Pursuing What Truly Gives You Pleasure
The most familiar path to you is the one that many people will stay on.
Doing what you know – even if it doesn’t feel like your life fits – is often preferable to some people than making changes, even if it could mean a better life.
Contentment in life comes from embracing who you are and what it is that gives you happiness.
Sadly, there are scores of people who don’t make changes because they’re afraid it might be uncomfortable or hard.
Have You Chosen the Wrong Path?
The path that a person is on in life often gets put in place when they’re still in high school.
At eighteen years old and younger, people are making big decisions that are going to impact their futures.
Sometimes these choices bring happiness – but often, they end up leaving the person feeling unfulfilled.
Some people are older when they decide on a career course and they stick to it year after year – some for as long as multiple decades.
They know after a few years that it’s not where they want to be. But they stick to it for several reasons.
Sometimes they don’t make any life changes even if they’re unhappy because the path is familiar.
Other times, it’s because they put a lot of effort and money into the education to reach where they are.
No one wants to feel like they’ve wasted thousands upon thousands of dollars or year after year of their time.
No one wants to feel like their investment was all for nothing. So they stick it out because leaving it behind would feel like a waste. That’s backward thinking.
Staying on the wrong path is a waste. Doing that makes it all for nothing.
Because you only have one life and you can spend it going after what truly gives you pleasure or staying on what’s familiar for no good reason other than it’s what you know.
It’s time to look yourself in the mirror and face the reality you’ve been trying to avoid. The life that you have is not the one that you want.
This takes honesty and courage, but once you admit that truth to yourself, you’ll be amazed at how much lighter you’ll feel.
There are symptoms that will show up when you’ve chosen the wrong path in life. The first symptoms that usually appear are physical or emotional.
You can start to have body aches or feel sick whenever you have to go to work or do something associated with your career.
You know that you don’t even want to go to work. Some people start to experience feelings of depression or anxiety.
Another sign is that your work performance slacks off. You find that doing a good job just doesn’t matter anymore. This happens because your heart isn’t in it.
You can’t be enthusiastic about something that doesn’t give you pleasure.
Finally, you feel a longing in your heart toward something that you want to do that does give you pleasure.
Sometimes this can be the thing that you like to do in your spare time or it can be something that you’ve always longed to do but for whatever reason, didn’t.
It’s time to make a change if that sounds like you.
Changing Course Requires Unearthing Your Courage
Even just imagining changing their lives can be so scary to some people that they just refuse to even consider it.
They settle for what they have rather than what they truly want.
The basic reason most people give when it comes to not changing their lives is fear. Fear puts up roadblocks.
It asks the scary question like, “What if I make a change and I fail?”
Holding onto this fear is pretty common when most people think about pursuing what gives them pleasure. It’s common because the unknown is frightening.
What’s known is safe and secure and comfortable.
What’s unknown is where the all the monsters are. Mistakes. Pain. Doubt. Failure.
You can focus your mind on everything that could go wrong to the point that you stay exactly where you are because fear owns you.
Doubting your ability goes hand in hand with fearing change. When you’re on the path that you’ve always been on, you can see what you’ve accomplished.
You can see how far you’ve come. You have your history of performance and how you’ve lived as a record you can rely on. It’s your confidence point.
Most people stick with that rather than trust that if they had the ability to do one thing, they’ll also have it do something that truly matters to them.
When you’re thinking about a change, but you’ve lacked the courage to make a move, one reason can be because you’re playing the comparison game.
You’re looking at others who are where you want to be and you’re judging what you perceive as your lack of ability to measure up.
The problem with that is you’re trying to line up two different journeys that aren’t the same length.
You can’t compare where you’re at, on the edge of trying to find your courage, with someone else who’s already made the jump to change their life.
You have to unearth your courage in order to make a change. Yes, your life will be different. Not everything will be the same.
But going after what makes you happy gives you something that staying with the familiar didn’t – the chance to be or do what you were always meant to.
The first step you need to take is to acknowledge that changing your life is scary, but it’s better than living an unhappy one.
It’s better than living a life at 50% when you could have 100% fulfillment.
To find the courage to make a move, face whatever it is that’s holding you back. This might be fear or what you feel is a lack of knowledge, or a move.
You have to take action steps regardless of what’s going on inside your brain.
Action steps build courage because they prove that you’re capable, a little bit at a time. Hang out with people who are doing what you want to do. Immerse yourself in their world.
Learn what you feel you need to know. Challenging yourself fosters more courage. Realize that the unknown is only unknown temporarily.
You will gain perspective – but only after you make the change. Trust yourself.
Imperfection Isn’t an Excuse to Abandon Your Dreams
Abandoning your dreams is safe because when you let go of what you want, you don’t ever have to worry about failing or what could have been.
But abandoning your dreams will always leave you with the haunting suspicion of what could have been.
You’ll always think about the road not taken. There are many reasons people abandon their dreams.
The biggest is fear, but another reason is because while they can see the success of others who’ve followed their dreams, they can’t imagine it for themselves.
That’s because what you can see is easier to swallow that what you can only dream of.
If you’ve dreamed of starting your own business, it’s easy to look at the person who has a thriving one and think that person had something you don’t.
You might think they had a leg up on their journey. Maybe they had a mentor or a wealthy relative who forked over the startup money.
But the truth is, you don’t know how someone else’s dream evolved into reality.
