“You have brains in your head. And you have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” Dr. Seuss absolutely got this right.
But why do so many of us choose a direction that is not really where we want to go? We make life choices, we accept those choices, and then we live out our lives thinking, “Is this all there is?” but never answering that question.
If you want to answer that question today with a loud, resounding “NO!” then you are ready to take the path of a life without limitations.
Here are 8 easy steps to break through those limitations you have imposed upon yourself and become free to pursue that one (or ten) things you have always dreamed about.
1. Define Yourself
Wow. This doesn’t sound like an easy step. But it is. It may be uncomfortable, but it’s not hard.
If you go to the beach with a bucket and you put a crab in that bucket, that crab will crawl out and make its way back to the water. If you put 2 crabs in that bucket, they will both die in there. Why?
Because when one crab is trying to get out, the other grabs onto him and keeps him from getting out. They do this to one another until they eventually die. Our choices have placed us in a bucket that defines who we are. In that bucket may be family members and friends who have helped define us and who like us as we are.
And if we stay in that bucket, we are accepting their definition of us.
When we decide that we need a new definition of ourselves, one that will be uncomfortable for them, they will try to keep us in the bucket. You cannot stay in the bucket if you have decided to take a new path.
So you have to get out in very specific ways:
– You begin by saying “no.”
If you have a “clingy” friend who demands a lot of your time, and you are only giving that time because you feel you have to, it’s really time to say the big “n” word. You have to practice it, for sure. And maybe have to stand in front of a mirror and rehearse what you are going to say, but you have to do it.
If your family expects you every Sunday for a family dinner, and you are tired of doing this, then say “no” and stop. You can be diplomatic, but you have to be firm. You have other things to do now, and the biggest one is some time for you so that you can think about what you want to do.
– Break the “rules.”
Part of being in the bucket is that you have set “rules” for yourself. These rules are limitations. Start by breaking a small rule. You’ve always been a rather conservative dresser. Go buy some flamboyant outfit, get a new hairstyle, and begin to look like a different you.
You will be amazed at how liberating this really is. Then, begin to break other rules, maybe big ones. Those who don’t support you will begin to get back to the bottom of the bucket and stop trying to pull you back in.
Ultimately, over time, you will begin to define who you really are. It’s a process, not an overnight thing, so give yourself some time. As you work through these other steps, it will all come. And the bucket dwellers may come back into your life. Let them in periodically, as long as your self-confidence is strong.
2. You Need a Plan
It’s time to “blue sky” it. If you could have your ideal life, what would it be? What would you be doing for your life’s work? Where would you be living? What kinds of people would surround you? See the big picture first – 10 years from now maybe.
Then, think about five years from now, then one year from now. If you can break that ideal life down into smaller time frames, then you can develop an action plan. Maybe you want to be a lawyer, or you want to be a writer; you want your own business; you want to be whatever you have always had an inner passion for.
The time to begin is right now. What steps can you take toward that goal in the next month?
- Maybe you go back to school. Enroll for the next semester as soon as you can, even if it is only one course
- Maybe you will begin that novel that has been brewing for years. With more “you” time, you can do that.
- Maybe you will do some research and learn how to write a business plan.
Get your action plan down in writing and set deadlines for yourself. Of course, they can be revised, but the plan is in place. Now you will feel some excitement, and that is the best feeling of all.
3. Have a Weekly Appointment with Yourself
Pick a day and time. Every week at that time, you have an appointment – with yourself. This is your time to go over with yourself what you did this week that followed your plan. Even if it was only that you attended the class you are taking and got the assignments done, that is fine.
If you need to revise your plan do so, but be aware that continual pushing back of deadlines means you may be waning in your commitment – don’t do it!
4. Get a Partner
You can find someone you met in class; or maybe it is a confidant at work; maybe it’s someone in that online writers’ group you joined; maybe it’s a small business owner who has “made” it. You need a partner who will support you, who will generate the enthusiasm when yours is waning, who will validate the worth of your goals and push you forward.
Share your plan with that partner – once you have shared it, and someone else knows that plan, you will be more likely to stick to it (guilt is sometimes a good thing).
5. Question Your Limiting Thoughts
When you begin to doubt your ability to follow through on your plan or to do something, ask yourself, “Am I going to let myself down?” “Am I really not capable of doing this?” When you question your limiting thoughts, you make them weaker. When others present you with limiting thoughts, simply say, out loud, “Watch me.”
6. Make a Treasure Map
My mom was a firm believer in treasure mapping. It’s sort of a visual representation of your action plan, but not as detailed. We started with a goal, maybe just something we wanted to accomplish over our summer vacations. As we got older the goals got bigger and the maps a bit more complex.
We used pictures, quotes, and actions, placing them along a curvy line to get to the treasure – the goal. Make one for yourself and post it somewhere. It can be for any period of time of your action plan – maybe 6 months at a time – then make a new one! It’s fun and it keeps your “eye on the prize.”
7. Take a Dare
Make a decision to do something you have never done before and that you always thought you couldn’t. Are you afraid of roller coasters? Go to an amusement park and ride one. Do you think you can’t paint a picture? Go to an art museum and visit a contemporary art exhibit. Draw something you like.
Get some paints and paint it – voila! Once you have taken that dare and done it, and you still have all of your physical and mental parts intact, you understand that the only limitations are those you impose upon yourself. Now, train your memory to recall your success any time you are beginning to feel limited.
8. Keep a Journal
In between your weekly appointments with yourself, write about your day. List 5 things you did well or accomplished, even if they are not related to your big picture goal.
If you want to live a life without limitations, you really need to build up your belief that you can accomplish anything you want or need to accomplish, and that you can do it well.
Now, go back and take a look at #1. You are beginning to define yourself differently. And that definition includes this truth – you don’t have to live a limited life. You are out of the bucket, and there is a huge “world” around you – one to taste and feel and see and hear.
And there are things, and people, and events that will push you forward. You are liberated from your old thoughts, you have new goals and a plan to get there.
Don’t stop now. When you feel your enthusiasm waning, go back to the successes you have had so far, ask those questions, “Am I really going to give up on what I want?” answer those questions with new resolve, get with your partner, and renew your resolve.