Following Your Dreams Isn’t As Easy As It Looks

by | Oct 8, 2013 | Defining Success | 29 comments

I n the mid 1800’s the self-help movement began with this idea “Heaven helps those that help themselves.”

It’s a message that can easily be misinterpreted.

The next thing you know you’re up to your eyeballs in educational products and yet you’re still making the same mistakes over and over again.

Or maybe that’s just me.

I’ve suggested before that self-help may actually be a source of self-hurt. Now that I’ve spent the better part of a year experiencing it, I’m going public with what I hope is my cure.

Farming & focus: how to grow into your dream

The whole point of personal development is to equip yourself to play a bigger game.

As I mentioned on Facebook, I decided to try something new in order to get me there: I formed a mastermind group. The big benefits of a mastermind group are hearing new ways of looking at old problems and having a safe group that’s willing to call you on your own B.S.

When I mentioned that I was extremely stressed because I had somehow, inexplicably, over-scheduled myself (yes, again), one member reminded me of a brilliant metaphor. She explained that if a farmer wants to maximize his yield, then he occasionally needs to let a field lie fallow. Continually planting the same parcel of land over and over eventually drains the nutrients from the soil.

Even the Earth, as big and amazing as it is, needs time to replenish. And so do you.

That’s a hard concept for overachievers to believe. I tell myself all the time, “That won’t take me very long to do. I can manage it.”

But I usually can’t, as my experiment with calendaring (where you put blocks of time on your calendar for all the activities you want to accomplish) clearly demonstrated. Not only did I underestimate how long things would take, but there was absolutely no room for relaxing. I was wearing myself down, which further decreased my performance.

You’d think that would be lesson learned, but it took an especially painful failure to see that something needed to change … now.

In September, I ran an early-bird launch of my signature No Regrets Career Academy, offering a special online workshop with me where I would personally coach people through the first third of the course in just one weekend.

At the same time, I was trying to capitalize on the success of my first creative video (ironically about perfectionism), prepare for 3 months of on-and-off travel, and write my first book proposal–a huge, new challenge.

The launch flopped.

A seed of failure can blossom into growth

Not that long ago, a failure like that would have been enough to really shake my confidence. Now it’s like suddenly getting GPS for my journey.

I’ve been in this business enough to know the program is awesome and there’s a healthy demand for it. With the right marketing, I can sell out the course at its current price point.

Unfortunately, my heart wasn’t in the launch and it showed.

No one wants to hear that following your dreams will be hard.  That it will involve sacrifices you don’t want to make. I thought the hardest thing I had to do was to walk away from my successful career in science. In fact, that was just the beginning.

My latest decision was just as difficult: I’ve decided to close the No Regrets Career Academy for the next year while I devote myself to my book.

When you have something good going in your career, it’s hard to walk away from that (even temporarily) for the unknown. What if the book doesn’t sell? What if I lose momentum for my course and can’t revive it?

Scaling back so you can really shine is difficult, but the take-away here is that it’s also necessary. Contrary to popular belief, growing pains are real.

It’s not like that time was wasted. The good work I’ve done to date will be turned into several books that everyone can enjoy and afford. I’m thrilled about that.

And if I do it right (and am lucky) the book will serve as a platform to help me play that bigger game as a speaker and coach.

Of course, as an overachiever, I’m having a hard time letting go. For a limited time, I’m offering low-cost career coaching to anyone who wants my help, even though I know (and my mastermind group has reminded me) that this is not what focus looks like.

After finishing a week-long writing retreat focused on putting together my book proposal, I feel good. No, I feel great. I feel like I can handle my life and my ambitions again. My husband told me, “I’ve never heard you sound so happy about a project you’re working on.” And given all the great work I’ve done to date, that’s really saying something.

Finding your place in the universe requires letting go.

After all, you can’t embrace your destiny if your arms are already full.

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