STEP 1 – REFLECT
Think about what you would do if you could do anything. Pretend for a moment that you didn’t have to make money. Pretend you had endless amounts of time. Pretend you had no obligations. Pretend whatever you wanted to do didn’t cost money. Pretend there was no such thing as unrealistic. Pretend there is no such thing as “shoulds.”
What would you do?
Think of what you are passionate about. Think about what makes you feel fully alive. Think about times in your life that you felt “fully alive” – what were you doing? What are you excited about? What have you been excited about in the past?
What gives you a sense of meaning? When has your life felt meaningful? Has your life ever felt like you were on a mission or journey? Why did it feel this way? If you never felt this way, could you imagine a life in which you felt this way?
What are your talents? When do you feel you are most using your talents? What are you good at that you also really enjoy?
If you could use your life to help others – who would you help? Is there a people group you would feel passionate about helping? Is there a struggle you have overcome, that you would be passionate to help others to overcome? Is there something inside of you, that needs to come out, that needs to be shown to the world?
How could you impact the world? How could you impact others?
What do you love to do? What makes you feel like a kid again? What so completely immerses and engages you that you lose track of time?
What brings you joy? Not a good feeling, or entertainment, or even laughter.
But joy, in its truest sense.
What thing, if you did it, would make life make more sense? Would make you believe again that life has purpose and you have purpose.
STEP 2- JOURNAL
I want you to begin to journal about all the questions listed above. Think very slowly and very deeply. Make sure you decide to do this journaling activity when you actually have time to. This exercise will not be as helpful, unless you spend time in deep reflection. Answering these questions should take up several journal pages.
The key to this journal activity is not to limit yourself. Many times we feel lost and don’t even know what we want to do, because we have never allowed ourselves to think about what we would do, if we could do anything. We often think of barriers first, which is the quickest way to shut down our dreams.
What I am asking you to do, is think about the dream first, and barriers second. For this journal activity there is no thinking of barriers allowed!
STEP 3- ACKNOWLEDGE BARRIERS
After completing the journal activity, you hopefully have some idea of what you love, what brings joy, what your talents are, where your strengths are, what you would do if you could do anything.
Now you can think about the barriers.
Make a list. I would keep the list to 5 points or under. You are looking at the main barriers. It may just be 2 or 3 things, or it may 5 things. Either is fine.
STEP 4- BRAINSTORM ALTERNATE OPTIONS
Look at your list. For each barrier, write down a way you could do the thing you want to do, with this barrier in mind. You don’t even have to necessarily overcome the barrier, you just have to come up with a way you could do it despite the barrier.
Here are some examples of what I mean. You can write it out in this format.
What I want to do:
I want to share my insights and ideas with others.
I am introverted and shy.
Rather than share my insights and ideas in group settings, which is difficult for me, I could share my ideas on a blog.
For alternative options, I would actually think of a few ideas if you can. Brainstorm a little bit, and then you can decide what the best option is. Also, I am not saying there is no place for overcoming barriers, but this is often a long process and we probably haven’t overcome the barriers yet for a reason. Instead of waiting to overcome the barrier, find a way to work with it.
I wrote a bit about this in my post 5 Ways to Live More Meaningful in 2016, but common barriers often seem to be time or money.
The same strategy can be helpful for these, which is minimalism. What can you give up in order to get more of these things?
Could you give up an extra hour of sleep and give yourself more time so you could get up early and write in the morning? Could you give up a weekly activity to give yourself an evening to invest in your passion? Could you give up going out to dinner every weekend and invest this money into your passion? Could you give up having new clothes, and use the money you would have spent, on your passion?
Also, don’t ever fall into the trap of thinking that your passion is not worth spending your time and money on. This is your life. This is important. No one gets to their death bed wishing they didn’t spend time or money on their passion!
STEP 5- DON’T LET THE PERFECT BE THE ENEMY OF THE GOOD
Take a look at your list of your alternative options.
Are they perfect options? Probably not.
Are they options that will move you more toward your passion or dream? Probably so.
Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. There are ways you can start moving toward your goals now. Don’t halt this process because it is less than ideal. You will be glad you took these steps, even if they aren’t perfect.
STEP 6- COMMIT TO SOMETHING THAT WILL PROPEL YOU FORWARD
If you are anything like me, you can spend a lot of time overthinking things, and never actually move forward.
This is why I suggest that you commit to something that will propel you forward.
Here are some options:
Find a Guide – Find a mentor, counselor, or coach. Someone you commit to meet with at least weekly or bi-weekly to help you toward your passion/dream. It is easy to get excited about an idea, but then let it fall by the wayside as soon as work, routines, and reality enter back into the picture. Find someone that is dedicated to helping you get to where you want to be – they will help guide you down the path, and it will be a lot harder to forget about this dream, if you are meeting with this person regularly.
Take a Class– Take a class that will help you get to where you want to go, even if you don’t know exactly what that looks like. Take a class on your passion – whether in person or online. This class may help inspire more ideas and depending on what kind of class it is, you may also be able to connect with like minded individuals on a similar path as yours.
Attend a Conference– Is there a conference that is held about your interest/passion? Conferences are often a great source of inspiration and again, a way to connect with like minded individuals. You may attend the conference not knowing why you are there, but may leave with an idea or inspiration to take a new direction in your life.
Start googling! Look up local counselors in your area. Look up online coaching that might be a good fit for you. Think of a mentor that might be helpful to you, and consider asking for their mentorship. Look up classes. Look up what is offered on Coursera or other free class options. Look up if your favorite bloggers are offering a class. Look up classes at your local university that you can audit – or look into online university classes. Look up conferences – whatever you are interested in. There are conferences for everything – writing, photography, counseling, mental health, youth work…the possibilities are endless. Sign up for a conference and put it on the calender.
You know what would be the best fit for you, but whatever you do, do not end this activity without an action step. Commit to something!
That thing that you do, after your day job, in your free time, too early in the morning, too late at night. That thing you read about, write about, think about, in fact fantasize about. That thing you do when you’re all alone and there’s no one to impress, nothing to prove, no money to be made, simply a passion to pursue. That’s it. That’s your thing. That’s your heart, your guide. That’s the thing you must, must do. -author unknown
Go do that thing that fills you.
Find what fills you with joy. Acknowledge and accept the barriers and use your creativity to find a way to do it anyway. Find sources of inspiration and people who will help guide you along the way.
But whatever you do, don’t ignore it. It is there for a reason.