People spend vast amounts of time (and sometimes their whole life) wrestling with their minds, trying to figure out if their dreams are practical or ridiculous. Eventually most people give up, because they simply couldn’t make a decision.
The single biggest reason for unaccomplished goals and unfulfilled dreams, is the lack of ability to make a serious commitment. How many times in your life have you not done what you wanted to do, simply because you couldn’t make up your mind?
Putting yourself on auto-response (which I will explain in a minute) is about finding the means to silence your practical mind’s constant decision weighing and follow your heart, no matter how terrifying it may seem.
Most people know what their ideal life would look like. Most people know what they want and how the life of their dreams would look, feel and taste.
So if everyone knows what they want, what stops people from achieving their dreams? What could possibly stop them from leaving a dead end job and dropping unwanted commitments? It’s not that they don’t know what they want, they just don’t know how to get there.
The Myth That Broken Dreams Are Caused by a Lack of Belief in Yourself
Their is a common myth pervading the lifestyle design space that says: “The number one reason people don’t accomplish their dreams is because of a lack of courage and a shortage of self-confidence.” In short, the myth claims that people would follow their dreams, but they just don’t have the guts and self-trust to do so.
I, personally, think this is wrong. People don’t need more courage, confidence, or trust in their ideas. They know, deep down, that they can do it. They just don’t know how.
The problem is that your heart says, “Go for it, follow your dreams,” while your mind says, “How the hell do you think you’re actually going to make that happen?”
Despite your best intentions to listen your heart and follow your dreams, it’s not that easy to silence that big booming voice of practicality in your mind. All of this is even more daunting when you’re at project liberation: Ground Zero. (It’s hard to ignore the 7,000 feet you have yet to climb.)
I know what you’re thinking and it’s the same thing I’ve been contemplating since I started chasing the crazy idea of personal freedom: How do you overcome the voice of “reason” while trying to follow your dreams? How do you get pasts that intimidating feeling when you’re staring up from sea level at the summit? Let’s be honest, too: it wouldn’t be so bad either if you’ve actually climbed before, but you’ve barely learned to crawl.
So the way we overcome the screaming voice of practicality is:
Putting Yourself on Auto-Response
Putting yourself on auto-response means silencing your practical mind, in the face of the seemingly unpractical and ridiculous ideas. Faced with liberating your life, instead of thinking “I don’t know where to start,” your auto-response becomes “I’ll figure it out.”
This is especially useful when:
- You want to start your own business and you’re terrified of failure.
- You are tired of living your life based on a pre-assigned template.
- You want to quit your dead end job, but you don’t have a leg to stand on.
- You are ready to denounce your membership with the Cult of Productivity.
- You want to disengage from the cubicle machine (somethings wrong with your cog), but you don’t want to be homeless.
- You want to end the rat race and stop climbing the corporate ladder (and sacrificing your happiness).
- You’ve barely broken ground to start laying the foundation for your dreams.
- [insert your objective here]
Putting yourself on auto-response means you stop thinking about it and you start doing. You stop saying I don’t know. (Because we have all found ourselves saying “I’ve been thinking about starting my own business” or “I’ve been thinking about pursuing [insert what you love here].”) You correct things later and make it up as you go along. You act like you know what you’re doing, when in reality, you have no idea. You stop caring about not knowing.
You also stop caring about:
- Having an acceptable answer to the question “What do you do?“
- Being defined by the work you do and start caring more about the purpose of your work.
- Sufficing the idea that you need to complete prerequisites A and B before you can move on to C. You don’t necessarily need a degree in business to start one. You don’t necessarily need to have been a wilderness ranger before you decide to live off the grid.
- Failing and falling on your face. Eventually, though, you’ll probably learn how to create controlled falls and take calculated risks.
- Spending years (or a lifetime) in drudgery for future-promised happiness (ie. retirement).
Putting yourself on auto-response gives you the daily grit to keep plugging away when you’re tired and wondering if all this struggle is really worth it. It allows you to keep in perspective the reason for your constant pursuit of freedom from unwanted commitments. Most importantly it helps me remember that I’m doing this to serve my own goals (my own purpose) and not someone else’s.
