You are going to die
"You are going to die" - this is a scary thought for many of us, which is probably why we live our lives as if we are immortal - putting off doing things because we think we will always have more time. We almost need to find a way to remind ourselves that death may be the scariest thing out there and any actions we take, even if they end in mistake, or embarrassment, or an outcome we hadn’t expected, they are all a lot less scary than dying and not taking any action.
“A recent survey stated that the average person's greatest fear is having to give a speech in public. Somehow this ranked even higher than death… So, you're telling me that at a funeral, most people would rather be the guy in the coffin than have to stand up and give a eulogy.” - Jerry Seinfeld
Whose life are you living?
Do you lack the confidence to go after your dream, or to take a particular action because you are worried about how ‘society’ will view you? Who determined the ‘norms’ you are living your life by? What if you discovered these are all illusions - not to get all ‘Matrix-y’ on you, but your reality is just that - yours - and your partners, your friends, your families, everyone else’s realities are their own. It is why 2 people can eat the same thing and have different reactions - one loves it, one hates it. Both their realities are their truth, but which one is ‘the truth’? It is all about perspective.
So, you worry about making an ‘idiot’ of yourself but what is an ‘idiot’? My definition is going to be different to yours. Maybe you are scared of failing and to step outside your comfort zone; to do something where you might not achieve on your first attempt, makes you feel like ‘an idiot’. Maybe you will ‘fail’, but someone else may look at you and think you are an idiot for not even trying! You get the picture? Everyone will have an opinion and the only one that really matters is your own so really think about, and analyse, what you believe and make it serve you.
And so what if you do make an idiot of yourself? Why do you think you shouldn’t make an idiot of yourself? Why do you think everyone is so interested in you and what you are doing? Are you really that interested in everyone else? When someone does make an idiot of themselves, do you really care? Maybe the truth is that being human is about achieving someone’s definition of an idiot on a regular basis and this is okay. Maybe, a reframe of your thoughts is that you accept and embrace that being an idiot is part of being human. So every day we know and expect to act like an idiot, at least once, as this cements our humanness and ability to be moving towards our goals.
Do you really believe inaction doesn’t have a cost?
We tend to overrate our chance of failure and underrate what could be the successes. But do you ever consider the failure in passivity? By doing nothing, you may think you are avoiding any failure, but is this true? Is not achieving what you really want in life a bigger failure? If you were to die in the next year, would doing nothing now seem less of a failure to you than going for your goal and maybe making some mistakes along the way? If dying is the most terrifying thing out there, surely anything you do now is going to be less scary, less risky and generally more fun.
Let’s play this through. You decide not to try to go for that goal - maybe you decide that if you went for the promotion and didn’t get it, it would be the worst thing in the world as everyone would think you were a failure. Doing nothing, not sending in your CV and applying means you don’t have to face that future. It also means that you could be haunted by the ‘what ifs’. What if I was the best person for the role? What if I look back when I’m 60 and really regret not taking the chance? What if I don’t get the position but my boss now doesn’t realise I want promotion so doesn’t consider me for a new exciting project in the future either? What if I wasted an amazing opportunity? It may be that these what ifs are not as bad for you as the what ifs of going for the goal, but acknowledge there is a choice to be made and that simply doing nothing will also have consequences.
“Don’t worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.” Jack Canfield
Time is fleeting
I love Eddie Cantor’s quote: “It takes 20 years to make an overnight success” as I find it a great reminder that we see the finished result of someone’s hard work, but not necessarily the journey they have taken to get there.
You often give up on something because it is taking time. You often don’t stop to question if you had an unrealistic expectation on the time it would take and just assume it won’t happen for you. Yes, there are the rare occasions that things don’t take long and fall into place for someone, but, for the majority of situations and scenarios, things do take time. Accepting there could be hurdles and challenges, acknowledging things may not come easily but that your goal is more important to you than all of this will mean instead of letting any setbacks damage your confidence in your ability to achieve, you realise it is part of the journey, that maybe this part does suck, but it will be worth it and that obstacles are a normal part of the process. Accept this could be the reality, hope for the easy path but keep focused on the end goal and what this means to you and you can continue and you can achieve, even if it is a bit more difficult, or takes a little longer than you first had hoped for.
"Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway." - Earl Nightingale
Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed
This article is slightly tongue in cheek. I really don’t want you to be so scared of dying that this is an all-consuming thought, and I have not taken any religious or spiritual beliefs into account - what I am trying to do though is to wake you up to the fact that none of us are immortal yet we often spend our time, effort and lives as if we are. Just putting a little focus on your immortality, will hopefully galvanise you into some action to go for the things you really want to achieve, to stop putting off things for ‘someday’, to not just dream, but take action as this might be your only shot at this life, and tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us.
“Don't take life too seriously. You'll never get out of it alive.” - Elbert Hubbard