Tuesday August 22, 2017
Once in a while, children's movies give us important reminders about what it takes to succeed.
I was recently watching the "Married Life" montage in Up, and I noticed a pattern in the way Carl and Ellie pursued their shared dream of going to Paradise Falls.
This pattern is reflective of the way many people pursue their dreams, so I decided to delve into it in today's blog post.
This article will contain spoilers for Up, so if you haven't seen it yet and you care about spoilers, then go watch this great movie and come back when you're prepared.
What held Carl and Ellie back from their dream:
When the happy couple started to actively pursue their goal of visiting Paradise Falls, the first thing they did was to start putting money in a jar.
Shortly afterward, a tire on their car popped, and the jar got smashed to pay for a new tire.
Then Carl's leg got broken, and so did the jar.
Then a tree crashed through the roof of their house, and once again, the jar died in a shower of dangerous little shards that makes one wonder why they didn't start using a container that would make a less hazardous mess when they retrieved their savings.
Years went by, and while not every incident is shown, it seems that this happened over and over again. Eventually, their hair turned grey, their bodies began to break down, and the jar with their savings for Paradise Falls ended up on a shelf, half-buried by books and seemingly forgotten.
Eventually, Ellie fell ill and died, never having fulfilled her dream of going to Paradise Falls.
Insert important clarification here!
Now, some of you may be thinking, "Those were necessary expenses! Are you saying they should have left their car undriveable, Carl's leg broken, and their roof with a hole in it?"
Of course not. I know that some people who write on this topic have made the mistake of disregarding the struggles and necessities that many people wrestle with while pursuing their dreams, and I want to avoid that.
Maybe you have a family to feed, and a full-time job that's taking up most of your time and energy.
Maybe an emergency came up, and set you back in the pursuit of your goals.
There are many legitimate reasons why you might not be able to devote as much time or money to your passion as you'd like. But in some cases, those reasons may be more surmountable than you think.
Here are some strategies you can use to pursue your goals, even when something's holding you back.
If you're busy, you have a lot of commitments, finances are tight, you've got people to feed, or you've otherwise got obstacles standing between where you are and where you want to be, here are some ways in which you can move toward your goals:
1. Remove unnecessary time and money sinks.
What are you currently spending time or money on that isn't moving you toward your goal, and isn't necessary to your well-being?
I'm not saying you need to remove ALL non-productive activities from your schedule. Human beings need rest and social interaction.
But if your dream is important to you, and you never have the time or cash for it, I invite you to take a few minutes to write down a list of the things you're currently spending that time or money on.
Do you regularly spend an hour or three on TV after work, and could that time be replaced by an activity that moves you toward your dreams?
Do you eat out frequently, and could you save a large chunk of that money by buying groceries and cooking meals instead?
Are you allowing people to eat up your time with requests and tasks that should rightfully be THEIR responsibility, not yours?
When you check your social media, do you get sucked into a cycle of endless scrolling?
Are some of the tasks in your business or career taking up time, but not bringing you customer or cash?
Sort your expenditures of time or money by priority: high priority things that MUST be done, medium priority activities that are beneficial but not essential, and low priority things that are potentially beneficial but entirely optional.
Then replace the low-priority things with actions that will move you toward your goal. You may be surprised by how many things felt essential, but were actually unnecessary speed bumps on the road to your dreams.
2. Take a crack at it, even when you're tired.
For a while, I thought I didn't have the energy to work on my creative endeavours, because I was working long hours and I was always too tired.
At the end of the day, I would visit one of my favorite humor sites, and end up scrolling endlessly, always telling myself "one more page, one more page..."
By the time I finally pulled myself away, I'd feel even MORE tired than I did when I started out, and I'd feel bad because I'd failed yet again to get any work done on my creative projects.
Then, one night, I made a decision: "This time, instead of trying to rest by using passive entertainment first and then working on my projects after, I'll try working on my projects first. If I get to the point where I'm too foggy to work effectively, I'll stop, but I'll see how much I can get done before I reach that point."
Three hours later, the project was finished, and I was feeling more energized than I had when I started out.
I'm not saying you'll necessarily need or want to spend three hours on it every time, but the point is: instead of saying "I'm too tired" and plopping down in front of a movie, try just getting started, and seeing how much you can do. You might surprise yourself.
Now, that's not to say passive entertainment has NO place in your life. There may be times when you just need to stop thinking and unwind. Even I still have those times.
But if it's taking over your free time to the point where it's becoming a hindrance to your dreams, it's probably time for you to consciously set limits on how much time you spend on it, and to try working on your goals first and then rewarding yourself with passive entertainment after you've made some progress.
3. Focus on your goals, not the obstacles.
Once, I was looking for a book in my bookshelf, and I thought the cover was brown.
I have no idea how many times I looked directly at the book without seeing it before someone who didn't share my incorrect assumption pointed out that it was a couple feet away from me.
As it turns out, the cover was blue.
A similar principle applies when you're pursuing your goals.
If you're continuously thinking about all the reasons why you can't do or have what you want, that's what you train yourself to look for.
I'll use myself as another example.
When I was a kid, I struggled to make friends. I developed the belief that people would only want to be around me if they needed me, and once I reached adulthood, I also felt like I was too busy and tired to pursue friendships, despite my loneliness.
