Take Little Steps or Keep Standing Still?

How many excuses do you think there are for not starting a business, or launching a new venture or initiative?

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this number may be one of those ad infinitum situations. Excuses are easy to come by, but excuses don’t build dream companies, nor do they create change in anyone’s life. So, if there is some idea that has been nagging at you, some creative idea you want to explore or a new business that is fueling you with a passion, today may be the day to flip the switch and start turning your dream into reality.

Whoa. I hear those voices in your head and that cacophony of reasons why you can’t do that thing you really want to do just hit me hard.

“But I don’t know how.”

“I’m not sure how to get started.”

“I don’t know if there is a market.”

“I’m not experienced enough.”

“Someone else is already doing this (bigger, better, etc.)…”

 

What if I fail?  A million phrases like these prevent the majority of people from ever starting anything, but I’m sure that we can also agree that anything that currently exists was started from nothing. How many startups began in garages, coffee shops, bedrooms?

How many people just got on with it and figured it out?

See, I believe that it is not necessary to have every step of your journey mapped in advance. In fact, I think that knowing all those steps up front is practically impossible. Sure, you can plan and strategize, but you’re never going to be able to accurately predict every detail of your journey, and believe me, even if you could do that it wouldn’t be wise.

If you really knew up front how everything was going to play out, where would be the room for spontaneity, for miraculous serendipities and coincidences, for things to turn out far better than you were even imagining?

I think that, rather than waiting until you think you have the “how” all figured out, that a better strategy is just to start. Start by figuring out what success looks like – what your vision is, and decide that “this or something better” is what you’re going to create.

Then the fun begins and it’s just a matter of taking little steps towards your goals. Figure out small “bite size” things that you can do to support your dream on a daily basis. You might call someone up to ask advice, or put up a simple website. You might send out ten emails and follow up with calls. You might do a free talk or offer a class to your community. Maybe you start a blog or just start talking about your new venture and watch who starts showing up to support you. When you start to see the journey as the fun part you begin to shift your whole attitude. Instead of focusing on how far you are from the top of the mountain and how many thousands of steps it’s going to take to get there, you begin to see the whole trek as an adventure of epic proportions, and rather than dreading the start you begin looking forward to whatever lies before you.

This, my friend, is how great adventures begin and how great businesses are born – with an inspired idea and a determination to make it work. But please, whatever you do, don’t forget to enjoy the journey and to stay open to new opportunities along the way. You’ll be amazed at what starts to show up.

Good luck and bon voyage!

Live Like a Lottery Winner

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Who hasn’t dreamed of winning the lottery? Sure, we’ve all heard the statistics – the odds of winning are less than the odds of meeting your high school sweetheart while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro at precisely 2:32 p.m. on September 26. You are more likely to be struck by lightening on separate occasions, be crushed by a meteorite or even become an astronaut than you are to win the jackpot.

And the stories of all of the people who either lose their entire winnings or who are ruined by the experience are not very encouraging, either. But still, there is something enticing about the dream of choosing the winning numbers. How different and exciting your life would be… how you’d have entirely new freedom, happiness – and probably a better car – than you do now.

With one of the big jackpots creeping up towards $400 million again, it got me thinking about a conversation I had with a former neighbor of mine. We were living out in Los Angeles at the time and my friend Beth lived across the street with her husband and young son.

One day she announced that they had decided to move to Santa Cruz, on California’s Central Coast. I was surprised by this revelation, as they both had good jobs and were well established in LA, but Beth’s logic went something like this:

“If we ever actually won the lottery we’d move to Santa Cruz. The lottery thing may never happen, but we can control where we live. Even if we have to go to a smaller house and cut corners for a couple of years we’ll still feel like winners.”

Many years after this conversation happened it still sticks with me very poignantly. Some people might call what they did foolish or risky, but I think it’s just the opposite. What are the implications of not taking control of your happiness? How many people do you know who feel trapped in jobs or situations they don’t like, and who stay because they feel they “should”?

Have you ever heard someone say something along the lines of:

“I’ll be happy as soon as I get that promotion?”

“When our sales reach “X” dollars, then I’ll be happy?”

“When I meet Mr. – or Ms. – Right, that’s when everything will be good.”

Are you starting to see what is wrong with this picture? With a limited number of days, hours, and minutes to walk this earth, isn’t it time to make a positive change in your life, starting today?

I ask you, don’t we all have a responsibility to live like lottery winners, even if it’s just in some small way? If you won the lottery what would you want? Is it more time with your family? Would you become a philanthropist? Spend time at the beach? Go fishing?

Sure, some of these things would be easier or could be done on a different scale with millions in your pockets, but life is short and if there are things you have thought about doing it’s time to start figuring out how to turn those ideas into reality.

It’s easy to make excuses but you’re surely doing yourself a huge disservice if you don’t start taking little steps towards your big goals. Here is a guide to get you started.

  1. Visualize – close your eyes and imagine that you suddenly have endless wealth. What are the top five things you’d like to do?
  2. Now look at each of those things and consider, what is the core reason you would enjoy each one? For example, you may envision yourself living in a luxurious mansion, but if you dig a little deeper you may discover that the core enjoyment is, perhaps, being surrounded by beautiful things.
  3. Once you understand where your core pleasure is rooted, take out a piece of paper and brainstorm ways that you might start achieving some of those feelings of joy right now, before you win the lottery. For example, if you’re craving being surrounded by beautiful things could you take one room in your house, or one corner of a room and start a conscientious transformation of the space?

