Ever had a time when you had to hang onto hope and hope alone? And that hope wasn’t some thick, metal chain with a hook, but rather a thin, fragile thread. Add any more weight in the form of one more setback, one more frustration, or one more instance of your environment driving you crazy, and that thread would break. You’d fall back into a black pit of despair with outreached hands toward that small string of hope.
I’ve been there. It’s not a fun place to be. It hurts. And worse, you have a hard time shaking off this terrible feeling of powerlessness, like nothing you do will change things. That’s a lie, of course. Yes, some things are beyond our control, but other things aren’t: like the state of our minds, our future, and day-to-day decisions. Since returning from Korea about two years ago, I was introduced to different ways of thinking through books, friends, and websites. The shift from feeling helpless to feeling empowered gave me a new pair of eyes; I finally saw the big picture and realized that that picture could become reality. I could change things. I wasn’t a robot or a puppet with its hands tied to invisible strings making me dance to somebody else’s song. I had my own song to compose, sing, and dance to. And compose, sing, and dance I would.
One avenue that got me thinking about my dreams, productivity, internal motivations, and purging suffering from life was a website called Personal Excellence by Celestine Chua. This lovely spot on the Internet helped me worked out problems with self-doubt, productivity, and goal setting. From then on, I found myself taking in a lot of information about pursuing dreams, maintaining a positive mindset, and not letting one’s environment affect you and so on. It turned out to be quite overwhelming at one time. It is overwhelming. So, if you’re on a similar journey to pursue your heart’s desires, here are five ways to stay sane in the middle of it all.
1.) Have a plan/make a schedule with a goal in mind.
Sometimes we believe creative people do things on the fly or whenever they’re inspired or feel motivated. That plans, schedules, and goal making are for the boring crowd that we’re trying to escape from. No. There’s a reason why people make plans and set goals. Doing so concretizes the ideas floating in your head and brings you up one notch from dream to reality. If you want an effective model for setting and achieving goals, I recommend Celestine Chua’s ESPER, Establish, Strategy, Planning, Execution, and Review. Trust me. You won’t regret taking a look at it.
2.) Be patient and lean into the process.
Personally, I struggle with patience and the process. I had to train myself to take a deep breath and live in the present. I like looking forward to the future and thinking about the good times I had in the past. But doing so made for a lousy present in which I was frustrated with my progress; afraid that I stood at a standstill; and angry with myself for not getting things done quicker. I wanted the beautiful picture in my mind to happen now. But life isn’t about the results. It’s about the process, all the stuff in between the big moments—success or failure. And each moment of the present is precious. Like a good friend used to say, “Enjoy the moment.”
3.) Don’t focus on the progress of others; focus on yours.
Everyone’s journey is unique. Remember that. Just because so and so is three paces ahead of you doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you. Know for sure that if you’re working on your dream, then you’re most likely three paces ahead of someone else. Someone out there actually envies you! Don’t compare yourself to others. It is the most destructive thing you can do to your mind. Instead, zoom in on yourself and on what you need to get done. You’ll get there when you need to get there. Just keep working hard.
4.) Don’t let your environment wear you down.
As I’m writing, I’m enduring an environment detrimental to my mental health and creative process. But I’m not letting the foolishness and negativity around me stop me from doing what I love, which is writing. If I could leave this second, I would. However, I don’t have the resources right now to do so. That doesn’t mean I’m not working on making my exit. I am. But until I can get out, I have to stay focused on what matters most to me. I can’t allow my environment to depress, discourage, or drive me crazy. The three Ds if you will. You don’t need ideal conditions to work on your dreams. If people waited for perfect surroundings to create magic, then there would be tons of things today that we would not be enjoying. So, press the mute button on the noisy environment and soldier on.
5.) Not all advice works for you. Remember to be true to yourself and your heart.
People everywhere have something to say about how you should live your life, what steps you should take, and what you should avoid. Some pieces of information may work well for you while others may not. It’s good to know the difference. I have missed some pretty amazing opportunities by following the advice of people who meant well but didn’t know me as much as they thought they did or, surprise surprise, the future. I believe the future rewards those who face it with humility. Life taught me this the hard way. The minute you hear someone giving you advice that sounds arrogant or narrow-minded, warning flags should fly.
How about you? What are some ways you keep yourself in check in the middle of pursuing your dream? Would love to hear your thoughts.