Redefining Roadblocks

There’s something about encountering a roadblock that makes you want to curl your upper lip into a snarl. You’re on the route you want to go, to the place you want to be, and then….

BAM! Full stop. Can’t go that way. No can do.

Some roadblocks are small and not a big deal. Other times, they are. Huge.

When you’re driving, you can consult Google Maps or Siri or some other all-knowing navigation system. But what do you do when the roadblock appears not on a highway or street, but in your life, on the path to your goals?

Roadblocks are a part of life, happening whether you expect them and deal with them like a pro…or not. I used to see roadblocks as a sign of defeat or inadequacy, so I’d often do all I could to avoid bumps in the road–which, in the mantra “go big or go home,” often leads to the latter option. When I did go big and it didn’t pay off, I worried I wouldn’t find an alternate route to my dreams.

Now? Roadblocks are my teachers, guides, reality checks, and rescuers. I throw out the welcome mat to them. Here’s why:

Roadblocks test your resolve and desire.

When your car hits potholes, you find out just how good your suspension and tire pressure is. When you hit one of Life’s potholes, you find out just how committed you are to the direction you’re headed. Your commitment level may fall into one of these categories:

  • Zero interest. You’re done. Congrats, you’ve discovered the path you were on isn’t for you. A valuable insight–to get to sooner than later–so you can get on with your life.
  • You’re still committed. But also bummed out, burned out, and/or stressed out.  These feelings are normal when you hit a wall. Uncomfortable for sure, but not a terrible place to be. Even doubt, worry, and fear can be useful…as long as that heaviness doesn’t persist long enough to hold you down permanently. Consider why these feelings arose and tune into the mind chatter that’s accompanying them. Maybe this is your opportunity to deal with an unsupportive belief or story about yourself. Because if you don’t now, they’re sure to show up down the road too.
  • You are all in, no matter what. No roadblock will shut you down! You’re a rock star. This commitment level is reinforcing your passion and your path. But before charging ahead, evaluate if the roadblock you’re facing could have been avoided by a different strategy, execution, or attitude. Slow your roll before taking immediate action–take time to reflect on the journey up until now, adjust your plan if necessary, and only then act upon the resulting action step.

Roadblocks force you to think, reflect, question, and brainstorm.

When you encounter a literal roadblock, you consult your smart phone’s or car’s map for an alternate route. When you hit a roadblock in life, you also need to take the time to evaluate the situation. Maybe you didn’t think much about the direction you were going and a deeper dive is in order. Have things changed that, in turn, ask you to reevaluate your wants, goals, and vision for your future?  Perhaps now’s a chance to get clear about your motives, why you started down this road in the first place and what you hope to get out of it. Will it serve your heart’s and soul’s purpose or needs? Or did your pursuit originate from a “should do”?

Roadblocks provide opportunities to learn, grow, and discover.

Like some of the most memorable and pleasurable road trips, unexpected detours may end up being the best part of the journey. And if they aren’t, you at least learn something about yourself and your travel companions along the way. The discovery might be that the “detour” is actually your true path. The lesson could be that the direction you were going was right but the timing wasn’t.

Metaphorical roadblocks test your flexibility and coping skills. Ask yourself questions. Listen to the answers. Brainstorm alternatives. The trick is to use roadblocks to your advantage so that when you finally get up and over them (which you will!), you’re an even better version of yourself because of the experience.

Bringing Your Dreams to Light and Life

One of my Big Dreams came true. I’m a published author.  Although I “knew” this day would come, it didn’t unfold as I’d imagined.

Have you ever wished and hoped for something, and then had the courage to start taking action on it, and then failed a few (or many) times, and worked on getting better and put in more time and effort because, in your bones, you knew this is something you must do–even if it doesn’t earn you a living or recognition–because you can contribute in some small way to the world? 

And then, after all the doubts and fears that you aren’t good enough–all those Who do you think you are for doing this? What makes YOU so special?–filled your ears and then your inner lion roared back that you are indeed worthy and every amazing accomplishment ever done was by a someone (who was once a no one) who did something and why not you

And then one day, that thing–that you wanted so badly and worked for so determinedly–happened. Not just in your imagination, daily visualizations, or dreams. For real. It’s an incredible feeling, isn’t it?

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That’s the path my dream of becoming a published author took. Long, winding, challenging, and in its own time frame.

I’ve written two books before, but you won’t find them anywhere because they never made it past a few drafts. Although I’ve made peace with that part of my history and did grow from it, those “failures” were definitely in the forefront of my mind when I set out to write this current book. This time, however, I was going to get out of my own way. I wasn’t going to let fear and doubt stop me from believing in my Big Dream or taking continuous action toward it.

