“What’s Stopping You From Starting?”
7 minute read
Don’t you find traffic lights to be really annoying sometimes?
You know how it goes. You’re in your car, it’s a nice sunny day and you’re driving along a straight and picturesque road. The breeze is blowing through the windows, your favourite music is playing on the radio, and you’re singing along and just enjoying the moment. Everything seems to be just fine and dandy.
But then in the distance you notice a fork in the road. You’d not anticipated this. Before setting off on your journey you was under the impression that it was a just a long, straight, and simple road to follow. Your destination was set and you knew exactly where you were going.
The fork is fast approaching and you’re not sure which direction to turn. Is it left? Or is it right?
As you continue forward you’re then given a hint of reassurance by the appearance of a road sign. The sign only identifies one of the turns, and you feel relief that it points towards the exact destination in which you’d been driving.
But as you get closer you start to look towards the other road, the other path; that unidentified route. You become curious. You have no road map. What is down that road?
Your curiosity gathers momentum, and your mind races as you try to make a decision. You’re scared that you could make a wrong move and potentially get lost. You’d had a set destination, but this wrong turn could steer you away from that altogether.
At the same time you feel an inner excitement at the choice which you now face. Deep down you feel curious as to where the ‘wrong’ turn could take you. Isn’t there a chance that it could lead to somewhere even better than your intended destination?
You only have seconds to decide, because the two turns in the road are right ahead. Your heart pounds with both fear and excitement.
But then, right out of nowhere you hit a set of traffic lights.
Before I continue I’d like to just point out that this is not actually an article about driving or the Highway Code. Nor is it an article about road safety or the importance of never using your mobile phone while driving; although that is an important rule to observe, because it is a very naughty thing to do. Please switch your phone to silent before driving anywhere. Thank you.
The point that I really want to address in this article is about your inner desires, your inner curiosities, and sadly, the times when those innermost talents never get to see the light of day.
Now I’m sure I’m not the only person to have ever been guilty of this, but how many times have you made statements along the lines of how much you’d like to try something new or do something different one day. You know how this sounds.
“I’d really love to learn a new language at some point in the future.”
“I really like watching tennis and I’d love to take it up one day.”
“I used to play in a band, and I’d really like to get the old crew back together sometime.”
“I’d really like to make a difference and do some voluntary work.”
“My job is okay, and it pays the bills, but what I’d really like to be is…”
“I’d like to write a book one day.”
“I’d like to travel one day.”
“I’d like to make more of myself.”
One day. Sometime. Eventually.
In the future.
Anytime but now.
Statements like those above are almost always followed by some kind of excuse, or some form of rationalisation as to why they never get pursued. There’s not enough time, not enough money, you have too many responsibilities, they’re too hard; or sadly, the belief that great things can only ever happen to other people.
But if you could just shelve all of those automated responses for just one moment, and if you could allow yourself to believe that anything is possible; take a look in the mirror and then ask yourself…
“What’s stopping you from starting?”
Because the bottom line is that if you really do want something enough, then there is always a way to make things happen. If your life depended on it, you’d manage it. If you had to achieve your goals in order to protect and provide for those who you love most, you’d manage it.
Yes of course there are obstacles that can get in our way and which can limit our freedom to pursue such things; financial restrictions, our dependents, time limitations.
But even with limitations we can either change our circumstances, or, if that’s not feasible then we can still find ways in which to engage in the pursuit, even if it’s in some form of limited capacity.
For example, you may have a really adventurous spirit and desire being able to discover new places. However you may have young children and so travelling to far flung destinations is not an option for you right now. But what’s to stop you finding adventure closer to home along with your children?
Or maybe you wish to engage in voluntary work, but your commitments make it difficult for you to get away from home. But what’s to stop you from finding voluntary work that can be conducted out of your own home and on the telephone?
I’ve written a few times before of how important our mindset is in our lives and how we can actually re-programme our minds to our advantage. Everything we believe has come from our own perceptions, from our interpretations of what is; but we also have the power to alter our perceptions. Choose to see limitations in a way that will aid your pursuit.
Sometimes there are circumstances in which it is necessary to make changes in your life in order to pursue your dreams. And some of these changes are entirely feasible, but maybe they require a little effort and sacrifice before you’re able to go any further.
At times like these it’s about asking yourself how much you really want the things you say you want (check out this article – 10 Ways to Achieve Freedom).
What you also need to ask yourself is…
“What sacrifices are you willing to make in order to pursue your dreams?”
And finally, there are circumstances in which somebody has either very few or absolutely no obstacles in their way and yet they still find a way to rationalise their inaction. You really don’t need me to elaborate any further on that one.
Sometimes inaction comes from a fear of the unknown, from a fear of standing out from the crowd, and from a fear of being judged by others. We have a tendency to go through life seeking approval and validation from others, even if we’re not conscious of doing it.
