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Last Updated on January 25, 2021

Feeling Like It Might Be Too Late To Pursue Your Dreams? Think Again

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Feeling Like It Might Be Too Late To Pursue Your Dreams? Think Again

“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” —Robert Schuller

This is a terrific question to ask yourself to find out what you really want in life. But it doesn’t help much when you go after your dreams and fall flat on your face. It’s painful to be told that you’re not good enough. It’s embarrassing to fail in front of others. How do you bounce back after suffering a setback? You can make your dreams come true as long as you possess the right mindset to overcome obstacles. Let me show you how I created my heart’s desire so that you can overcome failure and reach your dreams, too.

Years ago when I was a psychology professor at Santa Clara University, students used to line up outside my office to ask me what they should major in or where they should go to graduate school. It turns out I was offering radically different advice from their parents and other professors. One of our brightest seniors came to my office in tears. My colleague across the hall had told her to go to the best graduate school she could, even though it meant moving to the east coast and leaving her fiancé behind. A miserable electrical engineering major told me his father wouldn’t let him major in psychology because there was no money in it.

My advice was simple. I always told my students to follow their hearts.

That was my favorite part of the job. Even though I got terrific teaching evaluations and published articles in the best journals in my field, I wasn’t happy. I didn’t know it yet, but academics wasn’t the right path for me.

    I started playing the guitar to unwind from work, a hobby I hadn’t engaged in since my teens. Late in the evenings after grading papers, I wrote “little songs.” I sang at a couple of open mic events on the weekends. I was so nervous I forgot my own lyrics but I received decent applause anyway. Eventually, I joined a band and performed at a few cool nightclubs. Several of my students attended my shows and the line to my office grew longer.

    One afternoon as I watched yet another relieved face disappear out my office door, I felt deeply empty. I realized I wasn’t following my own heart. What did I really want to be when I grew up? A rock ’n’ roll star!

    “Ridiculous,” a voice that sounded a lot like my mother’s screamed inside my head. For one, it would mean I had wasted four years at Princeton getting my Ph.D. in psychology. For another, I was too old. How could I change now? Wasn’t it too late?

    I kept thinking about how happy my students appeared whenever I gave them permission to be their true selves. Despite being called “crazy” by my mom and many of my colleagues, I left my solid teaching position to follow my childhood dream. I’d only written a handful of songs at the time, but I knew if I didn’t do it then, I never would.

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      One week after I packed up my office to start my new career as a rock star, my band broke up and I had to cancel a summer’s worth of gigs. I curled up into a fetal position on the couch and ate nothing but peanut butter and crackers for two days. I repeatedly listened to the song we’d recorded that was getting the most traction in LA. Why did we have to stop NOW?

      Then I had an “a ha” moment. That tune featured my voice and guitar playing, not my bandmates. Perhaps my sound was stronger as a singer-songwriter than it had been as the lead singer of a pop act. This setback was a clue for what I needed to do to succeed.

      I started a duo with a new guitarist. We soon developed a following and Rick drove down to LA to pitch my songs to a record label with which he had ties. The A&R representative listened to the first tune all the way to the end (a rare event). Excited to hear more, he asked Rick a million questions about me, including my age. Rick casually mentioned that I was 30 years old and the rep ended the meeting on the spot.

      Luckily, I was too naive to understand that my blossoming career had already been crushed. I didn’t buy into the theory that I was past my prime. I looked young for my age and I didn’t know any better, so I kept playing music. I supported myself by lecturing at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where I was voted “Most Inspirational Professor” by the students.

      I attended local songwriting events to take my game up a level. I can’t tell you how many times I cried in my car after receiving harsh critiques. Still, I listened and learned. For a couple of years, dozens of my songs got picked up by publishers and record labels in LA and Nashville.

      But nothing came of it.

      I looked for fresh ways to get my music out. My manager was South African. Why not put all my best songs in an album and take it to his country? Within a handful of months my debut CD got distributed through Polygram Records and produced a top 10 hit. Eleven songs received radio airplay. I was 35 years old.

        Since then my tunes have topped South Africa, Europe, and U.S. college radio charts, and appeared on ABC, HBO, Encore, and Showtime. As a teacher of creativity workshops for the past 20 years, I’ve helped thousands of people break through their self-limiting beliefs and live crazy beautiful lives, too.

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        Here are eight ways to overcome failure and reach your dreams.

        1. What People Think of You is None of Your Business

        Not everyone will applaud you for going after your dream. Listen to the tiny voice within you instead. It’s constantly telling you what you need to do to realize your potential.

        It may be just a whisper now, but the more you pay attention to it, the louder it will get. Give yourself permission to follow it and find like-minded people to support you.

        2. Think of Obstacles as a Test

        When my band broke up I didn’t know at the time that this was par for the course. I had run into a “threshold guardian.” This mythological fringe dweller appears as you cross over into the land of your dreams. It holds up its hand and says, “come no further,” but its true purpose is to determine whether you’re really committed to doing what it takes to get what you want.

        Threshold guardians are often easy to pass by if you just keep going.

        3. Persist Through Setbacks

        When you set out to follow your heart, you’ll take a step, you’ll fail, and you’ll feel like quitting. Please don’t give up! Typical learning curves show that it’s normal to be below par at first.[1]

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          If you persist, you will inevitably improve. So hang in there!

          4. View Failure as Feedback

          Did you know that Oprah Winfrey was demoted early in her career as a news anchor because she did not have the “it factor” for TV? She went on to reinvent and rule daytime talk shows for 25 years.

          “There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.” —Oprah Winfrey

          It’s common to hit dead ends and setbacks on your journey to reclaim your heartfelt dreams. Use failure as feedback and refine your approach.

          5. Find Alternative Pathways to your Goals

          If you fail to achieve your goal, come up with a more viable route. Be willing to learn a new skill or ask for help. Make it a regular practice to think of alternative strategies to accomplish your aims.

          Do you have a plan B to help you reach your dreams? Read more about How to Back Up Your Life

          6. Bombard Your Inner Critic with Positive Affirmations

          When you leave your comfort zone to follow your heart, your inner critic will tell you that you’re not good enough or you’re an imposter. It doesn’t mean this negative thinking is true. Research shows that you can overcome this hurdle by saying positive affirmations to yourself such as “keep going” and “you can do it.”[2]

          7. Relabel “Fear” as “Excitement”

          When something scares you, your sympathetic nervous system gets you ready for fight or flight. Did you know that you experience the same physiological reactions when you’re excited?

          So, the next time you get sweaty palms, try reinterpreting that response as excitement and use that nervous energy to master whatever you’re trying to do, whether it be giving a talk, going on a job interview, or winning a race.

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          8. Make a Vision Statement to Guide You

          Create a mission statement that summarizes the future you want and read it every day. Let it serve as a beacon in the night when self-doubt clouds your judgment and obstacles impede your progress. Even the faintest glimmer of what you want — a destination point on the horizon — can keep you steady, on aim.

          “There is nothing like a dream to create the future.”—Victor Hugo

          You were born with a unique gift that no one else in the world can express like you. When you dance to your own music, you naturally develop these intrinsic talents and excel at work and life. But when you’re forced to conform to someone else’s idea of who you should be, it throws off your groove.

          Getting your authentic groove back is not about being the best at something or proving yourself to others. It’s about tapping into your special strengths and feeling alive as you use them. By doing something you enjoy just one or two hours a week, you can slowly change your life and reach your dreams. It’s a failsafe way to discover and boost your superpowers without jumping off a cliff.

          Research at San Francisco State University shows that having a hobby lowers stress, increases happiness, and makes you more effective at work.[3] So, pick up a paintbrush for the first time or revisit an old passion such as playing hockey. Who knows? Your side project could lead to a new career path or transform into a thriving business down the road.

          As C.S. Lewis said,

          “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

          What small step can you take today to pursue your heartfelt desire? I’d love to know!

          Reference

          [1] Flashcard Learner: The learning curve
          [2] Spirituality Health: 5 Tips for Better Self-Talk
          [3] NPR: Got A Hobby? Might Be A Smart Professional Move

          More by this author

          Dr. Michelle Millis Chappel

          Michelle is a psychology-professor-turned-rock-star who has helped thousands of people create successful meaningful lives by using their superpowers.

          How to Become Goal Oriented and Achieve More in Life Feeling Like It Might Be Too Late To Pursue Your Dreams? Think Again 17 Ways for Building Resilience and Staying Tough 10 Principles for Success to Start Living Your Dream Life Scientists Find 15 Amazing Benefits Of Listening To Music

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          Last Updated on October 7, 2021

          How to Make a Change With the Four Quadrants of Change

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          How to Make a Change With the Four Quadrants of Change

          Quitting smoking is the easiest thing in the world. Some people quit smoking a thousand times in their lives! Everyone knows someone with this mindset.

          But this type of change is superficial. It doesn’t last. For real, lasting change to take place, we need to consider the quadrants of change.

          Real change, the change that is fundamental, consistent, and longitudinal (lasting over time) has to happen in four quadrants of your life.

          It doesn’t have to be quitting smoking; it can be any habit you want to break — drinking, biting your nails, overeating, playing video games, shopping, and more.

          Most experts focus on only one area of change, some focus on two areas, but almost none focus on all four quadrants of change. That’s why much of change management fails.

          Whether it is in the personal life of a single individual through actions and habits, or in a corporate environment, regarding the way they conduct their business, current change management strategies are lacking.

          It all stems from ignoring at least one part of the equation.

          So, today, we will cover all four quadrants of change and learn the formula for how to change fundamentally and never go back to your “old self.”

          A word of warning: this is simple to do, but it’s not easy. Anyone who tells you that change is easy is either trying to sell you something, or they have no idea what they’re talking about.

          Those who want an overnight solution have left the article now, so that leaves you, me, and the real process of change.

          The Four Quadrants of Change

          There are four areas, or quadrants, in which you need to make a change in order for it to stick. If you miss or ignore a single one of these, your change won’t stick, and you will go back to your previous behavior.

          The four quadrants are:

          1. Internal individual – mindset
          2. External individual – behavior
          3. Internal collective – culture/support system
          4. External collective – laws, rules, regulations, teams, systems, states

          All four of these quadrants of change may sound like they could carry change all by themselves, but they can’t. So, be sure to implement your change in all four quadrants. Otherwise, it will all be in vain.

          First Quadrant — Internal Individual

          This quadrant focuses on the internal world of an individual, and it concerns itself with the mindset of a person.

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          Our actions stem from our thoughts (most of the time), and if we change our mindset toward something, we will begin to process of changing the way we act.

          People who use the law of attraction fall into this category, where they’ve recognized the strength of thoughts and how they make us change ourselves.

          Even Lao Tzu had a great saying regarding this:

          “Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything.” [1]

          One of the most impactful ways you can make a change in this quadrant is to implement what James Clear calls identity-based habits. [2]

          Instead of prioritizing the outcome of a change (ex.: I want to lose 20 pounds), you prioritize your identity as a person (I want to become/remain a healthy person).

          Here are a couple of examples for you to see the strength of this kind of resolution:

          I want to watch many movies = I am a cinema lover
          I want to clean my apartment = I am a clean person
          I want to harvest my crops = I am a harvester (farmer)
          I want to swim = I am a swimmer

          This quadrant is about changing the identity you attach to a certain action. Once you re-frame your thinking in this way, you will have completed the first of the quadrants of change.

          Second Quadrant — External Individual

          This quadrant focuses on the external world of an individual and concerns itself with the behavior of a person.

          This is where people like Darren Hardy, the author of the Compound Effect reside. Hardy is about doing small, consistent actions that will create change in the long run (the compound effect).

          You want to lose 30 pounds? Start by eating just 150 calories (approximately two slices of bread) less a day, and in two and a half years, you will have lost 30 pounds.

          The same rules apply to business, investing, sports, and multiple other areas. Small, consistent actions can create big changes.

          This works — I’ve read 20 extra pages a day for the past two years, and it accumulated into 90 books read in two years. [3]

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          Here, you have two ways of dealing with change behaviorally: negative environmental design and positive environmental design.

          Negative Environmental Design

          This is when you eliminate the things from your environment that revert you to the old behavior. If you want to stop eating ice cream, you don’t keep it in your freezer.

          If you want to stop watching TV, you remove the batteries from the remote and put them on the other side of the house (it works!).

          Positive Environmental Design

          This is when you put the things that you want to do withing reach — literally!

          You want to learn how to play guitar? Put your guitar right next to your sofa. You want to head to the gym? Put the gym clothes in a backpack and put it on top of your shoes.

          You want to read more books? Have a book on your nightstand, your kitchen table, and on the sofa.

          You can even combine this last trick with my early advice about removing the batteries from your remote control, combining the negative and positive environmental designs for maximum effect.

          Two Sides of the Same Coin

          If you just change your behavior and leave your intentions (thoughts) intact, your discipline will fail you and the real change won’t happen.

