I’m just reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho (great little story, I definitely recommend reading it), and in his introduction he suggests there are 4 obstacles that explain why most people don’t pursue their dreams. With my focus of helping people achieve meaningful change in their lives, careers, and businesses, the message of this really resonates with me. Here they are:
- We’re told from an early age it’s impossible or silly, or not realistic – basically we’re told not to dream. This is often the role played by our educational institutions and when we are instructed to “colour within the lines”;
- If we do decide to embrace our dreams and to follow them, we’re afraid of hurting those around us we love by not being practical and not focusing on what is required to “take care” of them, or live in ways they tell us are the “right way”. This generally includes our parents, our families, and our friends;
- Even when we are willing to pursue our dreams, we then live in fear of the defeats and setbacks we will undoubtedly encounter along the path to fulfilling our dreams — basically we fear the hard work, commitment, and discipline required;
- And finally, we face the obstacle of actually realizing our dreams – we know we will then have to look around and see all the people who gave up on pursuing their own dreams and will feel guilty because we have succeeded and they have not, and perhaps we feel we are not worthy of success after all…?
This makes a lot of sense to me — basically to really move forward in pursuing those things important to you, you face a continual intensification of the challenges; essentially an ongoing game of “one-upmanship” with your inner demons and those “rational voices” in your head that are there to talk you out of your “foolish endeavor”. The land of limiting beliefs, of self-doubt, and self-destructiveness.
It’s all a mind game, and an incredibly challenging one at that!
For a slightly different take on what change is all about and how to tap into it, you might also enjoy this short PDF book called “The Flinch” from Julien Smith. The basic concept is that we flinch when we believe we are going to encounter pain, and that is one of our hard-wired survival techniques that comes as part of our DNA coding. It served our ancestors well when they faced real “fight or flight” battles for survival. These days in the absence of real survival struggles, we flinch at the more mundane — and highly survivable — things, such as the expectation of a difficult conversation with a loved one, or expected negative feedback from a co-worker or boss, or bad weather. When we flinch, we’re hard wired to pull back, to retreat, to seek safety. And so we don’t try new things, we don’ t push our boundaries, we don’t test our limits. And of course, that’s not the way we learn. But if we face some difficulty and flinch, and then we choose to retreat, we reduce our chances of ever learning anything and being able to grow ourselves. For most, the Flinch is the friend of the status-quo. We flinch, we pull back, we don’t change anything.
Julien’s book is about understanding the Flinch, respecting it, and tapping into its existence to drive ourselves forward. It’s an interesting read, and comes complete with various homework assignments for those who really want to change.