promotion…” “When I have more money…”
Or they may be excuses to put things off by a few weeks or months: “When my child's summer vacation is over…” “When I finish this project…”
Oftentimes, these are lies we tell ourselves to avoid taking the plunge. There is no such thing as a perfect idea or a perfect method. Many ideas can be effective if we back them with a sense of purpose and then learn and adjust as we go.
5. Fears about letting go
Maybe you’ve devoted years to training in your field and building a career only to realize you’re not passionate about your work. This can make it challenging to let go and walk away. After all, you’ve already spent a good part of your life pursuing your profession, increasing your earning potential, and making a name for yourself.
You might feel highly resistant to abandoning that profession and pursuing something else. You may also think it’s tantamount to accepting and declaring that your work and life this far were a waste.
The only thing that’s wasteful is denying what you really want.
Living your life on your terms starts with living consciously and courageously and being true to yourself. It may mean letting go of the things you have amassed and unlearning all that you have learned until now; it may mean fighting a lone battle; it may even mean holding on to your belief in the face of reproach, disapproval, and discouragement. But it’s worth doing.
So, go ahead and crush the fears, demolish the doubts, overpower the naysayers, and take that one leap of faith to be who you want to be—no matter what your age, gender, culture, or boundaries.
Man jumping over a hurdle image via Shutterstock