Did you know that, according to Forbes, only 8% of people actually do what they say they want to do, and follow their dreams, per year?
Social psychologists say that it’s because just saying things like “This year I’m going to travel.” or “This year I’m going to get out of the cubicle and create a lifestyle that make me feel happy, excited and whole!” is too vague, and doesn’t include achievable metrics, necessary for people to take action.
When I first started dreaming of having a lifestyle that included getting paid well for doing work that I love, lots of travel, devotion to my inner and outer growth, and spending time around genuine people who were enthusiastic and brilliant at what they were doing, what I really knew was what I didn’t want.
I knew, in a very roughly estimated way, how I wanted life to look like. I wanted to be free from the social obligations and limited paradigms that included working long hours for little money, suffocating your own soulful creative expressions, and getting drunk on the weekends to still the sullen heart that was crying out to be heard. But I had no idea what steps to take to actually get there. On top of that, I didn’t have people around me who were living examples of the life I wanted to create for myself. Nor did I have any support from those around me to go for those big dreams.
Without a fundamental example to guide me in the direction that I wanted to lean, I felt like I was making it all up.
I was always the one with my head in the sky, and big, lofty intentions and desires. I spent most of my early 20’s hanging out with troubadours, gypsies and misfits, because in those places I discovered a sense of limitlessness, that I couldn’t detect in conventional society. Even though most of these people were poor, they had a similar dreams to mine. Freedom. The kind of freedom that allows you to explore your own psyche, to actually get to know yourself, so your choices stem from an inner urging; a spirited uprising, rather than an external expectation.
By the time I reached 26, I fell out of love with the reckless lifestyles of the misfits. While they were free in their day-to-day, they’re were just as stuck as the rest of society, chained by the beliefs that they were victims, and the world was against them, and that being a creative artist or gentle dreaming soul meant that you would never find you place in the world and could never enjoy wealth and abundance. They were the outsiders, and firmly placed themselves there.
I went on a personal mission to find my own way.
A way where I was free to be myself, and to have a life that included beautiful, affluent experiences, and made a positive impact in the world, while allowing me to be the greatest expression of my purpose that I could possibly be. It seemed so impossible and far-fetched to begin with. I had so many beliefs that my dreams were not designed for me, but for other people, who had the opportunities and support systems that I didn’t have.
Given, there are many people who have advantages that you may not have. And yet there is something deliciously rebellious about, despite any disadvantages that may be holding you back, to prove yourself and the world, wrong. Sometimes, the mere fact that what you want is almost untouchable, is exactly what makes it achievable. Because you are willing to go places, no-one else has.
In my search I read books about manifesting, about living your purpose, about money mindset, about breaking through limitations, about astrology and moon cycles, about spirituality and about setting goals. I travelled in northern parts of Africa, in India, Asia and the Middle East. I tasted foods from the spoons of princes, and from the hands of beggars. And I lost myself, and found myself many times over.
Here’s what I learned that put me in the 8% of all people.
Living your purpose is a moment to moment practice.
I used to think that I had to figure out what my thing is first, and then passionately throw myself at it, until it was complete. While that approach does work for some people, it doesn’t for me. As it turns out, my thing is ever-evolving. And the living my purpose part? It’s showing up as my best self in every single moment.
My purpose is literally showing up, as myself, in the very best way that I can. Some days it means writing that scary email, article or post; creating something new; or speaking to that person that I admire beyond words. On other days it means building a nest in my bed, and holding down the fort with cups of tea, and words of anguish, and tears. Because some days my purpose is being in the beautiful flow of life, and other days it’s being in the messy wildness of it. Living my purpose simply requires me stepping up to what the day holds and being the human container of it.
No one has it all figured out, and no one can give you the answers. You really do get to make it all up.
For most of my life, I was under the impression that, somewhere out there, someone would hold all the answers for me. The answers to how to do the things I wanted to do, how to ask for the things I desired, how to approach the people who I admired, how to make that first $million. And while there are many incredible people doing many amazing things, they are stumbling forward blindly just as much as you are. Some of them have just stumbled forward blindly a bit further than you.
You can learn from others, their successes and their mistakes, but what works (or doesn’t work) for them, will be different for you. There is only one way to find out, and that is to try it. Every time you take step forward, you will learn what works for you and what doesn’t. You literally get to make up how to design your life, using your imagination, trusting your intuition, and following what feels right.
Setting goals and intentions, and planning ahead isn’t the antichrist.
I used to be terrified of setting goals and intentions. I would say that I didn’t want to limit myself in this way, because it took away my freedom. But there was something deeper than my fear of losing my freedom running the show. I was terrified of failing. I was paralysed by the thought that I might not be able to achieve what I dreamed to have, do and be. So I saved myself from feeling the pain of failure, but not having anything to fail. Isn’t that clever.
I thought goals were rigid markers in my path of life, and that I couldn’t adjust them, to match my ever-changing reality. But I was wrong. Learning to set goals and intentions, gave me tangible and achievable metrics, that motivated me to take action. And when I “failed” I learned what wasn’t working, so I could do more of what was working.
Want to know the magic formula? = Get clear on what it is. Break it down. Start doing it.
The easiest and fastest route to actually doing what you say you want to do, and living your dreams, isn’t knowing how to do it. It’s getting clear on what is it is that you want to be, do and have, and then breaking it down into tiny micro-actions that you can do every day. Those micro-actions are grounded in your current reality, and simultaneously leaning towards the reality you are designing for yourself. The question you want to be asking yourself is What can I do right now, that leads me closer to being where I want to be?. And then do that.
For me, one of the things I wanted to be is an eloquent, proficient and perhaps even mesmerizing writer. I wrote down what that would look like. I made a plan of how I could show up, every day. And then I started doing it. I had been writing for many years, but no-one saw my writing. In order for my writing to evolve and ameliorate, it had to engage with real people, and be breathed in by souls who would (or would not) connect with it. So I started a blog. The first 6 months of writing on that blog was awful. But I needed to be awful to become better. Otherwise I would have hidden in a closet forever. And from those first 6 painful months, an entire universe opened up for me, beyond my wildest dreams.
This is possible for anything. It’s a simple formula. Anyone can do it.
Everything in life is a reflection of you. You want to see change? Get committed and consistent.
One of my biggest fears in life, has always been loss of freedom. And in my mind, I merged feeling bored, with feeling stuck. Which meant that things like commitment, consistency and routine, were adamantly avoided. It wasn’t until one day in a Bikram Yoga class, where every single sequence is always the same, when I noticed that I had become stronger and more flexible, improvements that had only occurred because I committed myself to showing up for class consistently. I had one of the weird aha moments, when I realised that the same concept could be applied to anything else in life. In order for me to experience a positive change in any area of my life I had to commit and show up for myself consistently. For some people this is a no-brainer. For me, it was huge. If there’s one thing that I say to every single one of my clients, it’s that consistency is key
When you position your life with personal values and self-worth being top priorities everything changes.
I used to think this was very selfish. In fact many people believe this is selfish. Even my mother once told me that the choices I was making were selfish. But the caveat is that you are not living for other people. You are living for yourself. People who put their self-worth and personal values first, admire other people who do the same. It’s like joining an elite club of people who actually do what they say they want to do, and are living their dreams. Crazy, right? While this is an area I’m personally still working on, it feels good to have boundaries, and be able to say no with grace and ease, because my personal values and self-worth are my top priorities. If you take anything away with you from this article, I hope it’s this.
You won’t believe it when you see it, you’ll see it when you believe it. You have to prove yourself to yourself.
So many people are waiting to feel worthy, waiting for permission, waiting for the education, waiting to believe in themselves, before they actually do what they say they want to do, and live their dreams. That’s a lot of waiting. I get it. I spent many years waiting for those things too. When I feel confident, I’ll write an article for a big magazine. When I believe in myself, I’ll start a business. When I have my qualification, I’ll start teaching what I know.
But that feeling that you’re searching for, it never arrives. That person is never going to give you permission, and you will never be more ready than you are right now. There’s another way to approach it. You have to believe that you have the courage and hunger to prove yourself. You have to believe that even of you don’t know the way (and most of us don’t) you will figure it out as you go. And most of all you have to believe that the unknown is your friend, and that everything that is meant for you is on its way.
Experts say that if you can’t measure it you won’t do it. I say, when you know what it is you want, and you ardently focus on it, you will find your way. When you infuse your dreams with practical steps, that you start taking right now, anything is possible.
I also have another dream. A dream to make the dreams of people who are stuck, easier to achieve. By giving them the support and tangible steps to do what they say they want to do. I’ve started doing that in my monthly membership program the Free-Spirited Collective. It might be just the right amount of hand-holding and thrust in the right direction, that you are looking for. I’d love to see you join us, if you feel called.
Photography by Jessica Shirley.