“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”
It’s time to turn your dreams into physical reality so you can finally start writing your own story—the way you want it written—chapter by chapter. In order to do this, you must be honest with yourself. No matter who you are or what you think of yourself, if you’re persistent and determined about getting what you want, anything is possible. But first, you have to know what it is you want. Sounds easy enough, right? Think again.
It’s probably one of the hardest questions you can ask yourself: “What is it that I want from life?” or “What will make me happy?” Some people respond to this question with answers like “love”, “money”, “fame”, or “health.” It isn’t difficult to find words that express what you want from life. But what about actually having a plan or working toward your goals? What about knowing how to get there?
Maybe you think you can’t live your life in your own way. You might find yourself believing you have no purpose or skills. The feelings and thoughts that come from that belief are limiting; they’ll convince you that it’s impossible to know what you want from life, let alone go for it. But in reality, when you truly know what you desire, you must pursue it. This doesn’t only mean going for a certain job; it can mean pursuing a love interest, finding a new hobby, starting a family, or volunteering your time. We all have different passions that extend far beyond our job titles.
This may help: Think about that thing you do most often after your 9-5 job, during your free time. What kinds of things do you read about? What are some topics you could possibly write about? What do you fantasize about? What do you think about when you’re alone, not trying to impress anyone? When there’s no money to be made and no one to prove your worth to, what do you find yourself doing? That’s your desire. That’s the thing you want from life.
What Is Stopping You?
Excuses you make to keep from living your purpose usually stem from a fear of criticism or failure. Your inner voice may be saying, “I can’t do this. What would my family think of me? How will I make money? What right do I have to believe that I can do it? Who am I to aim so high?” Those fear-based thoughts will kill your ambition before it even gets a chance to live. A lot of people believe they need luck to make something of their lives. To believe that is to overlook important aspects of personal success, which include knowledge, ambition, and persistence.
Here are some helpful steps, borrowed from Napoleon Hill’s famous book, The Law of Success; they can lead to independence of thought and purpose.
1. A definitive purpose backed by a strong desire to fulfill this purpose
2. A plan of action, followed by persistent action
3. A mind closed to discouraging and negative influences, including family
4. An alliance with at least one person that has your back
These steps are useful in following through with what you want from life. Once you begin to take these steps, they’ll start to become habitual and easier to implement in your daily life. Following this will give you more control over your life and your success, allowing you to overcome fear and judgment.
Some Dreams Are Just Distractions
Make sure that whatever you decide to pursue isn’t just a distraction from your true desires. Distraction can be what psychologists refer to as a coping mechanism. Coping mechanisms, put simply, are things people do or dream about to escape the reality of their daily lives. For example: playing video games excessively, using drugs, passively consuming media, compulsively spending money, and working excessively are all common coping mechanisms we use to distract ourselves. Why do we do this? Because sometimes it’s hard to face the truth about our lives and accept what we really want. It’s easier to drink ourselves into a coma than admit that our lives aren’t playing out the way we hoped they would.
One of my clients, Jon, dropped out of college in order to pursue his dream of smoking marijuana, playing video games, and watching TV. Sounds like fun, right? Jon was able to do this because his parents continued to financially support him late into his 30s. Like most people who find themselves in such a situation, Jon found that just bumming around instead of going to school, taking up hobbies, spending time with family, or working got old quickly. When he came to see me he was tired, helpless, and depressed. Maybe if he’d spent his days reading books, working out, or volunteering he would have felt better about his life.
Jon was absorbed in drugs, alcohol, TV, and video games—and there’s a reason for that. He was dulling his senses in order to temporarily forget about his life. He trained himself to pass the hours in the least painful way possible: by turning off his mind. What Jon’s example shows is that it’s important not to mix up your true desires with things that just pass the time and seem enjoyable because they help you forget about life. Your desire should make you feel alive, not numb you to life.
What Really Makes Us Happy
“Courage is when your mind finally catches up to your heart and decides to act on what it knows”
Research repeatedly shows that we overestimate how happy we’ll get if certain things happen to us (going on vacation or acquiring new material things, for example). What the research shows is that our happiness often peaks right before we go on the vacation or buy the watch but goes right back to normal afterwards. Another study mentioned that after one year, most lottery winners go back to being as happy as they were before. I mention this because just like Jon thought having a life of leisure would make him feel happy and fulfilled, many people think that by constantly traveling or acquiring riches, they’ll have happiness. When it doesn’t work, they mistakenly think there’s something wrong with them.
If you often obsess over escaping from work, it’s probably not because it’ll make you happier; it’s because it represents the exact opposite of the life you’re living now. Think about that. Are you envisioning a life you want to move towards, or thinking of ways to escape from the life you have now? If your dream is to be rich, maybe look deeper and try to figure out what you really want from life. What is it that being rich would truly provide you that will make you feel fulfilled? Living your desire means living in your truth and doing what brings you personal fulfillment at the end of the day. It’s a personal quest that can’t be defined by what society tells you will make you happy. After some time, Jon went back to school and became an engineer. He admits it was hard work, but he feels better about his life on a daily basis because he’s finally working towards his purpose.
Article edited by Dr. Denise Fournier