I had experiences and knowledge I knew could help someone, and it was my soul’s and heart’s wish to give it to that someone. I wrote my book for the friends who know they are meant for something more but can’t see their path. I wrote my book for the strangers I’d overheard venting that they need to change their life now. I wrote my book for the high school and college students who are frustrated because they don’t know what they’re meant to do or be. I wrote my book for the adults who suddenly find themselves living someone else’s life.

I wrote my book for all these people because I was them. In realizing I’d discovered, learned, and gone through things that could help others, I couldn’t keep it to myself. And I didn’t.

As a friend and fellow author, Jai Maa, says: “There are no goals bigger than you. There are only goals that require you to be a bigger you.” I took that encouragement to heart. I hope you can too.

Be big, bold, and bright. Go after what you want. Let no one and nothing stop you. In bringing your soul’s dreams to light and life, you are making the world a better place for all of us. 

To learn more about my book Meant for More: Create Your Dream Life, Plan Your Path, and Start Living It Now please visit my author website

 

The Paralysis of Perfection

Have you ever had a juicy goal or dream that went nowhere? Maybe it was because you couldn’t get past the perfect ending you envisioned. Getting stuck there is largely thanks to the hoards of mental critics that magically appear when you’re about to do something you’ve never achieved. They instantly perk up and fill your head with refrains of: “How are you going to do this?! You’re not ready! Who do you think you are?” They readily supply you with a constant stream of evidence of your imminent failure. That you aren’t smart enough, you don’t know the right people, you don’t have enough money, you have no clue what you’re doing…anything and everything is game.

In short order, you’ve talked yourself out of something you passionately wanted to do. You haven’t taken one step, but in your mind, you’ve pinpointed and played out all the ways you’ve already failed. Your dream suffered Death by Doubt.

Waiting for the perfect moment doesn’t get you anywhere. I’ve missed out on opportunities and experiences because I let my fear of “doing it wrong” stop me. I’m now in that camp that believes it’s better to have tried and failed than to never try and be left with a dreaded “What if?” Waiting until you’re completely prepared and ready will paralyze your dreams…because that time hardly ever comes.

Please don’t misunderstand me…I’m not advocating running headfirst into life without any consideration. This rally cry is for those who have a tendency to be too thoughtful, too cautious. It’s for the Type A personalities and perfectionists. You know who you are.

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I chose this picture I took in Utah as an example of nature following through with her desires without worrying about a perfect ending. This twisted specimen is not what we normally envision when we think of trees. I was grateful the trees had carried on despite whatever challenges and odds they had faced…and there had to be a few. Each tree had a massive goal, and it succeeded in my opinion, but in a way that couldn’t have been predicted.

Nike was spot on with its iconic slogan, “Just do it.” The thing about “just doing it” before you’ve got it “all figured out” is…at least you did something. There are only three things that can happen after you take a step toward your goal:

  1. You fail. Maybe even worse than you could have predicted. Now you know what doesn’t work, and knowledge is power. If you still want to pursue that goal, you can brainstorm another tactic or try again with a refined approach based on lessons learned. If you figure out that your awesome goal wasn’t as awesome as you imagined, great! You can move on, with more perspective in your pocket. 
  2. The result is what you expected or hoped for. Yes! You know what works and can continue. Rock on!
  3. The result is crazy successful, beyond what you thought was possible. Major celebration time! You see that the only limits are the ones you put on yourself. 

Remember, most of the success stories you hear are about a victorious end result following many failures. If you have a passionate desire, a dream that won’t leave you alone, a juicy goal that excites you as much as it scares you…take that first step, no matter how small.

Do your absolute best each step of the way, and let go of whatever is out of your control. Trust yourself, trust Life. Celebrate your courage to feel the fear and do it anyway. Remember WHY you are reaching for this big, scary, audacious ending. Let that vision light you up and keep your fire burning. But just DO something.

What better time to start than right now?

Beyond Resolutions

Photo by K.C. © 2011 Kristin Conroy

By this time, we’ve all proclaimed our resolutions to our family, friends, neighbors, coworkers…anyone who will listen.  We mean well and want to stick with the beneficial resolutions we’ve set for ourselves, like working out five times a week, staying away from fried food, spending more quality time with the family, and saving more money.  However, without setting those resolutions into the deeper framework of your life, they are going to sound like mandates instead of goals you’ve voluntarily set for yourself. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being ordered around, even when I’m the one doing the ordering.

