Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. – Marie Curie
Once you know where you are heading how will you make sure you get there?
What are the obstacles in your way?
Most of us, as we go through life, pick up responsibilities and cares and worries.
We need to earn money, pay the mortgage, pay for tuition for the kids.
The obligations pile up, silently, one at a time, until one day we find that we’re stuck, we can’t move for all the things blocking our path.
For example, you might have started a job as a temp, just to earn some money for a while and then a decade later you’re stuck in a well-paying but ultimately meaningless role that you never thought you’d be doing at this stage of your life.
But you can’t leave because you’ve gotten used to the money and the lifestyle and the holidays and it’s too hard to give all that up, so you might as well grind it out.
Or, on the other hand, you could have loads of ideas for things to do but be short on resources – time, money, expertise to do what you want to do.
You’re stuck, unable to act because you don’t have the things you need to get the job done.
So what, if anything, can you do about it?
Introducing magical thinking
Make a list of the things in your way, the things holding you back.
Write them down – the obligations, the responsibilities, the relationships, the things you own.
We enter and create and develop and buy all these things, which then end up wrapping themselves around us, gently but firmly holding us in place.
Now, look at that list of obstacles and imagine what your life would look like if you could magically remove each one.
If you need the money to come in to pay for the mortgage and your lifestyle – what would it look like if you had all the money in the world?
Or what would it look like if you didn’t have the mortgage and a different lifestyle?
Let’s say, for example, that you’re putting off starting your business because you need your salary to pay for the new house you want to buy.
What would life look like if you could magically remove the need for money – if you had more would you buy the house you’re looking at now, or perhaps an even bigger one?
What would it look like if you didn’t need to own the house – if you could rent where you wanted to live?
Go through the things on your list – what about relationships.
Are there ones that are negative, toxic, ones that are holding you back?
What would happen if you crossed them off, stopped associating with those people.
You don’t need to spend much time on this – just look at the things that are holding you back and magically wish them away.
They don’t exist any more, you have no constraints, no restrictions, no past obligations, no present responsibilities.
What will you do now?
A life without constraints
If you had nothing holding you back would you take a leap off the edge into a more exciting future?
Or would you hang back, staying away from the prospect of change, hobbled by fear?
If there was nothing stopping you from pursuing your business idea right now, what would you do?
For example, many people have restrictive clauses in their employment contracts that stop them from working for competitors or doing the same work on their own behalf.
That’s to protect the interests of your employer.
But if that wasn’t in place, would you do the same thing you’re doing now or is there something different, something better, something that’s more you, that you would do?
For example, is the reason you’re not promoting yourself more on social media because you’re afraid of what people will think and say – perhaps they’ll feel like you’re trying to get ahead of them, publicise yourself at their expense?
Or maybe you just think they won’t approve?
You need to take a long, hard look at these things – these obstacles in your way.
Then look past them, magically make them vanish in your mind, and ask yourself what you would do next.
If you could, would you start doing practical things, like registering a business, starting to create promotional content, a website, getting in touch with a few people to pitch your idea and ask for feedback?
Is there stuff you’re doing already, stuff you’ve done but not shared with the world because you’re afraid of how people will react?
What would happen if you magically removed that fear and started to put that stuff into the world?
Get out of your own way
If you want to build a better tomorrow for yourself, you have to start by clarifying if what you think you want is really what you want.
Once you know that, you need to look at the things holding you back – and if you’ve done this exercise you will start to realise that that’s a little more complicated than it first seems.
Some things are fundamental – like having enough money to live.
Some things you wouldn’t change – you want to spend time with your kids, however long it takes.
Some things you can control, like how much you spend on things that you could do without if you needed the money.
We’ve all got constraints, some more than others.
But if you can see what you would do next if you magically removed those constraints, then you can see the beginnings of the path you need to tread.
This exercise is like hacking through the foliage covering it up, taking a machete and cutting through to the point where you can see that there is something beyond.
And eventually that path may lead to a place where you can dive into your future.
But, for right now, it’s enough to see it – that’s a start.
Because here’s the thing.
If you don’t know what you will do when there is nothing in your way, how can you do anything with all the things that are in your way right now.
Your constraints define you, they hobble you, they surround you.
And you can’t do anything about some of them.
But the ones you can do something about are the ones that will let you slip your bonds and wriggle free.
Free enough to move forward.
Which is what we’ll look at doing next.