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The Number One Dream Killer: Doing What Works

Article by Zen Habits contributor Jonathan Mead; follow him on twitter.

What’s the number one dream killer?

Doing what works.

By doing what works, I mean following a safe, easy, path where it’s unlikely you’ll find much that’s unknown. It’s comfortable and secure, so we think.

I don’t know about you, but I want more than just security. I want to live not simply survive.

If we want to have any hope at making our dreams a reality, we have to carve out our own path. We have to find a way to get paid to be ourselves. We must drop conventional wisdom (collective assumption) and break away from the herd.

But that takes courage, doesn’t it? It’s not easy taking giant leaps of faith, especially when you don’t know if there will be any floor beneath your next step.

So in order to start living on our own terms, we need to do two things:

Since it’s the simplest of the two, let’s start with why we need to stop caring.

This may seem shocking to you, but much of what’s standing in the way of you and your dreams is caring a bit too much about things that really don’t matter.

Your caring too much about having new cool things causes you to spend money on things you don’t need. That money could go toward a fund for transitioning to open your own business, and doing something you love. Your caring about what other people think keeps you from asking for help — or asking for what you want — that could further you on the path toward your dreams. In the same way, caring too much about not knowing where to start keeps you paralyzed, and causes you to not take action.

This kind of caring is unhealthy. It’s getting in the way of you living the life you want to lead.

So the first step is: stop caring.

You don’t know how to stop caring? It’s very simple, so don’t over complicate it. Imagine what you’d do with a hot piece of coal in your hand. Naturally, you would drop it immediately. Do the same thing with caring about things that aren’t important. Scary? Yes. Worth it? Hell yes!

The second thing you need to do is push your uncertainty threshold.

We all have a certain limit, or threshold, for the amount of uncertainty we can handle. For some of us, we have such a low limit, we’re afraid of even simple things, like talking to a stranger. We can’t predict what the person we’ll say, so we can’t tolerate the uncertainty. This is on the lower end of the spectrum. The higher end of the scale might be not being able to quit your job and follow your passion. There’s no way you can foresee what will happen, so you let uncertainty keep you from taking action.

The thing is, what’s holding you back is mostly illusory fears. None of them are based on past events, or any real data. It’s all in your head.

So in order to pursue our dreams, we have to stop caring about not knowing. We have to push our uncertainty limit, to be able to tolerate bigger and bigger risks. You can start small by talking to stranger or telling someone how you really feel when you would normally hold back.

Whenever you feel afraid of doing something, question where the fear is coming from. Is it real, or imagined? Are you in any perceived physical danger? If not, do what you are afraid of. Push your uncertainty limit. Your dreams depend on it.

The more you do this, the more you’ll be unafraid to take bigger and bigger risks. You’ll become a lion instead of a mouse. Your dreams will start taking root in the world.

These are just a few of the common obstacles I talk about in my new ebook, Reclaim Your Dreams, An Uncommon Guide to Living on Your Own Terms. In the book, I outline other common pitfalls people commonly make and how to avoid them.

As a special thank you to all the ZenHabits readers, you’ll get an exclusive 25% discount if you purchase my book before February 28th. That’s $18.70 instead of the regular list price of $24.95. Just use the code ZenHabits at the checkout and you’ll get your discount. That’s less than the price of dinner for two for something that could possibly change your life forever.

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Can you afford to let another year slip away without doing what you love? If the answer is no, the only question left is… Are you ready to Reclaim Your Dreams?

This article was written by Zen Habits contributor Jonathan Mead of Illuminated Mind. To learn more about how to reclaim your dreams, grab a subscription to Illuminated MInd.

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