Most of all, it allows your heart to have a say when confronted with the deafening voice of shoulds and social norms. It helps you keep things in perspective, when you have a long path to travel before your dreams are realized.
The End of The Internal Tug of War
There is a major conflict in our society between our mind and our heart. We struggle between what we love doing (our heart) and what we know is practical (our mind). Your practical mind is so loud that your heart –despite it’s screaming and flailing — can’t drown it out. But the goal isn’t to shut one of the two up. The goal is to harmonize them.
I have been reflecting a lot about what liberation means, whether it’s something you find out there, or if it’s something that comes from within. It hasn’t been an easy road for me trying to find balance between my heart and my mind. What has helped me more than anything is not finding more confidence, but having an unshakable commitment to pursuing only authentic endeavors.
True liberation to me is a labor of impeccability with myself and constant realignment when I wander off the course of authenticity. It’s the liberation from a culture that always puts happiness in the future. It’s short-cutting bliss and going directly to the source… not at some future date that never seems to arrive.
Right now I’m currently working towards someone else’s goals to pay the bills. It’s damn hard to keep the daily resolution to keep working toward owning my own business and achieving a goal that, quite frankly, I may never realize. The truth is, though, I would rather be striving toward that ideal my entire life and never see it realized, then surrender to live searching for some false sense of security (and to merely survive).
So what’s the point of all this?
The pursuit of liberation is the pursuit of a completely authentic life. It’s being fully in control of your life and your time. It’s freedom from the expectations of society, of the people around you. It’s freedom from your mind.
Liberation and lifestyle design means different things to different people. There is no “one size fits all” answer. The whole point of lifestyle design is: you are the architect of your life
Note: Liberation means something different to everyone. I would to hear your thoughts on what liberation means to you and what you’re doing to liberate your life.
photo by mckaysavage
Glen Allsopp says
This concept seems pretty rare and interesting. It’s not often I come across something unique in this space so thanks for sharing.
Submitted to StumbleUpon!
Tim Brownson says
I love this quote “Putting yourself on auto-response means you stop thinking about it and you start doing. ” That is a great quote, I may even steal it ;-)
I would add that imho most people actually don’t know what the life of their dreams looks like. The weird thing is that most people don’t like admitting that they don’t know what it looks like because they think everybody else DOES know.
A minor gripe though because you’ve written a really good post there JM. Nice one!
Ken | Destiny Building says
I think that having the courage to putt yourself on auto response when you don’t where to start *is* confidence. You don’t know how to find the right path, you simply know that you are going to find it.
Desika Nadadur | I Am My Own Master says
John Rocheleau - zen-moments says
This is one of the most authentic and honest articles I have read in a long time.
I can’t say more than that. I don’t need to. You’ve said everything that needs to be said. We just need to put action behind it now.
I like your thoughts Jonathan. Really good stuff here.
Ari Koinuma says
>I would rather be striving toward that ideal my entire life and never see it realized, then surrender to live searching for some false sense of security (and to merely survive).
I wholeheartedly concur. The latter is not life. It’s living death.
Jonathan, if I may suggest, though, I’d be interested in hearing more about how to develop the auto-response mechanism. I struggle with the very thing you’re describing here — too much time wondering what I and how I should do, instead of just doing. And I do get a lot of things done! But still too much time spent on trying to pick the best path, instead of just picking a path and making it right.
Max Bottaro says
I like it. For me, I let the idea of doing what’s “right” for me or finding that “perfect career” stall my commitment. Sometimes just committing to something is more important than wasting time away trying to figure out what your good at and like- people like what they are good at, and they are good at it because they make a commitment. Do what you want to and stop being afraid. Stop running from success, most people know in their hearts what it takes and are really just too afraid to jump into the cold waters of commitment. They get warmer.
Alex Kay says
This article finally made me make up my mind about something important in my life. Thanks! :-)
Carole Fogarty says
It’s a great article. For me personally I call it going with the flow. If something feels right I just do it, sometimes to many peoples shock horror. Whether I succeed or fail doesn’t matter. I’m living my truth from the heart.
