Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on February 28, 2018

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

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?

    Advertising

    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.

      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.

      Advertising

        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.

        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]

        Advertising

          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.

          Advertising

          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

          More by this author

          Michelle Millis Chappel

          Princeton Ph.D. in psychology, world-acclaimed singer-songwriter, speaker, coach, and author

          Feeling Like It Might Be Too Late To Pursue Your Dreams? Think Again music Scientists Find 15 Amazing Benefits Of Listening To Music compassion Showing Compassion For Animals Can Improve Your Health, Research Says toxic relationship 16 Deal Breakers for People Who Are Stuck in Toxic Relationships Superpowers 10 Questions To Help You Find and Boost Your Superpowers

          Trending in Mental Strength

          1 7 Signs You’re Ready to Change Your Life (And What to Do Next) 2 7 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of the Unknown And Get More Out of Life 3 Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering 4 How to Get Your Life Back on Track When Things Are Out of Control 5 10 Reasons Personal Growth Is Important No Matter How Old You Are

          Read Next

          Advertising
          Advertising
          Advertising

          Last Updated on January 15, 2019

          How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

          How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

          Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

          In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

          Step right up, don’t be shy!

          Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

          The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

          Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

          Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
          So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

          A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

          Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

          Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

          When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

          Culturally Conditioned

          We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

          I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

          The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

          Advertising

          Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

          Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

          Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

          1. Broadens Your Network

          After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

          2. Improves Your Communication Skills

          I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

          Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

          3. Continually Learning

          So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

          Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

          4. Increases Self Confidence

          Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

          Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

          So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

          How to Talk to Strangers

          Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

          Advertising

          1. Say Hello

          Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

          Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

          Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

          2. Ask About Them

          Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

          You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

          As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

          3. Just Do It

          One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

          When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

          Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

          4. Don’t Take It Personal

          One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

          When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

          Advertising

          5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

          I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

          One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

          6. Detach

          A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

          Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

          7. Share Your Stories

          Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

          To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

          So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

          8. Give a Compliment

          Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

          When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

          9. Relax Your Body Language

          If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

          When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

          Advertising

          If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

          10. Practice, Practice, Practice

          Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

          Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

          After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

          The Bottom Line

          As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

          There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

          Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

          Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

          More Resources About Strengthening Communication Skills

          Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

          Reference

          Read Next