Post-its-excusesNo Excuses, No Regrets

Originally written for inSpirit magazine…

You get what you work for, not what you wish for. Are you ready to carve out the mental and emotional space to achieve your dreams?

What is it that you most want to do? Which dream burns within you and makes your soul soar when you think of it? And what are you doing to turn it into a reality?

We all have things we say we want to do. Write a book. Learn a language. Travel to a faraway land. Change jobs. Get fit. Give up smoking or drinking. Some of us will do them, and some of us won’t. So how can we ensure that we achieve our goals and attract success and abundance into our lives?

Post-its-beginThe first thing to do is be really honest with yourself. How badly do you want it? Is it something you’re prepared to make sacrifices for in order to achieve, or is it just something you like to talk about, but have no real intention of putting in the work to make it happen? There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, but looking within and seeing what is true for you can save you a whole lot of angst and effort, avoid feelings of disappointment, and give you more time to do things you actually do enjoy. For years I kept saying I wanted to learn Spanish, and I did do a couple of courses here and there, but I never really focused on it enough to get anywhere. Because the truth was, I didn’t really want to learn. If I had, I would have learned, because I truly believe that if you really want to do something, you’ll find a way, and if you don’t, you’ll find an excuse. I had a few of the latter when it came to Spanish, but “I’m too busy” was the main one. Yet when I really wanted to do something, like write a book or get fitter, I found the time. Or, more realistically, I made the time.

So think about the things you say you want to do, and work out if they are genuine goals. If they’re not, fantastic! You’ve just given yourself permission to stop feeling guilty that you haven’t achieved them, and start focusing on something else that will make your heart sing. Giving up my language dream freed up my time and energy to focus on other things I really did want to do.

If it is a genuine dream, get very clear about it. Write or draw or vision board about it – whichever way you communicate with your inner self, which for me is through writing – so you can clearly see what it will look like once you’ve achieved it. Focus on it until it is real to you, until you can feel what it will be like to have gained it. Then break it down and work out how to make it happen. You don’t need to know every step right now, just find something tangible you can do today that will lead you in that direction. It could be as simple as researching the subject online or asking someone you know for more information. If you need to learn a new skill, take a step in that direction – sign up for a writing class, a language course or a healing seminar, buy a how-to book or find a mentor.

Post-its-work-not-wishThink of something you can every day to work towards your goal, and commit to it by writing things into your diary or phone so you will do them. Every day I aim to be able to write one thing that’s moving me towards my goal into the calendar on my wall – it could be as simple as a phone call to find something out, an hour of research into the next step, editing some previous work or spending several hours scribbling madly into a notebook to get a new chapter written. It doesn’t matter whether it’s big or small – each action is getting me a step closer to my goal, and being able to look back and see how much progress I’ve made inspires and motivates me to keep going.

If you still keep coming up with excuses as to why you’re not working towards your goal, examine them closely. Of course there are legitimate reasons that may halt your momentum occasionally – but occasionally is the operative word. If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. Be honest as you look at your list. Are they real, valid reasons, or just convenient excuses for you to avoid doing something that deep down you don’t really want to do? (Like me and learning Spanish.)

Is your excuse for hesitating that you don’t have the physical space to make it happen? Do you tell yourself that as soon as you have a proper office, or a new computer, or a day a week off work, then you will do it? The thing is, it’s rarely a physical space you need in order to create – you have to make space in your day, in your head, in your life. When I decided to write a novel, I threw myself in the deep end and signed up for National Novel Writing Month, where you commit to writing 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days. I didn’t really have time or space – but I made time and space. I scribbled in a notebook on the bus to and from work. I wrote in cafes while waiting for friends. I wrote in the park, one time between bands at a gig. I didn’t need time off work or a massive office with a big fancy desk – I needed the will to do it and the dedication to make it happen.

On the flipside, a friend recently took a week off work to learn lines for a new play – but with all the time in the world, he didn’t even glance at the script once, because he hadn’t made it a priority. I procrastinate at times, don’t get me wrong, but when it’s important I make myself do it, because I want it to happen and I want it badly enough to make it happen.

Not everyone’s as impatient as me though, and you need to work out the best way for you to achieve your goals. If you want to pen a novel, consider that if you write just one page a day, which is definitely doable, within a year you will have a finished book. If you exercise for just twenty minutes a day, you’ll soon be significantly fitter and healthier than you are now. You don’t have to give up all the things you love, you just have to be consistent, dedicated and determined.

Is your excuse that you don’t have the time? When I wanted to get fitter, time was obviously a factor. Work can be crazy. Deadlines are legitimate. But this was important to me, so I figured out that I would have to get up earlier, because it just wasn’t going to happen if I waited until I got home at night. Believe me, I am not a morning person, but I really wanted this, so I started getting up at 6 o’clock every morning to work out. I made it a non-negotiable part of my day, like eating breakfast or brushing my teeth. Now, more than two years later, I still hate getting up early, but I do it anyway, because I want to be fit and healthy, and I want it bad enough to make some sacrifices.

Post-its-believeSo many people have told me they want to start exercising too, but most of them have a million excuses – and every time I offer a solution to one, they come up with another. Which is absolutely fine. But be honest with yourself, if not with anyone else. Do you really want it or not? Are you willing to watch a bit less TV, make use of your lunch break or get up early on the weekend to achieve your goal? You don’t have to sacrifice your friends and family, or anything else that’s really important to you, although you might have to forgo a bit of television or some Facebook time. But what do you want more? To level up in Candy Crush or gain a new qualification? To watch TV shows you don’t even enjoy or become a fitter, healthier you?

Are you too scared of failing to take a chance? Don’t let the possibility of not smashing your goal paralyse you from trying. While it might seem easier to not even try, going after your goals will make you happier than if you don’t. Granted, things might not go according to plan, and you may realise along your journey that you don’t actually want that dream any more, and that’s fine. Start again, and dream a new dream. Even so-called failure is a rich learning experience, teaching you just how badly you want something, and helping you develop new skills and new ways of moving forward. The only “failure” is to not even try.

If it’s not a fear of failure, are you scared of actually succeeding? There is safety and comfort in not rocking the boat, in not shining your light, in living a small life so as not to threaten the people around you. There are some who would rather you don’t try to improve your life or go after your dreams, because it makes them feel better about not pursuing their own. But your true friends will support you in following your heart, and help you find way to make it happen. Explain to them what is important to you and why, and how they could help you. You might even inspire them to start working towards their goals too, because if you succeed, you let other people know it can be done, and that nothing is impossible.

So how badly do you want it? And how prepared are you to make it happen instead of making excuses? You absolutely have the potential to achieve your goals and make your dreams come true, you just have to decide if you want it badly enough to actually do it.

I’m not saying it will necessarily be easy, but it will be worth it. And working towards your goal and risking your heart and your soul means you won’t look back years from now and regret that you didn’t even try, or longingly wish that you’d taken that chance, pushed a little bit harder, prioritised what is important to you rather than settling for the safer, lesser option. And what more can you hope for than that, to celebrate a life where you followed your heart, dared to try, and lived with no excuses and no regrets.