“Mom, I’m going to write a book now.”
She helped me take the electric typewriter out of its beige plastic covering. We plugged it in, and it began whirring. She made sure there was ink in the ribbon, and left me to do my work.
Then, I sat there.
I didn’t even finish a sentence. It was too hard. I quietly put the typewriter back. That’s all of the writing I ever did — outside of school work — as a child.
Dreams can be our guiding stars, but they can also be shackles. It’s only natural that we dream far beyond our capabilities. But that can hold us back from taking the first step. If we do try, we get frustrated. Then, we never try again.
Fortunately, I did try again. About fifteen years later, I wrote my worst blog post: my first blog post. It’s 131 words long. It needs paragraph breaks. It has a misspelling.
I made the blog post about the very thoughts that were holding me back:
I have a tendancy, [sic] when I’m learning something new, to try to take in every detail of something before I attempt it. The result is a sort of paralysis.
I fought this same Resistance over and over. 7 years later, I had finally written a book, and it was in the top 20 of all of Amazon.
Dreams are lofty by their very nature. It’s these aspirations that can motivate us to get out of bed every day. Paradoxically, the pursuit of dreams distorts our thinking, holding us back from achieving them. We’ll get frustrated by our first attempts, distract ourselves with more immediate gratification, or blame someone else for our failure to reach our dreams. Worse yet, we may be satisfied merely by dreaming our dreams, and taking no action at all—while being convinced in our minds that our dreams will come true.
As soon as you kill your dreams, you can start living in reality. You can take the small steps that add up over time, and you can feel good about achieving those steps — thus encouraging you to continue.
Here are some effective ways to kill your dreams:
- Stop dreaming about having a widely-read blog. It’s making you overthink the name of the blog, or what platform to use, or whether you should pay some domain squatter $1,000. Just write a 100-word Medium article right now. Sounds too easy? That’s the point.
- Stop dreaming about not being distracted by Facebook. Set a timer for 10 minutes, and work on one thing without stopping. Once you’ve done that a few times, carve out one 2-hour block in your weekly schedule where you only work on your most important project. Make your work more compelling than the distractions.
- Stop dreaming about being fit. Pick three 15-minute blocks per week when you can go to the gym. Go to the gym for 15 lousy minutes, and try to enjoy it. Build the habit first, then worry about the content of your workouts.
- Stop dreaming about reading a book every day. Give yourself permission to graze on books. Read the table of contents, and read the headers in the most compelling chapter. If you don’t get sucked in, move on to the next book.
When you kill your dreams, you get your head out of the clouds, and your feet firmly planted on the ground. If you’ll just congratulate yourself on your first step, you’ll be surprised where you end up.