Joe Strummer and Mick Jones wrote these lyrics for the band the Clash in 1981. It was their number one hit and continues to be played by other bands. The lyrics speak to a universal conundrum—if we should pursue something that is important to us, whether it be a dream or something else that would have us live up to what we feel is a version of our “ideal self.”
If you have goals and dreams, you are going to step outside your comfort zone into the “land of uncertainty.” Dreams have both a way of thrilling us and sending jolts of fear at the same time.
I remember when I was going to push the button to book my dream trip of riding horseback in the Pyrenees in Spain. I was terrified and, at the same time, excited. It was a dream coming true. AND it was scary. I almost made up a lame excuse about why I couldn’t go.
Don’t lie. I know you’ve done the same thing a time or two in your life.
You aren’t alone in this behavior. In fact, there is much research on decision-making and risk.
When faced with a decision, we want to weigh the risks and hopefully make a choice that meets our objectives. We have been taught to be “logical” and make a list of pros and cons. However, research shows that when it comes to making decisions with risk, beliefs, perceptions, and negative bias are the major players.
In a 1982 study done on risk and decision-making by the National Research Council the researchers found that “anxiety about risk is a product of people’s beliefs and attitudes. People often form such beliefs and attitudes on the basis of incomplete and often biased information using fallible modes of inference, which sometimes result in systematic distortions and misperceptions of reality.”
Daniel Kahneman, PhD, won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with his research paper co-written by Amos Tversky, “Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk.” They found that people make decisions based on “rules of thumb” versus rational analysis and are more adverse to loss than gains.
To achieve your dreams, you need to step outside your comfort zone and GET UNCOMFORTABLE and take RISKS! This is where the magic begins.
There are strategies you can implement to help you overcome these innate tendencies to play it safe, to avoid loss.
Change Your Perspective on Risk
Take the risk of believing in yourself. If you don’t risk anything, you will never know what you are capable of.
Ask a different question, “What is it costing me to not take action?” Make a list of how it will feel and what will happen if you don’t take action.
Most of us don’t assess the “hidden” risks of not pursuing what we would love and what matters to us. We make excuses about why we are settling for the status quo.
Do you want to risk the opportunity to live up to your ideal self and become that person you know you really are deep down? Or live with the regret of not doing it?
In a study published in the journal Emotion, “The Ideal Road Not Taken,” Tom Gilovich, PhD, and co-author Shai Davidai, PhD, found people’s most enduring regrets are not following their dreams, such as traveling the world or taking an exciting career opportunity. People are more likely to regret what they didn’t do versus what they did do.
“When we evaluate our lives, we think about whether we’re heading toward our ideal selves, becoming the person we’d like to be.
Those are the regrets that are going to stick with you, because they are what you look at through the windshield of life.”
—Tom Gilovich, PhD
Just Do It!
“I’ll do it when . . .” This is a real dream-killer. Price Pritchett, PhD, once said to me, “Planning is where all good ideas and dreams go to die.” However, pursuing your dream by taking action today is the secret to bringing your dream into reality.
You can wish for and long for something every day, but that isn’t going to make it happen.
“But I need to be inspired before I begin.” This is a common theme I hear, but it just isn’t true.
“As the Nike slogan says: ‘Just do it.’ Don’t wait around for inspiration, just plunge in. Waiting around for inspiration is an excuse. Inspiration arises from engaging in the activity,” per Gilovich et al.
Reframe Failure and Be Uncomfortable
Most people don’t achieve their goals and dreams because they are afraid of failing. They don’t want to disappoint themselves or others. Or they are worried about what other people will think about them.
REALLY!? Let’s be really, really clear. No one else is going to have to live with all your regrets as well as a sense of loss of time and misspent energy but YOU.
And frankly, people are way too busy worrying about themselves and their lives to notice what you are doing.
Are they really your friends if they naysay something that really MATTERS to you?
Pursuing a worthy endeavor that matters to you requires being uncomfortable and failing occasionally in the process.
Look at all the stories of people who pursued their goals from losing weight to swimming from Cuba to Florida (here is a link to Diana Nyad’s story).
They failed, they were uncomfortable. Reframe failing by seeing it as a signal that success is ahead. Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He learned from each of his failures.
This is a fun fact I used to motivate me when I was trying to quit smoking when I was 20 years old. Each time you try to quit smoking, you increase your chance of being successful the next time.
When you are uncomfortable, reframe how you are thinking about it from “Something is wrong” to “I’m outside my comfort zone and this is where the magic begins.”
Learn calming techniques like breathing or meditation to recalibrate your nervous system when anxiety or fear arises. Mindfulness is noticing your thoughts and feelings without judgment.
Research estimates that 95% of our behavior is from running on autopilot. Practice pausing throughout your day and taking 3 deep nourishing breaths, breathing in through your nose and out through you mouth as if you are breathing out through a straw. This sends a signal to your brain that you are safe and can relax. This helps to connect us into your higher cognitive thinking.
The last thing I want you to know is the world needs you and your gift no matter how big or small.
You are unique and essential; there is only one of you on this planet and you are here for a reason.
I believe in you 💕
What is one small step you can take right now to move you closer to your goal or dream?
Here is to you living the best version of yourself.