Are You Looking for Permission to Follow Your Dreams?

I was sitting in a monthly one on one with one of our team members, and he gave me the piece of feedback that I need to ask for help more. Okay, that sounds pretty appealing. I’d love some help. Yet I felt an immediate resistance welling up. And as I started unpacking why I wasn’t asking for help, the hangup wasn’t what I might have guessed. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust anyone else. We have an amazingly talented team and I’m lucky to work with them every day. It wasn’t that I didn’t recognize that I need the help. My current lineup includes running a business, publishing Soul Uprising, planning The Naked Soul Retreat with my good friend Katie, and community involvement along with all of the other stuff we all do as adults to try to take care of our family and friends. Trust me, I know I can’t do it alone.

No, it wasn’t any of those things. The problem was guilt.

I felt guilty because I the reason I am overloaded is that I am following my dreams. Not what a mentor told me to do. Not what the latest book I’d read said to do. My dreams. I was worried I was being selfish by going after something that deep down, I really want and have wanted for a long time: to run a company in a way that feels right and authentic, and to inspire other people to do the same.

As soon as I admitted it out loud, I realized how crazy it sounds. If a friend were sitting across from me and said those words, I’d tell her to knock it off and go own her purpose.

But since it’s not always that easy, here are five concrete things you can do today to take hold of your dreams:

  1. Don’t crowdsource your path. We all have influences in our lives that mean well and want to keep us safe. They are great for reminding us to drink more water and contribute to our retirement accounts. They’re not so good for leading us to greatness. To live bravely, you have to let go of the voices with less courage than your own. Those may be friends, significant others, parents, mentors, or colleagues who may subtly put down your dream because the unknown is scary to them. It may even be that there are some latent dreams of their own that they haven’t chased, so it’s painful for them to see you go after yours. Whatever the reason, it’s their hangup, not yours. You don’t have to listen to every well-meaning voice. I go so far as to not even tell those I know will have a hard time supporting me when I’m doing something new. I don’t want their opinion anyway, so why put us both in the awkward position of asking for it? Let them celebrate with you when you’ve crushed your goals, and leave them out of the messy work of smashing barriers.

  2. You are the perfectly imperfect person for the job. When I started Entrepreneurial Technologies I had no capital; no experience in sales, HR, design, or running a company; and (unbeknownst to me) the economy was on the verge of collapse. We found a way to thrive and so can you. Too often we sell ourselves short because we think great things are only accomplished by perfect people in perfect circumstances. Everything that has ever been done in this world has been done by a flawed human who wakes up with crazy hair and stinky breath and more questions than answers, just like you. Perfection is not a requirement to have an impact. But showing up is. Now what’s your excuse?

  3. Now is the time. Too often we “save” the things we want to do for some magical time in the future when we will finally feel like we have it together. I knew I wanted to write a book, but waited years for that perfect moment where I had time and it never arrived. Every time I would see a post on social media that said “If you want to be a writer, just &*@!$& write” I would feel like crap, but still convince myself it wasn’t the right time because I couldn’t see the full path laid out in front of me. Until one day I got my courage up and just started. It really is that simple. Just start, and figure it out from there. Which brings me to...

  4. A big goal is just a series of small goals. When I was writing Soul Uprising, I was terrified of the word count required to get there. I’d never written anything that long before. But as I started to write chapter after chapter, it felt more accessible. If you want to write 50,000 words, that’s writing 1000 words 50 times. For me, 1000 words takes anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes. Do that once a week for a year and you have a manuscript. Surely there’s an hour and a half per week that’s being spent on something you’d trade in to follow your dreams.

  5. Do the most important thing first. Financial advisors tell you to contribute to your savings first so you don’t get tempted to spend on other things. Wellness coaches tell you to work out first thing in the day so you don’t find an excuse not to. Over and over, we are told to put the most important things in our lives first so we make sure they happen. And yet over and over, I see people (myself included) focusing on mundane tasks we tell ourselves are critical instead of things that will matter a year from now. If there is zero food in the house and your family is about to starve, the most important thing is obviously fixing that situation. But sometimes we treat everyday to dos like they’re emergencies when really, they are not that critical, could wait, or even be done by someone else who wants to help. I find this short-sighted triaging is most likely to happen when I perceive I’m hurting someone else by following my dreams. I’m not suggesting that you skip your child’s birthday party or become a self-absorbed jerk. But I am suggesting that maybe, just this once, everyone would be just fine without the Pinterest-worthy cupcakes that look like tiny giraffes, or the elaborately layered parfaits in individual serving cups. When I started prioritizing my writing, I found that the list of other tasks melted away pretty quickly and a lot of the “crucial” items really weren’t that important in the bigger picture.

And in case you really need the permission, I am here to give it to you now: You can do this. Go forth and be awesome.