I was in the car with a friend the other day.
We were driving to dinner and talking about life. I like to ask people hard questions—”What do you really want from your life?” and “How do you know it’s the right answer?”
She was telling me about the things she dreamed of for herself and her career and what she was doing to make them happen. I could see she was excited to think about these things; her voice got a little higher, and she started to talk faster as she described her ideal life and what it looked like.
But then something interrupted her thoughts, and her story trailed off. She slowed back down and her voice dropped a little. It was like she’d fallen back to reality—out of her dream—and she finished with a bit of a shrug and said, “But I’m just a waitress.”
Maybe you’ve experienced something like this? Where you let yourself dream about life and what you want to carry out in your short time here before falling back to “reality.”
It’s exciting to think about, but once you let yourself get too far away from where you feel you are now, it gets a little scary and you do something to bring yourself back down. You kill the dream.
Don’t kill the dream!
My friend is much more than “just a waitress.” She’s talented and capable in many ways—a truly wonderful person. And you’re much more than “just a [insert dream-zapping phrase here].”
You’re an incredible person, capable of great things. I don’t know you, but I know that much is true.
But the question is, do you believe it?
How a Belief Becomes Reality
One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from Henry Ford:
“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right!”
What he meant is that anyone—given the right mindset—can accomplish almost anything.
We’re each more naturally suited for certain things, but if you set your mind to something and believe you’re capable of it, you’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen.
On the same token, if you don’t believe in yourself, no amount of hard work or will power will ever get you where you want to be because the little bit of doubt you hold on to will keep you from finishing the job.
The beliefs you keep of yourself, for better or worse, tend to be self-fulfilling prophesies.
Something you truly believe is something you’ll spend your time thinking about. And something you spend your time thinking about will get more attention from you in your daily life. Something that gets more attention gets nurtured, and something that gets nurtured grows stronger until it’s the truth… even if it’s a lie.
Your mind is a very funny thing. Once you’ve made up your mind about something, it’s very hard to change it. This isn’t because you have unfaltering evidence that you know the truth. It’s because, with the limited mental resources you have, it becomes exhausting to reconsider a belief over and over again.
Your most ingrained beliefs about yourself are really an act of self-preservation. They allow you to be lazy. Once you “know” something about yourself, you can move on to thinking about other things. No need to waste precious brain juice on something you’ve already made a decision about.
And once you’ve decided something, you’ll begin to look at the world differently. You’ll actively look for things and information that support your belief and quickly ignore or discount information that contradicts it.
This is called confirmation bias. It’s how people come to believe conspiracy theories, make judgments about other people, and it even has an effect on science and how we look at the world.
This is powerful stuff!
The Power of Marching to Your Own Drum
I sometimes wonder if what I’m doing here at Advanced Riskology is valuable and if people really care about it or find it useful. This usually happens when I have a bad month in traffic or if I lose some subscribers or an article I like doesn’t get many comments.
When I notice myself doubting my work for too many days in a row, I have to take some kind of action to get things back on track. I have to remind myself that if I think what I’m doing is important, then it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks.
At the end of the day, if I’m happy and no one else is hurt as a result, then that day should be considered a success.
This is called cultivating an “internal locus of control.” That’s a fancy way of saying that you do things because you think they’re right, not because you expect other people to applaud you for it (external locus of control).
Writing an article like this is a good exercise in building my own internal locus of control. With two years of writing under my belt now, I have a pretty good idea of what types of articles and headlines and whatnot will become popular and what types won’t.
If I felt like the most important thing to do right now is to get more people to come visit AR, I could write an article on “29 Ways to Build a Popular Blog and Make Money Online.” A title like that would almost certainly bring lots of traffic even if the article itself were garbage.
But, instead, today I feel like this is the message I need to share—that doing what’s right because you think it’s right is, at the end of the day, far more important than satisfying anyone else’s expectations.
This essay likely won’t be very “popular.” It’s too long and it’s not very sensational. Few people will read it. It won’t get shared much and, soon enough, it will fall into obscurity in the article archive, only to be dug up occasionally by a raving fan of the site or a passing stranger.
Yet, I’m writing it anyway because I believe that the few people who do read it will find it tremendously useful.
Allowing myself to believe I’m capable of more than I once thought I was is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. No, I don’t always succeed at what I set out to do. Not every arrow hits its mark, and not every shot is a slam-dunk.
More importantly, though, not every missed shot is a confirmation of what I really believe—that I can’t actually do what I want with my life. Instead, it’s an anomaly that I quickly put behind me before moving to the next big challenge.
That one little shift has made a big difference in my life.
And the funny thing about marching to the beat of your own drum is that when you do something unpopular simply because you think it’s the right thing to do, it usually starts to be become popular.
Why? Because most people have an external locus of control, and are quick to take their cues on “what’s right” from someone who’s taking the lead.
The Final Word: No, You’re Not Just A Waitress (As if There Were Anything Wrong With That)
What you allow yourself to believe will have far more impact on your life than what is or is not actually true. And the actions you take will be directly related to these beliefs.
So, the next time you find yourself dreaming about what you want from life, never cut yourself short. See what you want right in front of you, and then let yourself imagine that it’s already true.
Eventually, you’ll have to open your eyes and get to work. But don’t rush it.
Don’t kill the dream!
If there’s anything I could have said to my friend when she told me she’s “just a waitress,” it would have been this:
You are not *just* a waitress. You are *a* waitress, and a very good one. You’re also many other things. And, in your life, you will be even more things than those. To be more than just a waitress in your own mind, all you have to do is stop saying it. Once you do, you’ll also stop believing it.
And the moment you stop believing you aren’t more is the moment you’ll become it.
I believe in you. Do you believe in yourself?
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