Peace, love and chocolate
Evelyn Lim says
I sure like how you ended the article off: “you are the architect of your life”. I’d say aye to taking action, instead of being gripped by fear!
Thanks for sharing,
Nathalie Lussier says
Simply amazing Jonathan. I think internal harmony is one of the most overlooked solutions to our problems. Thank you for thoughts, it is always helpful to see how other people figure things out personally.
Hunter Nuttall says
Are we allowed to say “great post” when we mean it, or is there still some stigma about that? Oh well, I’ll risk it: great post! It comes at a good time for me, as my job appears to be coming to an end. Are you involved with Project Liberation?
Lola Fayemi / Nourishment for your spiritual awakening says
I agree the not knowing how is a HUGE blocker for most of us, however I wouldn’t write off lack of confidence. I love the part about harmonising heart and mind, your mind can work in service of your heart and when that awareness rises, the magic happens.
In love, light and abundance x x x
Loved the post – it’s inspiring and practical at the same time.
Reminds me of a quote I had read sometime back. I don’t remember the quote verbatim but it spoke about –
By all means dream. The risk is not in aiming for the moon and not reaching it. The risk is in aiming for the stars and getting them.
@Tim I really think most people do know what the life of their dreams would look like if they just took a moment to actually dream. Most people are so inundated with practicality that they’ve given up on dreaming.
@Ken There’s definite some amount of confidence that comes into play. I just wanted to point out that most people *really* do know they can do it, they just don’t know where to start.
@John I’m glad you liked it, as always, thanks for stopping by.
@Ari Developing the auto-response is something that takes time. It’s like any practice, the more you do it, the greater you’ll become at it. It’s really just as simple as that. Building the habit daily of doing without over thinking. Some thinking is obviously is important to decision making. But that’s the point I wanted to make. Most people never make a decision because they’re perpetually trying to decide. That’s exactly what we don’t want.
@Max I think it’s true what you said. People are more drawn to something if they were more skilled at it. And building that skill requires time and effort (and commitment). Well said.
@Alex Glad you liked it.
@Carole Exactly, enough said.
@Nathalie I think that if we can figure the whole harmony thing out, we’ll have a lot less to worry about. It’s not about trying to fix what’s “out there.”
@Hunter Thanks for your feedback. I am involved in Project Liberation, but I can’t say at the moment in what way.
@Lola I think confidence is a big factor as well. However, I would say that “not knowing” is one of the biggest reasons that causes people to have a lack of confidence. If you stop caring about not knowing, you’ll naturally become more confident. You start trusting that you’ll figure it out as you go along.
@Avani I love that quote, thanks for sharing it.
I really enjoyed this article and the care you took to describe your thoughts.
You said “having an unshakable commitment to pursuing only authentic endeavors”. We are currently seeing the fruition of an endeavor that has taken 4 years of commitment when everyone else has been a “doubter”. In hindsight, I would say the biggest transformation personally was forgetting the “how” and trusting the successful outcome as a certainty. As a person that has a major tendency to over analyze, forgetting the “how” was a nightmare to grasp in the beginning, but it IS true.
Tom Volkar / Delightful Work says
Jonathan this is the best post I’ve read of yours in quite some time. It’s believable, I knew when reading it that you actually live it. It’s funny how all the things you say folks quit caring about – I don’t care about. That’s fantastic validation.
Most important is what you said about being in the game. Being in pursuit of your authentic liberation is essential for real living. Bravo!
This line really resonated with me “You want to disengage from the cubicle machine (somethings wrong with your cog), but you donâ€™t want to be homeless.” — that’s exactly how I’ve been feeling for a while!
I quit my job in tech support (my cog had been making a worrying click-click-click noise with every daily spin…), left just over a week ago, and am now freelancing as a writer/website creator. I think it is the best step I have ever taken. I finally did manage what Tim Brownson calls “shut the duck up” and what Jonathan calls “put yourself on auto-response” … basically, I ignored the voice that has always told me to take the conventional route, and I took off in my own direction.