I have to…

I need to…

I should…

I must…

Those are not the most inspiring phrases.  These are more positive versions, don’t you think?:

I want to…

I will…

I see myself…

Which brings me to one of my resolutions:  I will go beyond resolutions, envision my Ultimate Life, and map out my goals for the next ten years in detail. Sounds like what you had to do in school, right?  What do you want to be when you grow up? Where do you see yourself in five, ten, fifteen years? Not quite though.  This goes way deeper and is much more powerful.

I attended my friend Donna’s Healthy Living class to get me unstuck after the tragedy I shared with you in Dealing with Grief.  In one of the classes,  she handed out a worksheet on goals.  Its purpose was to nail down what we wanted to accomplish in the next five years.

But before we could get to that, we had to envision our perfect life, one in which we were joyful, healthy, and truly content. What would that look like, in detail?  She encouraged us to describe the clothes we would wear, the home in which we would live, the career, the spouse, the family, the dog…whatever you wanted, as long as it got you giddy with excitement!  And it needed to be written in the present tense.  Writing about your ideal future life in the present (even if you’re nowhere near that) is exponentially more powerful than speaking about your future life in the future tense.

Then, with that juicy picture in mind, we worked backwards, asking ourselves “What do I have to accomplish five years from now to make that big picture a reality?”  Then, “What has to happen in the next year?”  We worked in reverse time until we had answered what we wanted get done in the next week.  If your Ultimate Life, for example, includes living in a luxurious five-bedroom house and enjoying a successful career as a world-renown, best-selling author (sounds good to me!), what steps would you have to take to get there?  A successful author must have written a top-selling book (or ten) that earns a small fortune, thereby enabling the author to buy that huge house.  Of course, those accomplishments don’t happen overnight, so what steps lead up to that?  Getting an amazing agent, editor, and publisher are involved, but before that, the book(s) must be written.  And a whole lot needs to happen before that.  You get the idea.

There’s quite a bit of effort involved in envisioning your Ultimate Life, but you can see how working backwards from there in specific detail will eventually uncover what needs to happen in the next week to start making your dream a reality. It’s a simple concept, but using this method has so much more ooomph behind it when you take the time to really see your desired future in colorful, detailed High Definition. 

Although resolutions are excellent, think bigger, farther, and more powerfully than that! Try imagining your Ultimate Life and setting your Big Picture Goals to begin immediately moving toward that life.  Our Ultimate Life vision may not turn out exactly the way we plan, and our Big Picture Goals may change, and probably will.  Because, let’s face it, life has a way of surprising us, and we don’t have a crystal ball.  But harnessing and focusing our energy into becoming the best, most successful, most joyful version of ourselves can only lead to amazing opportunities and an amazing life!

I made my own version of Donna’s worksheet here.  Download and print it, so you can start envisioning your Ultimate Life and get moving in that direction!

You don’t always need a map to start your journey

Photo by Jill Rath © 2010

You’ve come up with an idea, a goal, a new direction for yourself in a moment of inspiration. You feel your heartbeat quicken, passion pumping through your veins, and can see your desired end-result as clearly as if watching on an HD flat screen T.V. Great feeling, right? The only problem is, you have no clue how to get there. You use all your energy searching for a game plan, but can’t think of one. Maybe a few ideas to plug in, but not enough to fill in all the gaps. Uh-oh. Do you put your fabulous vision on your mind’s back burner until you create a detailed map of action?

Photo by K.C. © 2010 Kristin Conroy

Don’t think you have the courage it takes? I bet you do. Think back on all the times you’ve been forced to take action, things you never would have attempted otherwise, or never thought you could have accomplished.  You had to learn on the fly and adjust quickly as you trekked through uncharted (to you at least) territory.  You may not have traveled in style, but you reached your endpoint, and did a darn good job getting there.

If I’ve lost you with all this insane imagery, let me speak frankly. Always waiting until you have a clear-cut plan before embarking on a life journey will leave you with a really fancy map and itinerary list, but not one souvenir to show for it.

Our paths present themselves mile by mile, yard by yard, or perhaps only footprint by footprint.  Your steps may fall on paved roads, dirt trails, or rocky paths.  But you’ll never know until you take that deep breath, summon up all your courage, and make that first step.  Whatever glorious goals you have for yourself, I encourage you to let go of that need to have everything figured out before acting on them. Be a courageous explorer, a fulfiller of your own life and destiny. Do that, and I’ll wager some travel trinkets you’ll have some really cool adventures to your destination, and inspire others along the way.