The Simple Test You Can Use to Identify the Right Dreams and Goals
When was the last time you felt truly excited?
Can you even remember?
We’re all looking to go on this grand adventure in life. Actually, some of us aren’t. At least that’s what people tell me in the comments section of some of my articles.
“Ayo, you don’t understand. Life is not all about living your dreams. You must be practical. You’re young. You’re idealistic. One day, when you’re my age, you’ll change your mind. You’ll realize the importance of comfort and security.”
I highly doubt I’ll end up like this.
Some people say the grass isn’t greener. I call BS. Sure, sure, sure, sure, there is something to be said about the Eastern Philosophy telling you to be content with what you have, ego depletion, and being ok with the present moment.
But that’s only half the equation.
How many people can resign themselves to live in a cave and meditate all day? For all intents and purposes, zero.
You will always have desire. Maybe desire is suffering, in a way. But it doesn’t feel like that to me. I like getting what I want. It’s fun.
You want to get what you want, too. But how do you even know what that is?
There’s a simple test you can use to determine if you’re on the right track.
Your goals have to scare the shit out of you.
I spoke at a TEDx conference a few years ago. Like all the other speakers, I practiced my speech over and over again up until the last minute.
A month prior to the conference we did a trial run where all the speakers got on stage in front of an empty auditorium with about 1,000 seats in it. When I got up to speak, I completely froze after my first few lines. I froze because I got caught up looking at all 1,000 seats.
“Holy shit. I don’t know if I can do this.” I thought. We went through the practice sessions, the speech coaches gave me some pointers, and I was able to give the entire talk without freezing — excellent.
Skip forward to the day of the talk.
I’d practiced the talk at least ten times that day — flawlessly. Then, in my final run-through, I stumbled over my words, froze, panicked, and couldn’t remember the lines in my talk.
Holy shit. I don’t know if I can do this.
You know what this palpable moment of fear feels like. Your heart starts thumping uncontrollably. Your fight or flight response system overrides your rational thinking. You’re locked in fear. It’s crazy that your body can even get like that, but it does.
I’m sitting backstage. Asking myself why the hell I decided to do this. Picturing the worse scenario. I was told that during the previous conference, one of the speakers did freeze up, several times to the point the audience had to cajole him with positivity to make it to the end. I felt like that was going to happen.
When the moment came, I gave the talk. It turned out just fine. If you watch me on stage in the video, you can see how nervous I am. I’m a much more polished speaker now, but I kind of like the sense of nervousness I had in the talk. Some people told me it was endearing.
The moments after the talk — hearing the round of applause, signing copies of my book for audience members, the pats on the back, handshakes, and hugs — were some of the best moments of my life.
After you go through the fire of fear, your heart is still thumping out of your chest, but now in a way that reminds you how alive you are.
There’s nothing quite like feeling the fear and doing it anyway. You feel like you’re floating on air. At that moment, nobody can tell you a damn thing. You can only reach this demi-god like level of confident euphoria by doing things that quite literally scare you.
The fundamental mistake we make We wish we didn’t have fear. But fear is necessary and useful.
You can use it to guide your life, harness it to your advantage, and even come to appreciate it after a while.
You need fear. If you don’t feel it, your life might be moving in the wrong direction.
Fear = Signal
“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist? [or an entrepreneur] [or a successful person]” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.” — Steven Pressfield
There’s nothing wrong with being afraid.
You shouldn’t, however, be afraid of being afraid. The fear of fear kills more dreams than fear itself. The idea that you’re supposed to somehow feel invincible and unflinchingly confident or else you can’t do it…is nonsense. That’s ‘counterfeit innovator’ talk.
I used to be afraid of being afraid. Now, I have no less fear than I had before, but I’m okay with feeling fear. It’s such a subtle distinction, but it’s an important one.
When you’re okay with feeling fear you understand it for what it is — a signal to your dream.
Your dream will require you to be vulnerable, to face rejection, to stumble. But the vulnerability, rejection, and stumbling are what make success feel good.
Think of the way most people live. They close themselves off to fear and live in a shelter of excuses. On the one hand, this is actually a good strategy because you don’t have to feel the palpable feelings of fear that come with pursuing something bold and daring.
Those feelings, in the moment, suck. Like, a lot. I’ve often talked about the fact that I sometimes envy people who don’t chase their dreams. It’s like they know something I don’t know. I sometimes long for that feeling of being normal, but then, deep down, I don’t.
I like being scared.
Being scared makes me feel alive.
To me, if I feel comfortable, I know I’m on a quick path to complacency that will slowly erode my life. Yes, I’m dramatic and theatrical.
Why aren’t you?
Ever thought about that?
Think about it.
The Confidence Myth
“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’ “ — Maya Angelou
There’s a false idea that the more successful you get the less you feel fear, judge yourself and struggle with doubt. Incorrect. It just gets worse.
Are you feeling pumped yet?
Look, it doesn’t actually get worse. You can develop a higher level of confidence, but then you just create more challenges that humble you even more. Or you don’t.
You can definitely aim for a point where you do feel a level of certainty, comfort, and confidence. To me, that’s no fun.
You don’t want to start from zero and never build a base-level of confidence. I’m much more confident, in general, than I was years ago. But I’m not bulletproof. Nor do I want to be. Even the people who reach a point of success and stop, thinking that they’ve “made it” are still afraid. No one is fully confident.
You’ll never get there.
Why am I telling you this? Isn’t self-help supposed to make you feel good about yourself?
The truth is there is no real magical point where your life is devoid of discomfort. We all know it and simultaneously trick ourselves into believing this point exists.
On an almost minute by minute basis, I remind myself the discomfort of being human isn’t going away. Then I work.
Sometimes I feel great about it and sometimes I don’t. I have brief moments of joy and exhilaration like walking off stage after giving a talk. Then, a week later at my speech club, I get nervous to talk in front of 30 people.
This is life people.
You’ll battle with fear your whole life, but it’s a battle worth fighting instead of passively allowing it to happen.
The Bottom Line
The hero’s journey would be no fun if the hero was sure of him or herself.
We love it when the hero starts out as a total dork, loser, petrified nobody.
We love watching them stumble and fumble their way into competency.
You identify more with Peter Parker than James Bond.
You can’t be James Bond. But you can be Peter Parker.
You can face your fears and develop courage. Not the absence of fear, but the resolve to act in spite of it.
You can do it. I know it. Will you? I don’t know that.
Will it be scary? Yes.
Will it be fun? Hell yeah.
Ayodeji is the author of You 2.0 — Stop Feeling Stuck, Reinvent Yourself, and Become a Brand New You. Want a free copy of my first book? Get it here.