Even when we have a clear idea of what we want to do in life, we often find ourselves paralyzed from taking action to actually achieve the goals we have articulated. It’s easy to keep yourself occupied in pursuits tangentially related to your interests without producing tangible results that move you closer to your goals. When your focus is more on planning than actually doing, you can easily end up spinning your wheels for years—or for a lifetime.
If you’re like me, it’s easy to talk ad nauseam about your hopes and dreams without making any real progress. I know it seems obvious, but getting your hands dirty doing what you say you want to do is the best way to determine if you are indeed cut out for that line of work.
Here are two ways to stop talking and start getting your hands dirty:
1. Take advantage of time-sensitive opportunities.
For those of you still in college or graduate school, consider yourself lucky. High-profile, time-crunched alumni tend to be more open to having informational interviews with you. Companies are willing to take you on as an intern. And the money you have from your student loans or scholarships sometimes make money less of an urgent obligation. If you are a student, use your summers and for-credit learning opportunities such as field studies, research projects, and independent study projects to explore working in the field you are passionate about joining. Even if the day-to-day work is not exactly what you hope to be doing full-time, you will oen make valuable connections and be promoted to more meaningful and relevant work after having proven yourself.
During the short time that I pursued a career in media and entertainment, I did an unpaid for-credit internship for Overbrook Entertainment, Will Smith’s production company. Even though the company did not ultimately o?er me a paid full-time position, I learned a lot about the industry and made some valuable connections. You better believe that once I’m ready to pitch the movie adaptation of Be Your Own Boyfriend, the contacts I made there will be the first people I call!
Be honest about what you want to do when someone asks, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” If you really want to be a fine artist, don’t tell people you want to be a lawyer. While it may feel better to tell people what they want to hear or give the socially acceptable answer, being dishonest with yourself and others about your dreams is a disservice to you. You miss out on the opportunity to craft your own destiny if you don’t confidently claim your dreams. You also miss the very real opportunity to meet someone with information or a connection that can help you get closer to your dream. You never know where your big break might come from. Let folks know who you really are and what you really want in life.
As the old adage goes, “It is better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you aren’t.” Sometimes, I can get a bit self-conscious letting people know that I am a coach and writer and that I’d like to have my own talk show one day. Depending on what city I’m in, people can be dismissive of what they see as a “woo woo” job or a self-absorbed career goal. However, I know that I mustn’t apologize or silence myself to gain approval from others. Everyone has a dream, and that’s mine!
2. Start today.
Rather than aiming to have all the details perfectly in place, begin engaging as both an observer and creator within the field you want to be in. It’s okay if everything you create isn’t of the highest quality in the early stages. In the first few years of my blog, my readers saw my site go through a dizzying array of di?erent looks as I learned more about coding and graphic design. Instead of getting paralyzed from starting because my blog didn’t look perfect, I kept writing with the hope that people would be lured into the site by its compelling content. As my income and technical skills increased, so did the quality of my site’s design. However, at that point, I’m not sure how much a pretty website mattered. Since I had already established a consistent publishing schedule, my fans were more interested in what I had to say rather than how cute my website was.
The importance of getting your hands dirty seems like common sense, but sometimes those of us with the most formal education are the most reluctant to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. We are used to striving for perfection—in a safe classroom setting where there are grades and “rules” for success. As my friend Kobina, a documentary filmmaker, often says, “Strive for excellence rather than perfection,” so you can finally get started working toward your dreams.
SELF-LOVE PRINCIPLE #37
Pursue your career goals with persistence regardless of what other people say, think, or do.
What one thing will you start today to get one step closer to your dreams and goals?