I’m feeling so much more positive and motivated about my life. I’m certainly a lot happier. And I’m learning a hell of a lot, pushing myself well beyond my comfort zone, and having great fun. I couldn’t recommend it more!
For anyone who’s hovering on the brink, I suggest you read and re-read Jonathan’s post above. Find a way to silence those “I can’t do it” voices. You’ll never know if you can succeed if you never try.
You’ve got that right – not only is it sometimes hard to tell others what I do (my definition includes a lot of things that have yet to happen and may seem unrealistic to others) but sometimes I don’t fully understand what’s going on.
On the other hand I always find a way through when I take the time to look at the situation and identify the problems (sometimes if you just state the problem clearly the solution is obvious). And by doing things this way I’ve found options I never even imagined that suddenly make wild dreams much more realistic. For many people giving up some control will increase their influence.
Wonderful post, thank you. This is exactly what I’ve been dealing with lately. I told my parents tonight that I’m moving soon, far away, and don’t have all the details in place yet. On the surface it may not seem like a big deal. I haven’t lived with them in years and see them a couple times a month. I was nervous about telling them though because it’s one of the first times I’ve done something this big in terms of changing a major direction of my life and didn’t consult them on it. In fact the only people I’ve seriously talked to about it are the people I’m moving with. I haven’t been this excited in years. It has also been very scary.
So often I feel like I need every piece in place before I can move forward with a part of my life. It’s also hard for me to not worry about what other people will think about what I want to do. This past week my heart screamed so loud about what I want to do next that I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I knew I wanted to move, I even thought I had the right place picked out. But plans changed and what I had originally wanted to do was suddenly back on the table and I was so thrilled to realize I could still go for it that all the usual worries that tend to go with decisions in my life didn’t have much of a chance to override my thinking.
Thanks again for a great post about not having to work everything out logically before you can move forward to making your dreams real.
Monica Ricci says
Love this post! Especially the part about “stop caring about not knowing”. Veeeeery powerful stuff. :)
Marc and Angel Hack Life says
Simply wonderful… and well written. Dugg.
This is so well-written, and really does speak from a combined heart and mind. The part about not knowing stuck a chord – that’s what we hang onto. We don’t know, so we don’t do. Powerful.
These are great ideas and I would love to give them a try someday.
But what about those of us who don’t really love anything and have NO idea of what we should be doing?
Your method sounds great for those who know where they want to go, but how do you discover a direction?
Jamie Lee says
New to your blog (linked over from Write To Done) and just popped your feed into my Google Reader. I have a feeling I’ll find much to enjoy and inspire here.
Mostly just wanted to thank you for taking the time to write such thoughtful and insightful posts – both the one I read at WTD and the one above. You’ve reminded me of my own passion for living without a template and given me a little nudge back onto my non-course…perhaps just in time.
So, thank you. I look forward to reading more.
@Tom: Yes, I do live it. Everyday in fact. It can be tiring at times and sometimes I feel like giving up. But I’m determined.
@Ali: Something is definitely wrong with my cog. I think it might actually have it’s own will.
@Richard: I’ve really gotten to the point where I don’t care to tell other people what I do anymore. Sometimes I just want to answer “I live.”
@Katie: When you look back, I think you’ll realize that it was one of the best decisions you made. Not because everything turned out exactly how you wanted it to, but because you followed your heart and trusted your gut.
@Lance: Sometimes I’m not even sure I know that I don’t know. I’m opting out. Haha.
@Sheila: If you don’t know, just try anything. Try lots of things. The most important thing is that you don’t care that you don’t know. You don’t care that you’re not sure if this is really what you love or not. You have to have an openness to experiment and try sometimes seemingly ridiculous things.
@Jamie: Thanks for stopping by. I like your ideas of a non-course. =)
I agree that having a “I’ll figure it out” attitude is helpful. I wonder though how much one should just commit though before doing some of that figuring out. Everyone seems to have a different orientation to the pre-action figuring out–some spend a lot of time planning, some are more impulsive. Business books usually recommend “ready, fire, aim”, but with projects where the price of change is high (and this could mean emotionally too, e.g. marriage), it’s better to do more planning and thinking up front. However analysis paralysis is common, especially amongst mental types.
At times I have jumped, hoping the net would appear. Sometimes it did and it was worth it. Sometimes it didn’t and I got hurt! Having swung between analysis paralysis and impulsiveness for many years, I’m beginning to find a middle way. I tend to be more on the side of deep intuition: what’s the feeling tone of this project or decision? Is it manic? (likely to be emotionally intense and burn out quickly) Is it calm and centered? (likely to take years to flourish but last a lifetime) etc.
I do agree that the only way to really know if your dreams are practical is to try to make them real. I’ve found that by taking action in the direction of your dreams, there’s a feedback loop that gives you information about whether your dreams are in fact realistic. It’s as if you are lost without a map but the more you actually get to know the territory, the more you understand where you are and where you can go and how to get there.
Keep up the good writing.
Seamus Anthony says
Fantastic blog and post. Here’s an article about making the decision about achieving your dreams. Hopefully it helps somebody out there somewhere! https://tinyurl.com/curlyslaw
Marinka: Netherlands says
Just wanted to stop by to let you know theat i really enjoy reading your articles. Good job and you’ve got fans in Holland to now. ;)
torbjorn rive says
Well written, Jon. And thanks for the email and blog visit the other day.
About your post; it’s almost ‘easier said than done’, but the simplicity of drive (as you say) should keep dreams from staying as mere dreams.
I’m one of those that often states that I want to start my own consulting company. Soon. I need more necessary steps in place, like security, a larger network, and experience. But the steps to get there, in the meantime, should not be neglected. I can start writing business plans, get my word out there, get choice experience (already all over that), and even connect with important family and friends.
Though my business won’t be open next year, the idea and plan is well laid out. The work starts here! (rather than never).
I got around to reading this and I am glad I did. Well written. The cult of productivity is a big thing and I think with everyone looking for a shortcut… you wind up with surface level nonsense to deep level problems.
Good on you for writing this… it’s an excellent post.
“Their is a common myth pervading the lifestyle design space that says: â€œThe number one reason people donâ€™t accomplish their dreams is because of a lack of courage and a shortage of self-confidence.â€ In short, the myth claims that people would follow their dreams, but they just donâ€™t have the guts and self-trust to do so.
I, personally, think this is wrong. People donâ€™t need more courage, confidence, or trust in their ideas. They know, deep down, that they can do it. They just donâ€™t know how.”
Wrong. According to my wife, the reason she couldn’t accomplish any of her dreams was finding herself a single mother of 5 young children (3 were from her ex-husband’s previous marriages), and being disabled by an accident caused by her ex-husband at age 21. He further conspired with the judge (one of the bennies of being an ex-cop) to deprive her of all child and spousal support.
As it was, she had to work 3 jobs to support her and her kids for over 20 years.
That is the real dream killer.
I can only say “Wow!”. That such a simple thing can have such a profound impact. I started applying this yesterday and I’m already noticing a huge improvement in my thinking!
Oh goodness, I stumbled upon your site from your guest post at ZenHabits and this entire post was like you were reading my mind. My jaw literally dropped. I will be adding your blog to my daily reads. Thank you so much for putting out there the words that I couldn’t seem to come up with for myself. Here’s to self-liberation!
Hi, Jonathan. This article resonates with me both as a person looking to liberate my life, as well as a researcher into personal productivity.
I’ll be adding this to my feed and research. Wonderful!
Thank you for being honest in your writings. Its like somebody saying it for me which I couldn’t be able to explain it myself. One.
this article reminds me of my “michael jackson” style musical training.
good old MJ was so terrified of his father that he “decided” to be perfect.
the mantra “don’t think, do”.
i have to say, with practise, this works amazingly.
