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What's Holding You Back In Life?

The gap between what we dream of doing and what we manage to do is often so big we can barely see the thing we want on the other side. How do people who live more adventuresome lives make their dreams happen? Answer: They use some very simple, very effective tools.
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Woman sitting on mountainside
Woman sitting on mountainside

The gap between what we dream of doing and what we manage to do is often so big we can barely see the thing we want on the other side. How do people who live more adventuresome lives make their dreams happen?

They use some very simple, very effective tools.

Adventuresome people aren't magically born daring. They've simply discovered effective tools, including a special arsenal that helps them bust through the biggest obstacle of all: adventure is scary.

Here are seven of the most widely-used obstacle-busting tools from my book, Gumption: The Practical Woman's Guide to Living an Adventuresome Life. These tools come from all kinds of otherwise ordinary women who have learned how to dare. You may be surprised at how many of the tools you already use yourself, without being aware of it. The trick is to consciously apply them to the scary thing you want to accomplish.

Tool #1: Ask yourself what's the worst that can happen

I know this seems like the last thing you should do to calm yourself, but it's my personal favourite boogeyman-buster and the one most often talked about by all adventurers.

How on earth could it be calming to think about the worst?

By going to the extreme and defining the risk, your rational brain kicks in and starts figuring out how to overcome it. Chances are very high that you could actually cope just fine with the worst, or prevent it from happening in the first place.

Tool #2: Embrace Your Screw-ups

Remember the times when you really screwed something up? Geez, you may be thinking, why would I torture myself with that? There is a point: whatever cringe-worthy thing(s) you did, it's in the past and you're still alive.

In fact, you probably got some good stuff from it. Stuff like:

• discoveries about yourself and the world

• the knowledge of how not to repeat the crappy event

• what is important to you

• what is not

• how to cope with pain

• how to recover

What a lot of good gadgets you added to your life's toolbox, just from one screw-up. Knowing that your mistakes aren't life sentences but life learning allows you to take on new risks.

Tool #3: Unburden Yourself

If there are obstacles between you and your dreams, unload some of them. Most adventures require some logistics in order to make them a reality, but logistic obstacles are rarely insurmountable and are way easier to overcome than fears. Common ones are time and money. But the allocation of those resources are choices we make, not crosses we're forced to bear.

What are you choosing over your adventure? Write down all the things that are taking priority over what you want in your life.

Maybe you're making the right choice for now, and you really can't do your daring thing at the moment. But maybe that's just become a reflex answer that keeps you in a safe - if dull - place. If you want to be more adventuresome in your life, you have to revisit these choices and ask yourself if they're really right for you now.

Tool #4: Ask an Expert

The Buddhist proverb 'When the student is ready, the Master appears' seems to be especially true for adventurers. It's a really consistent theme among the stories I've collected. Your 'master' could be a professional, or just somebody who's been there and done that. Someone who understands the ins and outs of what you're trying to do, and is willing to help you.

Who could your expert be, or where will you go look for them?

Now, more than ever, it's easy to find an expert. Google just about anything and you'll get the opinion of someone who's done it; you don't even have to know someone personally. If your big adventure involves going to the moon, it might be a little more challenging to find the right people to question. For most other things, it's a snap.

Tool #5: Ask Yourself

It's not easy to dive into uncharted waters, especially if you're a person who's used to being on top of things. But every new experience starts with something we already know how to do. It's the seed that allows us to take the first step. Instead of thinking I don't know how to do that, think about what you've done that was similar. Something you can bring to this new challenge.

Say, for example, you want to go to Alaska to mush in the Iditarod Dog Sled race. Start with what you can do: yes, I've traveled before, even if it was with my sister to Florida; yes, I've been outdoors in the cold for long periods before, even if it was only for cross-country skiing; yes, I've owned a dog and was able to train it to sit and come. And so on.

All those skills would be useful for the Iditarod. They aren't enough without more experienced people to teach you the rest of what you'd need to know. But you wouldn't be starting from zero. They're a first step.

Tool # 6: Choose Your Cheerleaders

Of course your pals are going to help you get your gumption up for your adventure. Aren't they? Not always. Not every friend makes a good cheerleader.

Some will blindly tell you there's nothing to worry about because you're great, talented, capable etc. That can be powerful, but you might not fully believe it because you know they're biased.

Some will be great critical thinkers who will help you figure out what you really need to do to get the job done. Super useful, but make sure you're thick-skinned enough to listen to their analysis of the obstacles and tasks ahead without having it backfire and scare you even more.

Some will actively crush your dream because they fear either what might happen to you, or what might change in your relationship if you go and get daring on them. And they won't even realize they're doing this.

Who among your potential cheerleaders offer the best support for your needs and frame of mind? It's OK to be choosy. You don't have to leave somebody special out in the cold; just don't expect adventure-support from them. Not everyone is made for that.

Tool #7: Grab a Partner

If the fit is right, a partner can be invaluable in an adventure. You egg each other on, share the risk, share the hours that need to be spent, share the joy, share the memories, and often balance each other's shortcomings. The right partner can sometimes be the final, enabling part of the puzzle that turns 'maybe' into 'let's go'.

If you think a partner would be useful, consider:

• What do you need them to do?

• What do you have to offer on your side?

• What kind of character do they need to partner with you in this adventure?

• Do you already know someone who could fit the bill, or do you need to meet them?

• If you need to meet them, how could you do that?

Potential adventure partners are everywhere. One woman found a cycling adventure buddy in her book club; another found a business partner at her gym. If you want to do something that needs a partner, start talking about it and you'll find that someone will eventually appear.

There you have it: seven tactics you can use right now to get unstuck and get on with your dreams. