Up until recently, I've had an incredibly erroneous belief about life and time: that eventually things would calm down, and I’d have all the hours I needed to dedicate to my passions.
While in high school I rushed from the final bell to my part-time job to late night studying sessions, I wondered if things would be less hectic in college.
At the university, I juggled massive course loads, extra curricular activities, a job, and “extra curricular activities”. Surely things will calm down once I am out of school, I thought.
Then came post-academic existence, spending my full-time hours serving with AmeriCorps, while nannying on the side for extra money, and managing a social life.
So it went. So it went.
Spoiler alert –– things never got less hectic. Things never slowed down. Life never felt “less crazy”. A perfect time never presented itself for me to dedicate my time towards chasing the dreams that swirled through my mind daily.
Eventually, I realized: life’s limitations weren’t going to change, so I had to.
1) Rethink Time
As we are reminded by the clocks that govern our day-to-day existences, time is limited. For the 8-hour sleepers, this means a maximum of 16 hours of conscious, and thus, potentially productive time per day.
We kid ourselves into thinking that at certain moments of life, we’ll somehow be able to access more of that time –– like clearing out certain responsibilities will naturally make way for hours of passion projects.
In reality, something else happens: other activities appear to fill in the gaps.
For me, this has meant everything from forming a serious relationship, finding another part-time job, volunteering, spending more time with friends, launching my own website, you get the idea.
Indeed, for as long as I can remember, I have felt busy.
No huge life change awarded me swaths of time to do what I love; I have had to find a way to prioritize my passions alongside the myriad of other things in my life.
Now, I also know that because of my personality, I tend to create lifestyles that look this way.
As a naturally anxious person with a coffee addiction, to-do lists are my mortal frenemy, at once cheerleading my productivity and constantly challenging me… you could be getting more done, they whisper.
Shut up, notepad!
Anyways, I’m the kind of person that starts every day at 0, and with every task completed, hope to inch closer and closer to 100 by nightfall. While days of utter laziness and Netflix binges do happen (full disclosure –– usually a product of a bad hangover), they are few and far between.
Despite my constant, self-imposed busy-ness, I always seem to be looking for other things to add to my plate. I could be burnin’ it at both ends, but if a cool opportunity slides into my email inbox or social media feed, well sign me up! if only I had a Time Turner….
I just want to do a lot, ok?
2) Shut Down Negativity
So, given all that you now know about my rush-rush existence, you can imagine my frustration when I meet people who claim that they are “just too busy” for X or Y –– people who make excuses for why they aren’t chasing after something they supposedly really want. This could be anything from losing weight to starting a business to going back to school.
You can imagine how my frustration builds even more when I intimately know said person’s personal life and know that it’s not that busy, a la Gina standards.
Do I back off, understanding that not all people want to live lifestyles of high productivity, (eu)stress, and constant motion?
OF COURSE NOT!
I start spitting out unrequested advice like a broken Pez dispenser, usually through a barrage of questions followed by suggestions.
Are you annoyed with me yet? I am.
Ok, so maybe I get kind of overzealous with this stuff, and certainly all my strategies are not for everyone.
But beyond any kind of life hack, app, tool, shortcut or other buzzworthy thing we could talk about when it comes to making time for new things in your life, there is one basic thing that you must do first:
Change your attitude.
Apart from the actual limitations of time (Hermione, seriously, I’ll pay you handsomely for that gold necklace), your mindset around what is possible for you to achieve in your current environment can make all the difference in determining whether you’ll actually take the leap and go for that promotion, try out that new class, or take that trip.
Erroneous beliefs cripple us –- they make us believe that our dreams are not possible. They come in the form of negative self-talk, jealous peers, skeptical family members, unrealistic media representations, and tons of other gatekeepers that love telling people “No, you can’t.”
Teaching yourself how to put those doubts aside and choosing to believe otherwise can radically alter how you view the possibilities in your life.
“Don’t believe me, just watch.”
— 21st century philosopher, Bruno Mars
3) Plan, Stan.
Now, in case you’re balking at this idea, thinking I’ve gone off my rocker in suggesting this “if you can dream it, you can do it” mentality, here’s where I hit you with the cold, hard truth.
Dreaming is great. But without a plan, dreaming is all you will ever do. Period.
It’s really romantic to think that the passion of a dream is enough to get you there. Sorry Charlie, it’s not.
You have to put in serious legwork to get to where you want to go.
You have to make sacrifices of time, money, and sleep.
You have to put up with peers, family members, and internet trolls who don’t understand what you’re doing.
You have to get up after failing over and over again.
You have to build a bridge that will get you from here to there –– you need a plan.
Let’s take an example, which is definitely not lifted from my childhood journal:
“I would love to open a library someday. That’s my dream.”
(Ok, Belle…. We know that’s you! Apparently I’m only channeling Emma Watson characters today. Hey, when does The Circle come out?)
If you framed it as such, you’re probably never going to do it. Why?
If you are truly committed to making widely considered impossible things happen in your life, you need to drastically alter your way of thinking about it.
You need to take your dreams just as seriously as you take paying your rent, seeing the doctor, and catching the newest episode of The Voice.
You need to make a plan to make it happen.
If you think you don’t have the time, figure out how to make it.
If you think it’s impossible, learn how to jump over the hurdles.
If you think it’s just a dream, make a road map to get there.
Obviously, doing all the aforementioned things is a lot more complicated than I’m making it seem.
But, it all starts with questioning your mentality and daring to change it.
Time for Action
So, that’s all I’ll ask of you right now. As you go through your day today, look for the places where you think, hear, or see absolute assumptions.
Then, ask yourself one simple question: “Really?”
Do things really have to be the way people say they do. (Psst -- The answer is no!)
Dig a little deeper, and you might find something surprising.
You might find the first step to building your dream.
If you liked this, you might also like: Turn Haters into Motivators: Great Advice that Rhymes
Let's change the world.
Who wrote this?
Gina Edwards, Impact Explorer founder and lover of all pun jokes, making a positive change in the world, Stephen Colbert, Jif Peanut Butter, and staying inside on rainy days. Order may vary.