Here at the end of 2015, everyone is thinking about goals and resolutions for 2016. But the real secret to having an awesome year is not in the things you’ll start doing. It’s in the things you should stop doing.
A huge temptation for human is to be passive and not take action. Do you have a dream you want to see become reality? It may be starting a project, writing a book, getting a certain type of job, or some other goal. You want to use your gifts to make a difference.
But if you’re not careful, you can waste months or even years waiting for things that may never happen. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines, watching the world pass you by as your dreams wither on the vine. Been there, done that.
So before you put any more items on your resolutions list, resolve to stop waiting for these four things that are holding your dreams hostage.
1. Stop waiting for the right time. Have you ever wished you could magically put life on hold for a few months while you focus on the work you want to do? Me, too. But life doesn’t work that way.
There will probably never be a time when you don’t feel busy, no one demands your attention, you have no responsibilities at work or in the community, and life isn’t somehow messy. When John Mayer sings, “Stop this train … I can’t take the speed it’s moving in,” I can totally relate.
There will never be a perfect time. That’s OK because you make it perfect each time you take action.
2. Stop waiting for everyone’s approval. Maybe your dreams are a little crazy or “unrealistic.” But you’re afraid to move forward because you don’t think a certain person (or group of people) will approve.
Let me ask you this: Why is that person’s approval so important to you? Why are you afraid to disappoint them?
I’m not suggesting that we should be reckless or not consider how our actions impact others. But far too often, we fail to do work that could help others because it’s different than what people expect.
You will never have everyone’s approval. That’s OK because your critics are not the ones you’re trying to please anyway.
3. Stop waiting until you can do it perfectly. It might be figuring out how to play a certain song (like Paul McCartney’s unique strum on “Blackbird,” which most guitarists don’t get quite right). It might be how to set up a blog, how to self-publish a book, or how to navigate the technical aspects of some other skill.
For men who want to keep growing, there is always something new to learn or a problem to solve. It’s easy to get frustrated and give up. I’ve seen it a million times with my guitar students.
But you can’t let frustration have the upper hand. The single greatest quality that will make you successful is the attitude that no matter what the obstacle, you will figure out a way to get it done.
The good news is that you’re not on your own. There are lots of people who are willing and able to help when you need it.
4. Stop waiting until you feel brave. Of all the human emotions, fear might be the most isolating. When we’re afraid of something, it makes us feel alone. What’s worse, we’re afraid to admit it to others.
But I’m here to admit that I regularly feel afraid. Every time I publish a post for The Good Men Project, I fear that it might not impact anyone. Every time I walk into a college classroom, I fear my students will reject the ideas I’m presenting (or even worse, reject me as their teacher). Every time I step onto a stage, I fear I’ll make a mistake when I sing or play.
Anytime you put something out there for the world to see, there’s a chance somebody might not like it. They might criticize it or even hate it. On the other hand, they might love it!
The issue isn’t whether you feel afraid. Everyone is afraid sometimes. Bravery isn’t about eliminating fear. It’s about doing your art in spite of it.
There will probably never be a time when you don’t feel a little fear. And if there is, it means you need to climb bigger mountains and take on some new challenges.
Instead of worrying about what might happen if you mess up, take that emotional energy and think about the future you are creating. Do something today that will help make your dream a reality.
Because guess what?
There will never be a perfect time There will always be someone who doesn’t approve.
You will rarely do anything perfectly.
You will never be far away from fear.
I mainly wrote this for myself. These are all reasons—lies, really—I’ve told myself about why I haven’t pushed myself very hard in recent years. I know what it feels like to spin your wheels and never make any progress.
This year will be different. But before we can focus on what we need to do, these are a few things to cross off the list.
Which of the four items above do you relate most to?