Last week, we talked about how giving up can be a good thing. But giving up doesn’t always mean giving up. What we must give up is anything that holds us back. What we must never give up is our authentic passion.
Of course, the sticky question can be just what exactly that authentic passion is…because we’re not always clear on that ourselves.
Anyone who embarks on a path that strays outside the norm for those around them (and, indeed, themselves), is likely to encounter a lot of dream-killing action. That action can come from the outside, in the form of subtle and not-so-subtle comments from friends, family (heck, even total strangers *shrug*). Sometimes, the most insidious dream-killing comes from the inside, from our inner critic (who might be the internalized representations of our parents or maybe just alien voices). A writer (actor, inventor, artist, foil-hat designer etc) from a family of the same is likely to be encouraged to tread that path but such an individual from a family of, say, undertakers might run into a little resistance.
While we want to avoid banging our heads into the same wall over and over, like Barry flying repeatedly into the window glass in Bee Movie, we don’t want to just throw our hands up and walk away from the dream that set us on fire in the first place. If we attack our problems as Barry did, ramming them again and again in exactly the same way, we’ll just end up with a cracked skull, which would be counter-productive and probably messy. If we tell ourselves the problem is unsolvable, because the “only” way to solve it has failed, we’ll never break through to our dreams.
Hmmm…there’s some violent metaphors in there…must be all that coffee this morning.
What we have to do is:
- Stop – Until we take a moment to catch our breath, we can’t look at the situation objectively. Maybe this means taking a short hiatus until we can calm down enough to see things clearly.
- Figure out what our dream really is – What is it we really want? Maybe whatever it is we’re trying to do is not what we really dream of. If we are writers, what is it about writing we love? Is it the communication of an idea, the sharing? Is it the creation of new worlds? Is it to earn a living (which a totally reasonable dream, by the way…just different from a passion for creating worlds or sharing information). Maybe we don’t need to write in a particular genre or form, even if that’s what we originally thought we’d do.
- Assess what has and hasn’t worked in the past – We have to take stock, even make a list, of all the things we’ve tried that haven’t worked. First of all, we need to know what not to try again (at least, not without some modifications). Second of all, there is always something we can learn from our failures. In fact, those failures can make us so much stronger than if we’d never failed at all (Kristen Lamb relates an amazing experiment about strength arising from adversity in a recent post. Go read it. Yes, right now.)
- Formulate a new plan – This doesn’t have to very formal, in my opinion. It can be helpful to brainstorm and make a list of totally off-the-wall new things to try. Keep the inner critic locked in the basement while you do this. Sure, a lot of the things you come up with may not work but you probably won’t find the best solution unless you give yourself free rein to try anything.
- Attack – Try again. Just don’t keep trying the same thing over and over.
- Lather, rinse, repeat – Just when you find something that works, everything changes. You may have solved the problem or achieved the dream but there’s always a new problem and dreams evolve. Once Thomas Edison figured out how to create a practical, commercially viable light bulb, he moved on to making the bulb longer burning.
Giving up on what isn’t working for us, the dream-killing messages from within and without, the idea that we should never fail or what’s strangling our creativity will free us up to pursue our dreams. And our dreams, our authentic passion, is what we should never give up.
What about you? How have you held onto your dreams or gotten past roadblocks. How have your dreams changed over time?
We’re saying goodbye to the Life List Club. It’s been an exceptional experience and I’m profoundly grateful to have been part of it. Thank you to all of our readers and to the wonderful writers. Mosey on over and join the final conversation.