Feeling Like It's Too Late to Pursue Your Dreams? Think again.

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  • 30 Mar 2024
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This is a great question to ask yourself to figure out what you truly want in life. However, it is ineffective if you pursue your dreams and fail miserably. It is difficult to be informed that you are not good enough. It is embarrassing to fail in front of others. How can you bounce back from a setback? You may make your dreams come true if you have the correct mindset to overcome challenges. Allow me to teach you how I fulfilled my heart's desire so that you, too, may overcome failure and achieve your goals.

Years ago, when I was a psychology professor at Santa Clara University, students would queue up outside my office to ask me what major they should pursue or where they should go to graduate school. It turned out that I was giving them dramatically different counsel than their parents and other academics. One of our brightest seniors walked into my office in tears. My colleague across the hall advised her to pursue the best graduate school, even if it meant moving to the east coast and leaving her fiancé behind.A sad electrical engineering major told me that his father wouldn't allow him major in psychology since it wasn't profitable..

My advise was simple. I always encouraged my kids to follow their hearts. 

It was my favorite part of the work. I wasn't satisfied, despite receiving excellent teaching evaluations and having works published in the best journals in my profession. Academics were not the correct road for me, even though I didn't realize it at the time.

I began playing the guitar to unwind from work, a hobby I hadn't pursued since my teens. After marking papers in the evenings, I would write "little songs." On weekends, I sang at a few open mics. I was so scared that I forgot my own lines, yet I still received decent applause. Eventually, I joined a band and played in a few cool nightclubs. Several of my students attended my presentations, and the line to my office became longer. 

One afternoon, as I watched yet another relieved face exit my office door, I felt profoundly empty. I realized I wasn't following my heart. What did I actually want to be when I grew up? A rock'n'roll superstar!

"Ridiculous," a voice resembling my mother's yelled within my skull. For starters, it would imply I had squandered four years at Princeton pursuing my Ph.D. in psychology. For another, I was too old. How can I change now? Was it not too late? 

I kept thinking about how happy my students appeared when I let them to be themselves. Despite being labeled "crazy" by my mother and many of my colleagues, I quit my stable teaching job to pursue my childhood passion. I had only written a few songs at the time, but I knew that if I didn't do it now, I would never do it again.

My band disbanded one week after I packed up my office to begin my new career as a rock star, forcing me to cancel a summer's worth of engagements. I curled up in a fetal posture on the couch for two days, eating only peanut butter and crackers. I kept listening to the song we'd recorded that was gaining the most attention in LA. Why did we have to quit now?

Then I had a "aha" moment. That song showcased my voice and guitar playing, not my bandmates. Perhaps my voice was stronger as a singer-songwriter than it was as the lead singer of a pop band. This setback was a clue as to what I needed to do. 

I formed a duet with a fresh guitarist. We quickly grew a following, and Rick drove down to LA to present my songs to a record label with which he was affiliated. The A&R person listened to the first song until the conclusion (a uncommon occurrence). Excited to learn more, he asked Rick a million questions about me, including my age. Rick casually said that I was thirty years old, and the representative abruptly ended the meeting.

Fortunately, I was too dumb to realize that my promising career had already been shattered. I didn't believe the premise that I was past my prime. I looked younger than my age and didn't know any better, so I kept performing music. I supported myself by lecturing at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where I was named "Most Inspirational Professor" by my students.

I attended local songwriting events to boost my skills. I cannot tell you how many times I cried in my car after receiving harsh criticism. Nonetheless, I listened and learnt. For several years, dozens of my songs were picked up by publishers and record labels in Los Angeles and Nashville. 

But nothing came from it. 

I explored for new ways to release my songs. My manager was South African. Why not compile all of my best songs into an album and take it to his country? Within a few months, Polygram Records issued my debut CD, which generated a top ten smash. Eleven tracks gained radio play. I was 35 years old.

Since then, my songs have topped college radio charts in South Africa, Europe, and the United States, as well as appearing on ABC, HBO, Encore, and Showtime. For the past 20 years, I've taught creativity workshops to thousands of people, helping them break through their self-limiting ideas and live crazy wonderful lives. 

Here are eight techniques to overcome failure and achieve your goals.


1. What People Think of You is None of Your Business

Not everyone will commend you for pursuing your ambition. Instead, listen to the tiny voice within you. It continually tells you what you need to do to reach your full potential. 

It may just a whisper today, but the more you pay attention to it, the louder it becomes. Give yourself permission to pursue it and seek out like-minded individuals to assist you.


2. Think of Obstacles as a Test

My band broke up, and I had no idea that this was normal. I had encountered a "threshold guardian." This fabled fringe dweller appears once you enter the realm of your dreams. It holds up its hand and says, "Come no further," but its ultimate purpose is to see if you're truly determined to doing whatever it takes to acquire what you desire. 

Threshold guardians are very simple to miss if you simply keep going.


3. Persist Through Setbacks

When you set out to follow your heart, you will take a step, fail, and feel like giving up. Please do not give up! Typical learning curves suggest that it is common to perform below par at first.


4. View Failure as Feedback

Did you know that Oprah Winfrey was demoted early in her career as a news anchor because she lacked the "it factor" for television? She went on to create and dominate daytime talk shows for 25 years.

It is usual to encounter dead ends and setbacks on your path to reclaiming your heartfelt desires. Use failure as feedback to improve your strategy.


5. Find Alternative Pathways to your Goals

If you fail to reach your aim, consider a more plausible alternative. Be willing to acquire a new skill or seek for assistance. Make it a regular practice to consider different approaches to achieving your goals. 

Do you have an alternate strategy in place to help you achieve your goals? Learn more about how to back up your life.


6. Bombard Your Inner Critic with Positive Affirmations

When you leave your comfort zone to follow your heart, your inner critic will tell you that you're not good enough or that you're a fraud. It does not imply that this negative mindset is true. According to research, you may overcome this challenge by telling yourself positive affirmations like "keep going" and “you can do it.”


7. Relabel “Fear” as “Excitement”

When something scares you, your sympathetic nervous system prepares you to fight or flee. Did you know you have the same physiological reactions when you are excited? 

So, the next time you have sweaty palms, consider reinterpreting it as enthusiasm and channel that nervous energy into mastering whatever you're attempting to do, whether it's giving a talk, going on a job interview, or winning a marathon.


8. Make a Vision Statement to Guide You

Create a mission statement that explains your desired future and read it daily. Allow it to function as a beacon in the night, when self-doubt clouds your judgment and impediments obstruct your progress. Even the tiniest glimmer of what you want - a destination point on the horizon — can keep you focused and on target. 

"There is nothing like a dream to create the future."—Victor Hugo 

You were born with a special talent that no one else in the world can express like you. When you dance to your own music, you naturally enhance these inherent abilities and flourish at work and in life. But when you're compelled to adhere to someone else's concept of who you should be, it disrupts your flow.

Getting your real groove back does not imply becoming the greatest at anything or proving yourself to others. It's about discovering your own abilities and feeling alive as you apply them. You can gradually transform your life and achieve your goals by devoting one or two hours per week to something you enjoy doing. It's a foolproof method for discovering and enhancing your superpowers without jumping off a cliff.

According to research conducted at San Francisco State University, having a hobby reduces stress, boosts pleasure, and improves work performance. So, pick up a paintbrush for the first time or rediscover an old interest, like playing hockey. Who knows. Your side project could lead to a new career or grow into a successful business in the future. 

As C.S. Lewis stated, 

"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." 

What tiny step can you take today to follow your heart's desire? I would love to know!

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