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This is a question that I’ve asked myself and others over the years and continue to explore. 

I feel fortunate that I am about to personally embark on another stage of my journey that will allow me to pursue the purpose for which I believe I’ve been designed.  

Over the journey, I have come across four obstacles that many people come across that hold them back from taking that big risk and following their dreams. 

Conditioning.  For many people, they have been told on so many occasions not to dare to dream that any sense of purpose has been well and truly buried, perhaps never to be seen again.  I have held numerous workshops where I have asked the group to nominate the dream or purpose that they have and not a person in the room has been able to answer me.  

If you have been so conditioned that you have no idea what your purpose in life is, then your first step is to find out.  Start with your passions, your interests, your childhood dreams, your faith and your strengths.  As a Christian, I believe that there is a plan for everyone’s life and that plan is remarkable, achievable and rewarding.   Don’t believe the myth that there is no purpose for you.  Look for it and when you’ve found it, start working towards it. 

Concern for our loved ones.  This is one that I find interesting and is relevant to many people as there is often a genuine concern about how following dreams will impact loved ones. 

Sometimes, we are held back from pursuing our dreams because we believe that the impact on those closest to us will be too great.  The reality is that those who love us most want to support us in achieving our dreams.  Of course, this needs to be reciprocal, so please be generous enough to support your loved ones in their aspirations. 

Fear of failure.  The fear of failure is what stops many of us from daring to start the journey to reach for our dreams.  There are so few role-models for us and the ones that there are seem so remote and remarkable that it seems impossible for us to dare find success on this journey.  

The reality is that your dream is worth failing for.  Sometimes, we live a safe, neutral and mediocre life because we know that we can’t fail at that, but our success lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. 

What are some of the things that we are afraid of if we fail?  Here’s a short list, plus a brief response: 

  • Looking silly in front of others.  So what?  Greatness doesn’t take notice of cynics, but charges on regardless.  You’ll also be surprised at how many people will admire your courage and be inspired by you.
  • It may be the wrong dream that I’m chasing.  If it is, then you won’t find out until you try.  You can’t steer a ship that’s not moving, so start on your journey today.
  • What if I lose everything in the process?  Is that really likely?  If it does happen, can’t you start again?  Aren’t the rewards of living your purpose worth more?
  • What if I’m not talented enough to achieve it?  Michael Jordan could have thought that after being cut from his High School basketball team.  You may not be talented enough now, but with a lot of hard work who knows what you can achieve?
  • What if I lose interest half-way through?  Whilst it’s important to have a bold aspiration, it’s just as important to set smaller goals to help you on you way and give you momentum.  You don’t just set a goal to run a marathon and the job’s done.  You need to set a plan for yourself to achieve it.  This post may help.
  • No-one in my family has ever achieved anything of note.  What a great opportunity to be the first.  Don’t be defined by your past, define yourself by your future.

Guilt.  This is an odd one, but many after working through all of the above obstacles, some people actually get to a point where their dream is within reach and then they feel guilty that they can be in the minority who reaches them when everyone else around them is struggling in the malaise of a purposeless life.  It takes great confidence and poise to take that last step, but don’t let guilt hold you back.  Whilst some people would begrudge you your feelings of fulfillment, many more may be inspired to start their journey. 

Seth Godin would say that the safest thing we can do is to take a risk and the biggest risk is to play it safe.  

Let’s take a risk and start realising our dreams! 

What’s holding you back?

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