Continue taking small steps towards all five of your top lottery winner goals and you will gradually begin to see real transformation in your life, whether or not your numbers are ever drawn. For isn’t it true that we all owe it to ourselves to live our best lives, without waiting for some external event to make everything change?

My husband and I always said we’d become patrons of the arts when our big money ship came in. Well, we’re still waiting for our millions, but we’re not waiting to live out our dream. I have joined a committee on our local arts council and now support multiple artists by donating my time and what we can financially to this organization.

And what about my friend in Santa Cruz? She still hasn’t won the actual lottery yet, but she is living in a lovely little house in a very beautiful part of the country. By living bravely and by making conscientious choices she isn’t waiting to live the life of her dreams, and neither should you.

 

 

Homesteading: 5 Steps to Making Your Dreams Come True

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I was listening to a TED Talk the other day and the presenter was speaking about amazing things she was able to accomplish in her teens and early 20’s because she was, to paraphrase, “too young and naïve to know that failure was a possibility.”

That statement struck a chord with me, because it was very much the way I was at that age. After college I moved to Europe and just expected things to work out, and so they did – beautifully. Because I didn’t even think about being scared I expected – and got – good jobs in the fields of radio, television and film. I lived in Prague, right on Václavské náměstí, one of the city’s main squares. I’d equate it to living right in Times Square in New York – it’s famous but very few people actually live there. Well, I did, in Prague, in affordable and comfortable apartments, not once, but twice, for the duration of my three and a half years in the city.

Looking back on that time and countless other fortunate “accidents” in my 46 years on this planet, I’m starting to see a real pattern, and that is, when I’m aligned with my purpose and focused on my goals, things always fall into place. And even though when times are tough and it’s not immediately obvious that it’s all working out as it should be, looking back it’s easy to see that the lessons, the connections, the foundation blocks, are all part of the plan.

This is probably an easier concept to embrace when we’re young, perhaps because we tend to not over analyze things. But then as we get older there are more things to consider – mortgages, kids, tenure, retirement, and sometimes we get stuck in our own heads and our own lives. It’s easy to move out of the realm of possibility and into more of a fear and lack-based mentality, unless we actively fan the fires of faith and hope. Although I strongly believe in the Law of Attraction – the idea that the Universe is always conspiring for our higher good –I find that I have to constantly be corralling and taming my thoughts and emotions to maintain the youthful panache that took me on a most excellent adventure to Europe, Los Angeles and then on to New York.

I frequently hear from people, many of whom are well-established in successful careers, that they feel unfulfilled because they have let go of the part of themselves that is chasing a dream. Sometimes they find that the voice inside their head that’s telling them to seize the moment simply cannot be silenced any longer. Those few who listen to this voice and ultimately take steps towards living their dream are the ones I think of as homesteaders.

Just like the pioneers who built our country, these folks are drawing a line, making a stake in what they claim as their own. No one can see every step of the way when starting on a new journey, but there is the promise of adventure, crossing paths with new people, the self-satisfaction of knowing that you went for it, and the peace that comes from not having to wonder, “what if”.

If your own little voice has been trying to be heard lately, here are some steps you can follow to move closer to living the life of your dreams.

  1. Be aware of when you feel most passionate and alive. Is it when you’re talking about becoming an actor? Does woodworking fill you with excitement? Is it working with children, or with animals? Do you love to write or do crafts? Many times people are not sure what their passion is, or what direction to go in, but if you start to tune into the way you talk about certain things, you might start to get some clues. Writing your thoughts down in a journal or developing a regular meditation practice can also help guide you in the right direction.
  2. Once you have a sense of what your life’s passion is it’s time to exercise your imagination. Sit quietly, close your eyes, and imagine a perfect life where you’re fully living your dreams, and expressing yourself through your gifts and whatever it is that resonates most with you. Allow yourself to really let your imagination loose here, in a big way. Release any limiting beliefs you have about your abilities or the feasibility of whatever your passion is. Just imagine that your wildest dreams are coming to fruition. For many of us, getting comfortable with seeing this picture is one of the hardest parts of the process, but it’s also one of the most important.
  3. No one achieves their goals by snapping their fingers or waving a magic wand. Everyone who does great things does so by moving consistently in the direction of their dreams. You can turn baby steps into a daily ritual until it becomes a habit. I like to begin every day by writing down at least 5 things that I’m grateful for, 5 things that I’m excited about that are coming up in the near future, 5 goals I have for myself in different areas of my life, and for each goal at least one baby step that I intend to take that day to move me in the direction of my dreams.
  4. As you think about the steps to turn your goals into reality, there are going to be things that come up that are outside of your comfort zone. That is good. Go out of your way to identify what these things are, and then just do them, one by one. Stepping out of your comfort zone could include joining Toastmasters and regularly giving speeches to that group. It can also involve joining a gym, or picking up the phone and calling someone who you believe can help you move your new business forward. Try to push on the limits of what is comfortable every single day.
  5. Share your gifts. You may not be in a position to get paid with money right away when you start pursuing your dreams, but there still may be ways to share your gifts with others. Can you volunteer at a school or retirement home? What about becoming a non-traditional intern for someone you admire in the field that you’re trying to break into? There are more ways to get a return on your investment than just monetarily, and all of these actions will help move you towards living the life you’re dreaming about.