Why You Aren’t Living Your Dreams and What to Do About It

King of the World

“Your belief determines your action and your action determines your results, but first you have to believe.” ~Mark Victor Hansen


The car engine’s loud revving got quiet. The tires came to a screeching halt.

This towering, slender, intimidating man, with a beard like the skin of a shaved porcupine, shut the driver side door behind him and approached me with thunder.

“Is this what you’re doing?!” he demanded. “On the corner—with a girl?”

It wasn’t her fault, but his expression almost made me turn around and look at her with utter disgust.

Instead, I was too busy quieting the butterflies in my stomach, looking up everywhere into his chiseled face except his eyes. His head blocked the sun like a solar eclipse on that urban street while his eyes burned a hole in my forehead.

“You’re going to throw away the championship for this.”

Never explicitly saying out loud what I did wrong, as he put me to shame, it made the unspoken truth stab my heart like a dagger, over and over, especially because I had deep admiration for this man.

As he walked away from the sidewalk concrete and drove off, I caught a glimpse of his long hairy calves in my peripheral vision and stared into the black pavement in deep contemplation.

Yanking my arm away from the hot girl next to me, like an annoyed child from an overprotective parent, I walked up the block and took the bus home.

I was 16 when my tennis coach, this amazing man, taught me my first lesson in what it really meant to walk away from a grand vision you have in life—and the price you pay on your personal growth when doing so.

My sin: I had stopped showing up for tennis practice with two weeks left to a championship game that depended on my performance.

But why did I do that? And why do so many of us fail to do the things we want to do, resort to our old ways, and ignore our glorious vision in life?


A study by Janssen and Carton demonstrated how what scientists call the “locus of control” affects how timely we do things.

No, locus of control is not that awesome pose at yoga class! It’s our perspective on what’s really  responsible for the outcome of things.

Do we take personal responsibility for things that happen in our lives, and have an inner locus of control? Or, do we blame it all on luck and circumstance, otherwise known as having an external locus of control?

They gave 42 students a homework assignment and found that students who had an inner locus of control started and returned assignments sooner, while those with an external locus of control started and returned assignments later.

We procrastinate more when we blame luck and circumstance for the results we get, and avoid taking personal responsibility for what we want to achieve.

That’s what I did.

I hung out with my new girlfriend instead of going to practice so that I could retrospectively blame her in the event that I lost the championship. I have a girlfriend now and she’s taking up my time. That’s why I’ll lose. It’s not because I didn’t take full personal responsibility. It’s her fault.

My tennis coach was trying to teach me the locus of control at the time, when the locus of other “things” controlled me more.

Fear and Limiting Beliefs

Research suggests a variety of reasons on why we fail to do things we want to do, but two stand out.

1. Fear of the unknown.

We can’t predict the outcome and the consequences it will have on our self-esteem. We do what we usually do to prevent our self-esteem from getting damaged.

2. The belief that we’ll perform better at a later date when we’re “more prepared,” which will likely never come.

This causes us to engage in indecision—on purpose, to validate our stalling.

In my case, I dated a new girl and stopped practicing to avoid feeling bad in the event that I lost the championship. I knew that I would win the girl, but wasn’t sure about the game, so I focused on the easy win.

Our human tendency to want to be right, certain, and safe can overshadow doing the hard work, breaking bad habits, and getting something we desperately want.

Old Conditioning

On Psychology Today, Ray Williams suggests that the brain is protective over its current habitual patterns. Achieving something new will require new behavior, and the brain will try to resist new patterns to protect its old conditioning.

The brain is also wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain and fear.

“When fear of failure creeps into the mind…it commences a de-motivator with a desire to return to known, comfortable behavior and thought patterns,” he writes.

Before you set out on a journey to achieve something, you must pay attention to the triggers that will happen in your mind, because your mind could derail you.

The most important factor in overcoming your mind’s tendency to keep you in your comfort zone is awareness.

The more aware you are of how your brain is conditioned and the lifestyle it’s trying to protect, the better equipped you’ll be to take action.

When my brain tries to make me curl back to comfort, I whisper to it, “Stop it! We must do this! Think about what we could gain in the long run.”


While many “gurus” might tell people to wake up earlier, set priorities, and plan better in order to work toward their dreams, these tactics alone do not always help.

Why? Because it’s our mental conditioning that’s holding us back, and that’s what we need to change. It’s our fear of the future, and often, our lack of personal responsibility that keeps us from taking action, not the failure to create to-do lists and wake up at a specified time.

Keep a vigilant watch at how your mind will try to take you back to your old ways. This is the only way to change your conditioning.

Changing your mind and spirit first, letting go of fear of outcomes, and challenging your old conditioning may revolutionize the way you live so that you own up to what you want to do—and then do it.

Photo by ANDR3W A

About Omar Elbaga

Best selling author Omar Elbaga helps those seeking their life purpose to find and earn a living with their greatest passion. Picking up where his Amazon best-seller "Lessons Dad Never Taught You" left off, Omar's new course will guide you step-by-step to discover your true life purpose. Go after what really matters. Click here to learn how.

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  • Joan Harrison

    Your article explains why the mind has gained the name ‘the Monkey Mind’ – it is so true we tend to take the long way round, the less painful and usually this leads to the most pain. There is a lot to be said for facing the fear and doing it anyway. For me though coming to understand my mind and how it worked changed my life beyond recognition.

    Enjoyed your writing Omar!

  • Things that hold us back: “The belief that we’ll perform better at a later date when we’re “more prepared,” which will likely never come.” Damn. Nailed it. I fall into this one all the time. The universe seems to be conspiring lately to reinforce the message that I need to stop trying to “figure things out” and just start doing them.