          You will simply revert back to the previous behavior because you haven’t changed the fundamental root of why this problem occurs in the first place.

          That is why you need to create change both in the first quadrant (internal individual — mindset) and the second quadrant (external individual — behavior). These quadrants of change are two sides of the same coin.

          Most change management would stop here, and that’s why most change management fails.

          No matter how much you focus on yourself, there are things that affect our lives that are happening outside of us. That is the focus of the two remaining quadrants.

          Third Quadrant — Internal Collective

          This quadrant focuses on the internal world of the collective where the individual resides, and it concerns itself with the culture of that collective.

          There are two different distinctions here: the Inner Ring and the Outer Ring.

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          The Inner Ring

          These are your friends and your family. The Inner Ring is the place where the social and cultural norms of your friends and family rule.

          So, if everyone in your family is overweight and every lunch is 1,000 calories per person, then you can say goodbye to your idea of becoming healthy.

          In this case, the culture of your group, the inner norms that guide the decisions, actions, thoughts, ideas, and patterns of behaviors are all focused on eating as much as possible. [4]

          You need to have the support of your Inner Ring if you want to achieve change. If you don’t have this support, the the best way to proceed is by either changing your entire Inner Ring or distancing yourself from it.

          Beware — most Inner Rings won’t accept the fact that you want to change and will undermine you on many occasions — some out of habit, some due to jealousy, and some because supporting you would mean that they have to change, too.

          You don’t have to cut ties with people, but you can consciously decide to spend less time with them.

          The Outer Ring

          The Outer Ring consists of the culture of your company, community, county, region, and country. For example, it’s quite hard to be an open-minded person in North Nigeria, no matter how you, your friends, and your family think.

          The Outer Ring is the reason why young people move to the places that share their value systems instead of staying in their current city, county, or country.

          Sometimes, you need to change your Outer Ring as well because its culture is preventing you from changing.

          I see this every single day in my country, where the culture can be so toxic that it doesn’t matter how great of a job you have or how great your life currently looks — the culture will change you, inch by inch, until you become like it.

          Fourth Quadrant — External Collective

          This quadrant focuses on the external world of the collective where the individual resides, and it concerns itself with the systems, teams, laws, and rules of that collective.

          This quadrant is about the external manifestations of the collective culture. If the majority of the environment thinks in a certain way, they will create institutions that will implement that way of thinking.

          The same rules apply to companies.

          One example for companies would be those managers who think that employees are lazy, lack responsibility, and need constant supervision (or what is called Theory X in management).

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          Then, those managers implement systems that reflect that kind of culture– no flexible work hours, strict rules about logging work, no remote work, etc.

          Your thoughts, however, may be different. You might believe that people want responsibility, that they are capable of self-direction, that they can make good decisions, and that managers don’t need to stand on their necks if they want something done (this is called Theory Y in management).

          Then, you would want to have flexible working hours, different ways of measuring your productivity (for example, not time on the job but work produced), and remote work, if possible for your profession.

          This is when you enter into a conflict with the external collective quadrant. Here, you have four options: leave, persevere, neglect, and voice.

          Leave

          You can simply leave the company/organization/community/country and go to a different place. Most people decide to do this.

          Persevere

          This is when you see that the situation isn’t good, but you decide to stick at it and wait for the perfect time (or position) where you can implement change.

          Neglect

          This is where you give up on the change you want to see and just go with the flow, doing the minimal work necessary to keep the status quo.

          These are the people who are disengaged at work and are doing just the bare minimum necessary (which, in the U.S. is around 65% of the workforce).

          I did this only once, and it’s probably the only thing I regret doing in my life.

          Voice

          This is where you actively work on changing the situation, and the people in charge know that you want to create a change.

          It doesn’t matter if it’s your company, community, or your country; you are actively calling for a change and will not stop until it’s implemented.

          Putting It All Together

          When you take it all into account, change is simple, in theory, but it isn’t easy to execute. It takes work in all four quadrants:

          1. Internal individual — mindset
          2. External individual — behavior
          3. Internal collective — culture/support system
          4. External collective — laws, rules, regulations, teams, systems, states

          Some will require more work, some less, but you will need to create a change in all four of them.

          But don’t let that discourage you because change is possible, and many people have done this. The best time to start changing was yesterday, but the second best time is today.

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          Featured photo credit: Djim Loic via unsplash.com

          Reference

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