As 2015 draws to a close, we take time to reflect on the year’s journey and plan for the future. For most, work and career command the most contemplation, since we spend about 2,000 hours of each year working. Yes, you read that correctly. That time of reflection may leave you frustrated though, since according to Gallup over 68% of us our dissatisfied with our work! Since it’s never been easier to launch a side hustle or go out as a full-time freelancer, why haven’t more people changed the directions of their lives? Why haven’t you started that book, launched your website, or quit your soul-sucking job?
For many, the answer to those questions comes down to one thing: self-doubt. Do you have what it takes? Will anyone read/purchase/buy from you? Don’t let these questions circle around in your head for another year.
Here’s how to break the self-doubt cycle and actually launch your big idea in 2016.
1. Take One Small Step Forward
Dale Carnegie may have said it best, “Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
However, there is one footnote I’d add to Carnegie’s message: the first action you take to overcome fear and self-doubt can be tiny. Maybe you simply tell someone, out loud, that you’re considering quitting your job. Perhaps your Step One is to purchase a domain name for your product idea. You could share a blog post on Facebook for the first time, or take the leap and stream live on Periscope.
The key is to stop thinking and start doing, because with each little action you take, you realize that doing is not so bad after all. As you feel the excitement of execution, you start to gain confidence.
2. Expect It To Be Lame At First
This is something we, as a society, don’t talk about enough. When you start a blog, no one reads it but your mom. When you start performing at coffee shops, only your friends show up. When you start writing your novel, you’ll only have a few measly pages at first. Technology and the internet make everything seem fast and simple, but anything worth doing takes time and effort. I have seen many an excited dreamer start on their new project only to bail one month in because they didn’t anticipate just how lame starting actually is.
To stay the course, accept the idea that in the first few weeks (or months) you will feel like a loser. You’ll cringe when someone asks about the project, or congratulates you on the coffee shop gig, or says they saw your Facebook post. When I started posting articles and videos, only my friends and family watched or shared. Now, 40+ videos later, I reach thousands each week. I knew that if I remained consistent I’d gain momentum eventually, and so will you. Starting is a short season, but you have to get through it.
3. Share Small Wins Publicly
When you start to take action towards the realization of your dream, whatever it may be, it’s important to celebrate small wins. I encourage you to do this publicly. If you reach a goal, like 100 blog subscribers or 20,000 words of your novel, tell a few people about it. You don’t have to share specifics, simply saying “I reached my word goal for the week!” is enough.
This is an important step because it reminds you, and also shows others, that you have momentum. It also demonstrates that you are changing things and moving forward. Momentum is magnetic. People will want to check out what you’re doing because it’s in motion. Later in your journey, after struggling with writer’s block, a low sales month, or hater comments, you can look back and remember that you do indeed have a good thing going.
4. Slowly Pick Up Speed
Taking the first step towards your dream builds confidence for taking more action, and hopefully bigger and bigger steps. Keep in mind that this builds like a snowball. No one expects you to go from one page to a finished novel in one week, or from coffee shops to arenas in one year, so don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself. Make goals for each week or each day, increasing in size until you’re well on your way.
5. Don’t Stop
Once you are moving at a good clip, realize another thing about momentum: it’s precious.
The second you have some inertia, I encourage you to double-down instead of coast. If your blog post goes viral, post even more in the days following. If you are in the zone, writing a million words per minute, skip lunch and maybe even dinner. You get the idea.
There will be times when you are barely crawling along. Even when you’re living the dream, there is still grunt work. You’ll face writer’s block, or unhappy clients, or a failed product. It’s going to happen. When it does, don’t stop. Go at a snail’s pace if you have to, but don’t let self-doubt tell you to stop completely. Keep working on your dream a little bit each day, even if only for a few minutes.
6. Anticipate Course Corrections
Once I started studying and interviewing successful people, I realized that very few of them had a straight path to success. Not only did they overcome failures, but many of them also ended up in totally different careers or industries than they anticipated. Be prepared for sudden detours that take you to an entirely new dream. Self-doubt can creep back in, as if changing direction means failure. I assure you, it does not. When I quit my job a few years ago, I envisioned a completely different life than the one I’m currently living. I never thought I’d end up sitting down to interview Al Roker. Never. I had to abandon other dreams and goals for the amazing course I am on now. Dreams change.
If you’re stuck in a life you don’t love, start small, prepare to feel lame, and remember to keep going. Soon, you’ll be confident in your abilities and well on your way to redesigning your life.
Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com