    For what it’s worth, I do feel like I’m on a good path to living my dream, but it required not just planning but actually taking action: change jobs, apply to grad school, ask for help, look into financial aid, etc. I’m still stunned I have done all that in the last 7 months.

  • hey universe…

    This is all so very true. You can set all the goals you want but unless you are retraining your mind you will easily fall in to the unproductive patterns. You can also “put it out to the universe” but unless you have tools to keep them forefront, it is easy to forget. As Rev. Michael Beckwith says “Remember to remember” 🙂

  • hey universe…

    Hey Michael, you might like our facebook page and iOS mobile app: It’s all about putting it out to the universe and keeping your mind in the space to create the life you want. Sounds like you are doing a great job at that but this could be that little extra something 🙂

  • andro zuo

    So true..thats exactly what I am doing in my life..I feel so bad now

  • randyh

    Great article Omar!

  • lv2terp

    Brilliant post! Awareness is key for sure! I really found the Locus of Control fascinating, and looking into that further. Taking personal responsibility is huge, I agree!!! Thank you for sharing this wisdom, and insight! 🙂

  • Leah

    Good article, Omar. I’m wondering, how did you do in that championship?

  • Guest

    Great post. I read a lot of posts talking about our minds and how it can “play tricks” on you because of your own comfort zone and fear of failure, but my question is: How do you know if your mind is fearing failure/leaving comfort zone or if your intuition is trying to tell you something?

  • This question isn’t answered until you actually do something and that could mean choosing to follow the intuition that tells you to not leave your comfort zone. I think the goal is to do; to try skydiving or to stay at home and watch birds. Either is fine. To be content with what you are doing right now, to be content that you are reading this, to be content that you disagree with it, rather than to be chasing something fictional, that might be all there is to it.

  • Thank you so much for the great comments. Locus of Control is an interesting thing. If you want any of the research shoot me a note and I can send over the article, but that’s the gist of it! Let’s hope we all have some control over our Locus of Control 🙂

  • What a great question! I talk a lot about the mind on my blog. It’s the thing that fascinates me personally, the most. I think you just know, in a way. Like, you know yourself more than anyone else.

    For me, sometimes I’ll ask myself the question out loud? Omar, are you scared because you’ll be out of your comfort zone by doing XYZ (getting up an speaking in front of.. for example) and usually I’ll hear the answer. Yeah. you know this is good for you but you’re just scared.

    If you feel a nervous and butterflies I think it’s more of the first. If you feel fear that’s like deep and feels negative maybe you can reconsider.

    Even this sometimes can trick us though so we have to be as honest with ourselves as possible. I think a person knows himself the best.

  • Simple Works, I love that. Sometimes you just don’t know and need to try. Thankfully we’re not living in a world where we can die simply by going out to gather food for our families. For the most part, at least in “modern” countries people have so much opportunity and freedom, I hope we actually use it!

  • Hey Leah, LOL, we lost. Lesson learned. 🙂

    I think I had detached myself sub-consciously. And I think that’s something we should think of because I think a lot of us do that in our lives. When we fear something or worry or get uncomfortable, we come up with excuses and consciously and spiritually disconnect even if that thing could be good for us!

  • Randy, Thank you!

  • Andro, thanks for your honesty, and while you should be accepting of how you feel. But don’t let that deter you from success and getting what you want.

    You’ll need to take some risk, at your discretion. One of the best ways I get myself out of these situations is by doing something I don’t normally do.

    I’ll call an old friend. Take some funky class through a Groupon. Find a local meetup to attend and something happens. And then life moves you through.

    The worst thing is to avoid going out and doing new things, even things in your home is good. Like try to do a craft. Just have fun. No pressure.

    Sometimes I’ll start painting again, a hobby I stopped years ago, but when I bring it back my mind relaxes.

    Try doing things that let your mind go, where you don’t feel the THINKING part of your mind, you’re just in the moment. For me that’s also programming. I can play music, code and zone out and it revives me.

    One of the reasons our emotional pain stays with us is because we fight it and say no, I shouldn’t feel this way. I’m so bad.

    That makes it stay. We all go through ups and downs in life. We just need to accept and move on. I have a video where I talk about that here: I hope it sheds some good light

  • Thank you for this wonderful addition! The mind is an amazing thing isn’t it!

  • Michael thanks for sharing your story. I love that you took action toward what you want. It’s amazing how actions guide us to the next actions so we could continue on our journey, whereas planning usually guides us only to the first necessary action.

    I used to have so much going on and get overwhelmed. Then I’d pause and think “What have you actually done?” Hmm. In that moment, I’ll realize I’ve been planning and worrying, not taking action.

  • Joan, Thank you for your comments! Really appreciate that. The mind is an amazing tool which is why I wanted to focus on the mind the most on my own blog.

  • Jeff Noble

    HELP, I am in a position that leaves me on my own almost everyday. I still get paid, but I don’t work much. Right, I know, stop complaining and enjoy. I can’t. I love to contribute and work to earn my living. I feel really stuck in a rut and can’t see a way out. I stay here because it allows me time to spend with my daughter who is 25 miles away. If my ex needs me to pick her up, I can. If I want to see her after school, I can, but I am drowning in a sea of boredom each day. I am trying to figure out something to do on the side for extra money with all my free time. Any thoughts?? Thanks, Jeff

  • Hey Jeff, Thanks for sharing. You’re right. The desire to contribute is essential for us as humans. When you say you’re drowning in a sea of boredom I’d love to dig in there. I’d love to hear more about your background and which direction you have (even a slight inclination) to move forward in? What’s keeping you from stopping boredom and moving forward toward a goal you want.

  • Seema Goyal

    hi… this is the first time I have read this post and fully agree with you… taking responsibility is not easy and often we all know the answers but need to be told.. Thanx again. looking forward to reading more of lifes truth.