Photo by N. on Unsplash

How close is your pot of gold?

Life has a way of presenting us with a long list of “need to do” and “should do” priorities every day. To stay alive, you’ve got to eat. To earn money, you’ve probably got to work. You’ve got to clean and do laundry. Pay the bills. Put gas in the car. Mow the lawn. Feed the cat.

We all end up having a long list of these responsibilities just to stay where we are. If I don’t clean, or get some exercise, or go to work, I face consequences that could make my life worse. My health could decline or I lose my job.

For most of us, maintaining our standard of living is the least we can do.

Where many of us struggle is continuing to improve. The goals that life sets for us aren’t usually goals that help us advance.

We need to learn something new to be more effective at our jobs. We need to go the extra mile to improve our relationship with our spouse. We need to make an effort to expand our social circle to meet new people.

Creating new action is much harder than simply maintaining. And for a lot us, we may feel so wiped by the daily responsibilities of trying to keep what we have that forward momentum seems impossible.

Step one on your journey to what you want is to honestly figure out what’s keeping you down. A lot of what keeps us stagnant comes from some kind of doubt. How familiar to the thoughts below sound to you?

“I don’t deserve it.”

Have you ever looked at something you really want, e.g. a new job, a relationship, or even some skill, and thought “it must be nice to be one of those people”?

I used to worry that everyone was constantly judging me. In every social situation, every time I had to get up in front of a group, I knew that everyone in the room was looking at how I dressed and spoke. When I saw people who were comfortable and confident, I always thought how great it must be to have that confidence.

Then one day, a mentor was talking about public speaking. She said not to worry if your palms got sweaty or your knees shook because no one could see that from where they were sitting. Light bulb! It suddenly dawned on me that everyone felt that way sometimes.

I may not be the smartest, best looking or most confident, but honestly, neither was anyone else. Everyone was worried about something. Maybe they thought their nose was too big or didn’t like the way their accent sounds. Maybe they’re worried about the clothes they picked out or whether they fit in. Everyone has doubts. I may not be better than anyone, but I’m not any worse either.

“I couldn’t get there anyway.”

Another common doubt that can limit you is not believing that you could do it.

Maybe it’s because you don’t think you’re talented enough or don’t have the right kind of access. The key is to be honest about where that doubt is coming from. I know I’ll never be a great painter. I lack the artistic skills to really make a run at it.

But I’m still a pretty artistic person. I can see what’s not there. I’ve studied the history of art and can keep up in the conversation.

If you lack natural skill, come at it sideways. Start by learning everything you can and then practice like crazy. Da Vinci wasn’t born with a brush in his hand, but once he got one, he never put it down.

If it’s lack of access, you need to attack that problem. Figure out what the doors look like and where they are. Then start taking a step towards that door everyday. One day, you’ll realize your hand is on the doorbell.

The trouble with doubt is that if you think you can’t, you’re right. And if you never try, you fail before you begin.

“I don’t know where to begin.”

Sometimes we know we want something, but we literally don’t know the first step. We can find the people doing it well, but the path from step 1 to step 10,000 isn’t clearly visible.

This is probably the easiest one to overcome, because you know what people love talking about? Themselves.

Find the people who have done what you want to do and talk to them. Read books that they’ve written. Look up Youtube videos they’ve made. Reach out to them directly on Twitter or by email and ask them where they started.

You’d be amazed at how many of your idols would be willing to give a hungry beginner the time of day.

So right now, in this very moment, what do you want to do? If you existed without limitations or fear? If you could open the door right now and step through it, what’s waiting on the other side?

If you have an answer to that question, you have a first step that you can take today. Overcome the fear. Kick yourself out of the rut. All it takes is one step today and another tomorrow.

Go put a dent in the world. I believe in you. You’re going to do great.

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Alex Acton

Alex Acton

Professional Amateur & Avid Question Asker