follow your dream

Quit Sitting on the Sidelines: 5 Steps to Follow Your Dreams

Most of us go through a maddening process when it comes to changing our lives.

We all have dreams.

We all want a better life, but wanting isn’t enough. We yo-yo back and forth between waves of motivation and periods of procrastination. This up and down process usually leads nowhere.

We’re approaching 2022, resolution time.

You tell yourself you’re going to hit the gym every single week. You tell yourself you’re finally going to get that business off the ground. You’re going to switch careers, travel more, have more amazing experiences.

Then, like a blink, time passes by and you realize you’ve crossed off few, if any, items on your bucket list. The motivation and inspiration fade. Age tends to chip away at your idealism. The more life passes you by, the more you can start to be okay with it passing by.

Some people break the cycle. I’ve done it. I went from living a life with no real future to accomplishing many of my dreams. Let’s talk about the process I used and give you some insights that’ll help you finally get off the sidelines and start taking a real stab at following your dreams.


Positive thinking might not do the trick

There’s a balance you have to strike when it comes to motivating yourself. You don’t want to fall into the trap of beating yourself up too much, but you also don’t want to fall into a false sense of complacency.

When push comes to shove, negative emotions have always been more useful to me. If I could describe the feeling that finally inspired me enough to change, I’d call it a deeply painful level of frustration. 

I’d made a bunch of mistakes and no well-wishing was going to help me fix them. I had to be brutally honest with myself. Essentially I told myself that it was pathetic for me to be living so well below my potential. I let the feeling of all that wasted time wash over me. I didn’t feel depressed or sad.

I was pissed off.

In the book “Power vs. Force,” Dr. David Hawkins talks about different “levels of consciousness.” These levels are emotional states people find themselves in throughout life. Most people stay stuck at the same rung.

At the lower rungs, you have levels like apathy and fear. Anger motivates you because you feel something when you’re angry. Anger can shake you out of that sense of apathy and push you to change-sparking levels like pride, courage, and willingness. 

Take some time to let your past wash over you. How much time have you wasted already? How many times did you hesitate on an opportunity when you knew you wanted to pull the trigger? 

Is this all you have to offer, really? Aren’t you upset that you have one chance at this thing called life and you’re letting it slip through your fingers?

Don’t try to avoid being upset. You should be upset. Don’t stop at that feeling, though. Use it.


How to make your dreams seem achievable

When anger turns into a more positive state of motivation, it’s important to understand that you actually can follow your dreams. Unless you want to be an A-list celebrity or a professional athlete, odds are you have a pretty good shot. You’ll start to believe it when you look for examples that make you feel like your goals are a real possibility. 

When I first started writing, I’d look up to all of these influencers—top bloggers with thousands of millions of fans and best-selling authors. At first, they seemed superhuman, but then I went back and looked at their archives.

I’d read their early works and they weren’t mind-blowingly good like their new stuff. They just took the time to get better. That’s it. There was no magic formula to what they did other than to just put in the reps.

I’ve come to know of many different creators, entrepreneurs, and people who live out their dreams. The commonality between all of them is how common they are. Yes, they’re talented and intelligent, but not in some freakish and unattainable way. Seeing examples of people who’ve accomplished goals you hope to achieve teaches an important lesson: Success in life is simply a function of time.

If you pick a goal, aim for it, have a bit of talent, and work hard toward it for a few years, odds are you’ll get pretty close to what you wanted. As far as figuring out what you want, honestly, I don’t think it requires some deep level of self-exploration. You already kinda-sorta know even if you don’t know.

It’s whatever you’d be doing if you weren’t afraid.

But of course, you’re afraid. Either that or all the steps necessary to achieve your dreams just seem overwhelming. What are you supposed to do? There’s not an easy answer to this problem, but there is a simple one.


A simple process to follow your dreams

The process to follow your dreams is simple:

  • Have a vague idea of what you want to do with your life
  • Reverse engineer the process back to the first thing you need to do to get started
  • Iterate along the way
  • Don’t quit

I always knew I wanted to be a writer. Luckily, a friend of mine reached out to me and asked me to write articles for his website. I didn’t know every little thing it took to build a writing career. I didn’t even know how to write an article that didn’t suck.

So, for me, step one was writing a crappy article and hitting publish. I’ve published three books, have an online course business, and work regularly as a freelancer. I didn’t know how to do any of those things to start with. I didn’t even contemplate doing any of it. I just wrote something.

All your grand plans are unnecessary. Just work back to the first step and experiment. Daymond John, an entrepreneur and investor who’s a member of “Shark Tank,” started his  $100 million clothing brand by making a small set of t-shirts and selling them on the street.

He moved up to getting distribution in stores after he knew he had a product people wanted. I moved up to steps like publishing books when I knew I could write. You have to work backward and figure out the one thing you need to do first before you can move forward and just do it.

There’s no perfect plan for all of this. Gather up the information you need and get started. It can be as simple as punching your dream into a Google search and reading how to do it. Find some guides and useful pieces of information—then start at square one. Don’t worry about any of the other steps. Just get momentum.


Make your dream unfold over time

Momentum is your best friend. Once you have a bit of it, all of a sudden you’re off the sidelines and in the game. I promise you the beginning of the journey is the most difficult. The process doesn’t necessarily get easier, but you know what you’re doing. In the beginning, you’re so frustrated and afraid because you don’t have clarity.

Clarity doesn’t come from thinking. It reveals itself to you through action. Once you get the snowball rolling a bit you’ll work consistently for weeks, months, then years. Next thing you know, you look up and you’ve accomplished something you thought was out of reach.

Sometimes I look back on everything I’ve done and I wonder how the heck I did it. I wonder what kept me from quitting. If I think about it, I stayed the course because I combined all of these important elements at once and lightning struck. I was pissed off about my life, I started learning about self-improvement, I seized an opportunity, and I went hard at the beginning of the process.

Even if you’ve been sitting on the sidelines for what seems like forever, you can experience serendipity. But instead of waiting for it, try to actively spark the process. As each day passes by, think about it. Don’t let yourself off the hook. Be aware of your life and the way it’s going in the present moment. Don’t run from it or try to distract yourself.

Before I finally put my foot down, I had a bunch of days where I felt like life had passed me by. I increasingly grew frustrated until I reached a mental tipping point. Try to get there any way you can. I know it isn’t easy, but it can definitely be done.


Don’t let your dreams die with you

The final insight to help you get off the sidelines isn’t from me. It comes from a personal development speaker who inspired me many years ago.

Here’s what he said:

The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry out their dream.

—Les Brown

That quote has stuck with me to this day. Even though I’ve accomplished many of my goals, there are still areas of my life where I sit on the sidelines too much. I always remind myself that I don’t want to leave anything in the graveyard.

I want to exit this life exasperated because I relentlessly pursued everything I wanted to accomplish. Even though it’s impossible to achieve everything, it’s still worth a shot.

Some people say you should just be content. This isn’t a philosophy I believe in at all. I’m not focused on some state of eternal bliss and peace. I’m here to make a dent in the universe.

If you made it this far in the article, odds are you feel that way too. You know you’re better than this and you know you have a bunch to offer that the world hasn’t yet seen.

Show us.