What’s worse is that we very often seek approval from the wrong places and from people that we don’t even care all that much about in the first place. So how tragic is it that we could hold ourselves back out of the fear of potentially being judged by somebody who we’re really not all that bothered about in the first place, and who most likely doesn’t even care about what we’re doing anyway?
The only approval that you need is your own.
We often fear that the repercussions of making sacrifices and changes in our lives will be so huge that they will send ripples of epic proportions out into the world and that they will resonate forever! I am exaggerating on that point of course, but we do tend to see things as being much more significant than they actually are.
But while I’m on that point, let’s get philosophical for a moment and think about perspective.
When you think about how tiny this planet is in relation to the solar system, the universe, and beyond; and then when you think about how tiny we are as people in relation to all of that, it really does allow you to see how insignificant we all are. And then if you go even further and think about how Earth has existed for around 4.5 billion years in a universe that has existed for some 14 billion years; doesn’t that just make you realise how miniscule our time here is?
Our time is limited, and we only get one opportunity at life. In this vast universe, our time here will be swallowed up like a tiny speck of dust into some kind of gargantuan vacuum cleaner.
Why would you not wish to make the best of whatever time you have?
We all have it in us to be able to make our time count. We can allow ourselves to shine, and to burn away as the biggest and brightest star in that endless night sky.
The crazy thing is that deep down we all have some form of inner yearning, and yet the majority of us just do our best to ignore it. Yet each and every day on places like Facebook we see people sharing inspiring quotes and uplifting memes about making the best of life. People leave comments like ‘this is so true’ and ‘couldn’t agree more’, yet moments later the message is forgotten and life continues as normal.
We watch movies and love it when people battle adversity or take chances in life.
We read stories of real life people who have broken away from the rat race and followed their dreams.
We love all of this because deep down it is what we want to do ourselves.
So what do we do? We stick to the tried and tested path, because somehow we’ve been conditioned to believe that if we live life ‘the right way’ and do everything ‘the right way’, then everything will work out just great. But the real dick-punch here is that, no, living life how we’re supposedly meant to live it will not guarantee us a happy ending.
Very often we remain consumed by inaction until something else gives us the green light to make the change.
And this brings me back to the traffic lights.
This next part has been written as a proverbial kick up the arse which we all need from time to time. So brace yourself and buckle your seat belt, because this shit’s about to get serious for a moment.
How many of us know of somebody who has had a brush with death?
How many of us know of somebody who has either been seriously ill, but thankfully made a full recovery; or of somebody who has been injured in an accident, but managed to eventually get back on their feet?
How many of us have been that person who thought their time was up?
And even more tragically, how many of us know people who never made it back from injury or illness?
How many of us know of people whose lives were taken away from them well before they ever should have been?
Life is often cruel, and many things are beyond explanation. We’ve all been affected by these things in one way or another. None of us get away with it.
I know these are hard things to read, because I know that these are hard things for me to write. But this is completely relevant to the point I want to make, because when somebody has been lucky enough to avoid death and to get that second chance in life, how often do we see them making massive changes in their lives? How often do we hear people talking of realisations of what really matters to them? How often do we hear people talk of how they no longer worry about the insignificant things?
Getting a second chance at life very often releases people to do all the things they ever dreamed of, because they’ve had the ultimate insight into how short life is, how fragile we are, and how precious our time is. And when these people make changes and pursue their dreams, we see those around them nodding and saying things like…
“After what they’ve been through, I can’t blame them one bit. Good luck to them.”
And then they turn back around and start getting on with their own lives and go back to sitting on their own dreams. Dreams that remain unreached. Talents that remain unrealised.
But what I want to ask is…
“Why should we wait for tragedy to strike before we take action?”
We shouldn’t have to wait for that red light to bring everything to a stop in order to make us think about the things that matter. We shouldn’t have to wait for those lights to go green in order to allow us to then choose that alternative path in life or to step into the unknown.
Because the real tragedy is that once that light goes red, it’s not guaranteed to change colour. You’re not guaranteed to get that second chance. You may only get a glimpse of that alternative path without ever getting the chance to venture down it.
You may never get to find out what might have been.
If you’ve read this far then I’m sure that must be because you also know what it’s like to have that inner calling; that inner desire to reach out to something and to pursue a dream. Sometimes it can seem like a massive journey to get there and it can feel so huge that it’s almost too overwhelming to even get started. But remember that famous quote from the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu:
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”
The message behind that saying is so incredibly true and so wonderfully powerful. Don’t get crushed by the weight of the challenge before it even begins. Take small steps. The first is the most significant, and then one step becomes two, and two become ten.
Before you know it you’re cruising down that road, miles away from your starting point; a place which is now disappearing quickly in your rear view mirror. You stop looking back. You face only forwards, and your eyes focus on what is in front of you, and what is there around you. The sun is shining. Your favourite music is playing. And you are smiling.
Keep moving forwards.
And may your light stay green.
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