It could be that the person struggled alone and started with nothing – but because they were relentless in their pursuit of what gave them pleasure, their dreams came to life.
Maybe you’re someone who dreamed of running marathons but you haven’t even exercised in decades.
You look at others who completed many marathons and you think about your own life.
You think about all the training and all the effort and the possibility of injuries so you abandon that dream. You’ll never be “as fit or as good as they are,” you think.
They have what it takes – but you don’t. Their job skills are better – or their talents – or they have the looks to succeed in an industry where appearances matter.
But not you.
What you have is simply not enough, according to your current mindset. Rationalizing away your own abilities and strengths is simply fear in another form.
Quitting just because you believe others are better than you isn’t a reason to give up on your dreams.
Every single person who achieved their dreams had a moment when they thought someone else was better.
But because they kept on pushing forward despite that belief, they are where they want to be in life right now.
What you feel you lack – your imperfections – is not good enough as an excuse to give up on your dreams.
The key to achieving your goals (big and small) is this: do it despite your imperfections.
It could be that what you’re not perfect at is exactly what makes your dreams come true.
Silencing Your Critics (Including Yourself)
Having a dream for your life is a wonderful thing. Going after that dream is even better. But you can bet that when you have a dream, you also have critics.
You can have family or friends who will give you all sorts of unwanted advice about your life when it comes to your dreams.
Sometimes this advice and warnings will come from a good place. These people love you and they’re afraid for you.
But their fear can be contagious, so you have to be careful to make sure you don’t put up with it.
Be aware that some people will offer you unwanted advice designed to stop you from chasing your dreams because of some unfulfilled dream in their own lives.
A person who always longed for a dream but didn’t chase it can experience feelings of jealousy.
Your dream chasing rubs salt in their old wound. You want to silence friends and family who are critics of your dream.
It doesn’t have to be a long, blown up affair, either. It can be a simple statement like, “I appreciate your concern, but this is what I want to do.”
A firm statement is usually all it takes to end a critical encounter. Don’t leave a door open for a conversation with someone who wants to derail your dreams.
But for those who don’t want to let it go, you may need to disengage from the conversation. You have somewhere to be. A phone call to answer.
That person may have a right to their opinion – even if it’s wrong and critical – but you have a right to walk away.
You are the gatekeeper for your dream and you have to protect from people who want to tear it down.
While there will always be someone who will be critical about you pursuing your dream, the most dangerous person as a critic is yourself.
Your inner critic is you – which means that little nagging voice knows exactly what your weaknesses are and how hard to hit them.
You want to stop your inner critic because it can erode your self-esteem and lead to a lack of confidence in chasing your dream.
Pay attention to the trajectory of your thoughts. When they’re putting you down, immediately interrupt them. Correct untrue criticisms with a truthful one.
If your inner critic continues, keep in mind that your thoughts are just thoughts. There’s no tangible evidence that you are what your thoughts say.
For example, if your inner critic tells you that you shouldn’t change your life because you’ll fail, ask yourself where the proof of that is.
Your inner critic often deals in hypothetical situations, not reality. Remind yourself of all the things that you’ve accomplished in life.
That kind of proof quiets an inner critic. Then ask yourself if you would speak to anyone the way that you let your inner critic speak to you.
The answer to that is no – because most people realize that the harsh thoughts aren’t kind and when you’re changing your life, you deserve kindness and support – even from yourself.
Gaining Confidence in Your Decisions
Not being confident in the decisions you make as you change your life can make you feel like a sailboat in the ocean during a hurricane.
You feel off kilter and unstable. You second guess yourself. Sometimes, as soon as you make a decision, you’ll wonder immediately afterward if it was the right one.
You can gain confidence by setting up your life change with a plan of action.
This action can begin with little steps. As you take each of these small steps, it will grow your confidence toward making decisions with the bigger steps.
Decide what your dream is. Figure out what defines it as success. This will help you be able to lay out your plan of action.
Every time you reach a goal in your plan of action, it becomes another layer in your foundation of confidence when you make a decision.
Make sure that you picture your dream – where you are now, where you want to be in five, ten years and on.
Make decisions by breaking down what has to be accomplished today to keep that dream alive tomorrow and the next day and so on.
Dream big, but plan small. You can’t get from where you are to where you want to be in the blink of an eye. Make small decisions today that achieve smaller goals.
This will help build your confidence with each goal that you reach.
If you want to run a marathon but you haven’t even exercised in ten years, then set a small goal to take a walk three days the first week – then four, and then five.
Have a slightly larger goal of being able to jog within two weeks or running in four.
Each of these decisions that make those goals come to life makes you feel more confident and you’ll address goals going forward with more trust in your ability to make decisions.
When you have a plan to follow, it helps guide some of your decisions.
Plus, having an action plan means that it can prevent you from having to make decisions in the spur of the moment.
In the end, though, regardless of whatever plan you put in place, the thing that will build your confidence in your decisions is by trusting your gut.
You’ve made decisions about your life for years and you’ve handled various situations.
Each time, you’ve come out okay. You can trust that your decisions through the changes that you’ll make in pursuit of your life’s pleasure will turn out just fine as well.
And hopefully, you’ll knock it out of the ballpark and have the life you’ve always dreamed of having.
Suzanne Eder talks about self improvement at a TEDX event in Wilmington, Delaware. Suzanne Eder is a world-class teacher, facilitator and mentor.