Then, one day, a relationship coach named Barry Price recommended that I make a list of all the people with whom I might develop a friendship. I made the list, then stopped and stared at it in shock.
As it turned out, there were several people with whom I could have been pursuing a friendship... but the only one for whom I was consistently making time was the one who seemed to need me the most.
My own subconscious bias had led me to take actions that confirmed my beliefs, even when that was the opposite of what I wanted.
If you're always telling yourself that you're too busy or poor to do what you want, you'll act in ways that align with that belief, without even meaning to.
You'll also miss opportunities that are right under your nose, because they aren't what you're looking for.
So instead of listing the reasons why you can't, ask yourself: "What do I want to do, and what would it take for me to be able to do that?"
Once you know what it would take, ask, "What can I do or change in my current schedule or budget to make that happen?"
These questions will help you to turn a vague desire in a specific, actionable plan.
4. Get creative.
When BNI's founder, Ivan Misner, wanted to write a book, he needed to get creative with how he managed his time.
He had a family to take care of and a business to build, and he didn't want to neglect either of them.
So what he did was, a few evenings each month, after his family had settled into bed, he'd go to his office and spend most of the night working on his manuscript.
Then he'd catch a few hours of sleep before going to the office to get the rest of his work done.
This strategy might not work for everyone, and I certainly wouldn't recommend doing it EVERY night - there's a reason why he only did it a few times a month. But it worked well for Ivan, and it allowed him to get his book written without compromising his business or family time.
In fact, when he showed his children the book he'd just published, they asked him, "When did you write that?" They hadn't even realized he was writing the book, because it hadn't prevented him from spending time with them.
Even if this exact strategy doesn't work for you, I hope it will inspire you to think outside the box when it comes to how you make time to pursue your dreams.
5. Take one step - it can open the door for the next step to appear.
One of my best mentors, Mary Morrissey, shared the story of how she and her children were set up to inherit a berry farm. In exchange for working on this farm, they got a house they would inherit, and a safe, stable lifestyle.
It sounded like a good setup... but it wasn't Mary's passion or purpose.
For a while, she made do. She wanted to teach, and there was no way she was NOT going to teach. So she started giving talks - first to an empty living room, then to her family, then to a slowly growing circle of people who heard about what she was doing.
She was doing what she could from where she was... but progress was slow, and she found herself blaming her circumstances for not letting her do what she wanted to do with her life.
Eventually, she started to ask herself, "Why don't you do something about this?" Not in a judgmental way, but in a way that invited genuine thought and exploration.
What WAS stopping her from doing something about this?
Then she started asking an even better question: “If I was going to do something about it, what would I do?”
In answer to this question, Mary started taking progressively larger steps toward her dreams. She created a workshop to teach children, and got a website built.
The father of one of her students had a travel trailer, and he offered to let her borrow it. This enabled her to take her children and go on a speaking tour - a great example of how taking one step toward her dreams opened the door for the next step to appear.
6. Go full Carl Fredricksen on it.
Let's return to the story of Carl's quest to visit Paradise Falls in Up.
When did Carl reach his goal?
When he utterly committed to it, threw aside every reason not to go, and took whatever risks were necessary to fulfill the dream he'd shared with his beloved wife.
This may seem like an extreme example, but it works in real life, too. In fact, it worked for the abovementioned Mary Morrissey; let's continue her story.
After her speaking tour, she started to think, “You know, to really do this well, we would need to take the kids out of school and go on the road for a year.”
Naturally, all the usual doubts started flooding in: How would they do this? What about the farm? What about their income?
But instead of letting the "How will we do this?" turn into a "We can't do this", she and her husband kept using it as an opportunity-seeking question: How WOULD they do this?
Eventually, they came to a decision: they leased out their part of the farm, put everything in storage, paid off their car so they wouldn't have car payments to worry about, bought their own travel trailer, and told Mary's mother-in-law, "Keep the house. We're done working on this farm."
Then they set out with their children, two cats, a travel trailer, a checker marathon, window washing equipment, and three hundred dollars to their name.
How did that work out for them?
Today, Mary is running multiple 7-figure businesses and doing what she loves, and her children are happy, successful adults who are also doing what they love - probably because they had a great example to follow.
What's your next step toward your dreams?
Maybe you're not ready to ditch your current life and throw yourself 100% into pursuing your dreams just yet. Maybe you need to take it one step at a time.
The important thing is to do what you can from where you are, to notice and remove the things that you've been prioritizing above your dreams, and to focus on why you CAN reach your goals, not why you "can't".
You might not even need to remove certain activities entirely; you could just reduce their duration and frequency. Yet again, I'll use myself as an example - in fact, I'm taking this step in my own life right now.
For the last few years, I've been writing a blog post and newsletter every week. It's brought some great people to me, and I love giving you valuable content, but lately I've been meeting so many amazing people that I need to make more time to work with them.
That being the case, starting now, I'm shifting my blogging schedule from every week to every two weeks, thus freeing up four hours each month to work on client projects and have calls with potential clients and referral partners.
This is an example of reducing one activity in order to focus on an activity that brings bigger results, and I hope you can use this example to make the most out of your precious time.
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