“sometimes you have to run before you can walk”
in order to convince my body machine that its possible to do something, sometimes i just had to dive right in withouth thinking of any limitations. so that i can feel my way through and get a taste.
then i can go back and organise a plan.
in the film “finding forester” the wonderfully orchestrated character of a highly respected author, William Forester, offers perspective-shiting advice to his young prodigy “first write with your heart, THEN write with your head”.
it works, but only if your mind is open.
the bible has an interesting quote “seek first the kindgdom of God and all his righteousness, then all these things shall be added to you”. a rough translation without any religious bias would probably read “re-affirm what your heart knows to be true and everything else falls into place”.
i have to say, it works so well, that i am now a lot of people’s yardstick, or canary. people like to observe my brave ventures and see what happens, then they follow.
Just to say that like some other wrote, It is like somebody just looked inside my mind and extracted how I think and how I feel. If you keep trying, you will feel that you are doing the right thing.
Hello, I just found your website through Zen Habits and I subscribed! I think I’ll enjoy reading what you have to say.
axel g says
Auto-response, that’s an interesting approach!
Whatever works is fine +_+
To sum it up NO RISK=NO REWARD =)
Henry Ford said: YOU ARE THE MASTER OF YOUR FATE,THE CAPTAIN OF YOUR SOUL
I TAKE OFF THE MASK says
Indeed, many times, what makes the difference is the commitment and devotion we put in our desired undertaking. Without it, how can we ever hope to accomplish anything at all?
Liberation for me would to not be so hard on myself and try to fit myself into the box I feel that everyone else is in. For me, it’s something inside–that voice that I can’t seem to stop telling me that I need to be this way or I need to do that or I need to have an answer to tell people “what I do.” I hate that question. I think I’ll get there.
Liberation would be truly feeling like I am doing exactly what I want to do, being completely comfortable with myself, and doing something to make other people’s lives a little better.
Hello — I just discovered your site via your post on zenhabits (“Are These Three Words Ruining YOur Life?”).
Really liking what I’m reading so far…. meanwhile this thought of yours (quote below) takes the cake. It’s beautifully put and a great reminder about what’s important — process vs guaranteed result. Thank you!
“It’s damn hard to keep the daily resolution to keep working toward owning my own business and achieving a goal that, quite frankly, I may never realize. The truth is, though, I would rather be striving toward that ideal my entire life and never see it realized, then surrender to live searching for some false sense of security (and to merely survive).”
Eduardo Platon says
“A culture that always puts happiness in the future” is certainly a great quote. Honestly, this “culture” is so forceful that some of us forget what we are today to focus on what we want to be tomorrow. Thus, we n-e-v-e-r are and we a-l-w-a-y-s want to be. Isn’t funny what tricks our mind can play?
Wow, thanks for putting a name on what I’ve been thinking about for the past year.
Thank you for the reminder!
I forget to stop and breathe sometimes and then look up and realize I’ve gone down the river for some time without looking around at where I’m going.
tell me more about long-term goals
Aaron Baldassare says
I’m a new commenter here. I think you nailed it with the title. What’s the point of sacrificing all the moments from now to achieving a goal when achieving a goal is a singular event? Refining the path is, indeed, where it is at.
In my experience, goals are not necessary to max my present. Having well thought-out priorities is necessary for me. The important thing is to become absorbed in my natural vibe. Typically that naturally moves me toward my authentic goals anyway.
I agree fully that you have to “stop caring about not knowing,” but having an auto-response sounds a lot like being uncomfortable with not knowing, ie autopilot. A bias toward action is great, but I think authenticity means giving yourself time to let your heart and mind harmonize before committing to action. That conflict enables the choice, which enables freedom. Auto-response, on the other hand, means submitting to your gut over your mind.
This is a rich post. Thank you.
interesting post. thanks for all.
Though my business won’t be open next year, the idea and plan is well laid out. The work starts here! (rather than never).
very interesting post thanks
very interesting thanks a lot
good post thanks for all
Jonathan, I read what you said about the myth of not having enough courage and self-confidence, and I nearly burst into tears. You’re right – I do have courage and self-confidence; I’m just not sure what steps to take. Thank you so much for this phenomenal moment of insight.
Hey Jonathan! Awesome post! I’m working on a post myself on the very same subject, and I love your take on it! My definition of freedom would be fully engaging in your experience (whether it’s climbing a mountain or brushing your teeth). In other words, giving your attention to this moment as though it is the most important moment of your life! :)
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