Once upon a time, I had a dream. It was a dream to write and be read by people around the world, like many of my favorite bloggers and authors. Yet, I could never get started on this project. I thought it was something that I would do some day later.
I could become a writer after a lifetime of working and after I retired, I thought to myself. There was much more time to write when I had more time, more finances and more creativity. It would take me awhile to improve my writing. I would have to take some writing classes.
These were some of the many thoughts that floated around my mind as I contemplated a life of writing. Then, one day, I decided to make the plunge and started writing. I gave myself permission to start writing that day. I told myself that I would work on an ebook and if I could write and complete one, then I would show myself that yes, I could write and yes, I could write now.
When I completed that ebook, I realized, holy Stephen King, I am a writer! I had the ability, the desire and now the completed work to show myself that I could indeed work on my writing today.
Do you have a dream that’s been floating around in your heart? Here are 7 habits of people who follow their dreams:
1. Give yourself permission
You don’t have to wait for permission. You don’t need it from someone else. You don’t have to fear if you’re not an authority, expert or have experience in your dream. You will learn as you need to and be guided on the journey. You have to be willing to realize that you are worthy when it comes to following your dream and that you deserve to start today. You are the only person whose permission you need to get started.
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
2. See fears and move past them
When you see a dream, you likely will see the uncertainties and doubts that come along with the dream. Instead of allowing your dreams to paralyze you, use your fears as a starting point. The biggest fear than the fear of pursuing your dreams should be the fear of regret and not starting. Use your fears to inspire and move you forward. Fear means you’re onto something, big, exciting and challenging. You conquer your fears by taking each one on at a time. Each fear you move past prepares you to face the next one.
3. Take small steps daily
The big dreams you have don’t happen overnight. You can’t materialize a dream without preparation work or patience. The people who achieve their dreams work on it consistently. You don’t have to do everything in a day either. Work on your dream at your own pace but make progress on it daily. Think of one thing today you can do to further your dream. You may not start today but you can do something small today to progress your dream.
4. Ignore society’s chatter
It’s easy to lose your dream to “reality” or “practicality”. All your dream-crushers out there, friends and family, will use code words to discourage you from your dream. They will insist you follow society’s dream: college, advanced degree, stable job, family and home in the suburbs. That’s the tried and true path for success, they’ll tell you. If it’s not a path that will make you happy and that’s not your dream, you have to ignore the naysayers. Instead, listen to yourself. Your intuition will be your guide to fulfillment and happiness.
5. Have a vision of the future
Seeing your dream come to fruition is necessary when you pursue a dream. Visualization is key to starting. You have to be able to imagine your dream coming alive so you can get motivated to start on it. You have to believe that it’s possible for you to achieve your dreams. You have to believe in what’s possible in the future although you get there by working on it each day. What they say is true: seeing is believing. Once you see something in your mind’s eye, you start believing you can make it happen.
6. Work through obstacles
You don’t allow one failure to stop you. You’re not sitting around and making excuses or looking for ways to not keep going. Just the opposite. You allow the obstacles to help you get more creative and find solutions. You let failure inspire you and guide you to a better way to do something. You see obstacles as challenges to be overcome, not roadblocks that will stop you from going forward. You welcome each obstacle knowing that moving past each one will get you closer to your dreams.
“I don’t dream at night, I dream all day; I dream for a living.” – Steven Spielberg
While you’re working on your dream and moving past the obstacles in the way, you also know that dreams don’t materialize overnight. You are willing to put in the work but you’re also willing to be persistent. You’re willing to wait. You’re willing to give your dreams time. You are willing to be patient in the face of failures, adversity, and obstacles. You’re willing to change course or alter the dream if something isn’t working. You don’t expect overnight results or instant gratification.
Are you going after your dreams? What are your most successful habits? Please comment below!
What Les Misérables Taught Me About Our Values
Who am I? The ultimate question many of us try to answer. When I think of values, I think of Victor Hugo’s 1862 book, “Les’ Miserables”. In Hugo’s book, Jean Valjean, is used as a protagonist to highlight the power in redemptive love and compassion. Valjean goes into prison for stealing a loaf of bread, entering as a simple and decent man. His time in jail seems to have an unrepairable effect, where he emerges from the chain gang as a tough, bitter criminal who hates society for what it has done to him. (more…)
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Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?
When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?
As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?
Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.
Let’s park this one for now and we will come back.
Categorization is essential to our survival
There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses.
The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.
An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.
In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.
When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting!
Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.
- lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin
- lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin
The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.
Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored.
This amazing skill has its drawbacks
As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.
Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)
Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.
This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.
Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.
The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people?
We can overcome unconscious bias
Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals.
Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms.
Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds.
The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals.
What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!
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