The other night, I went salsa dancing for the first time in way too many years. I was super rusty, but, as I told another dancer, my goal for the evening was just to do my best, have fun, and not hurt anyone.
And you know what? Because I didn't put any pressure on myself, I managed to do the advanced move they taught us in the lesson (okay, only once or twice, but that still counts!), had a great time, and, unless that one dude lied when he said his foot was fine after I stepped on it, I didn't hurt anyone — including myself. Mission accomplished!
Added bonus — my goal for that evening also gave me an excellent new motto for life.
It was late at night, and ten-year-old Maggie was sitting at the end of the bed. She was hungry, but her snack was on top of the TV cabinet, way out of her reach. She glanced to her right, and saw Dad was fast asleep. She turned and looked at Mom, who was sitting on the loveseat a few feet away. She let out a soft, “Woof.”
Mom started laughing so hard, she woke Dad up. He couldn’t even be mad about it, because whoever heard of a dog being that considerate before?
Within a couple days, Maggie could soft bark on command.
* * *
It’s a good thing Maggie couldn’t think the way we humans do, otherwise her thought process might’ve been something like “They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I guess I’m considered old now, so I must not be able to do anything new. Crap. How the hell am I gonna get my treat now? Guess I’ll just have to go hungry for the rest of the night—or maybe even the rest of my life. I think I’ll just curl up into a little ball right here on the edge of the bed and hope one day by some miracle I get my treat anyway.”
She never would’ve come in second place in that doggie talent show.
* * *
The bad news is, as humans, our brains are wired to think all those hold-us-back thoughts.
The good news is that once we notice those thoughts, we can loosen them up and make it easier to start going after what we really want. One way is to look for examples that the opposite thought could be true, too.
For example, let’s say you feel driven to run a race to raise money for your favorite charity, but you can’t help thinking “I can’t run a 5K.” Make a list of at least three reasons you can. Maybe it’s something like, “1. I can get a trainer. 2. I can start small and build up. 3. I didn’t think I could [fill in the blank], but I did.”
Or maybe you want to get a new job, but you don’t think anyone would hire you. Now make a list of all the reasons someone would want to hire you. (If you’re having trouble with the list, try a trick a wise friend once told me: be your own agent. From that removed perspective, it’s often easier to list all those wonderful qualities you possess that would make an employer crazy not to hire you on the spot.)
* * *
For all the things we long to do, most of us have a million reasons why we can’t do them. But unless your dream is something completely out of reach, like living on Saturn or adopting a pet unicorn, chances are all those “reasons” are really just thoughts getting in the way. So the question is, are you gonna let mere sentences keep you from making your dreams come true, or are you gonna address them head on, then do whatever you need to do to start living a life you love?
Katie Baron: life coach, freelance writer, animal and nature lover, musician, relentless optimist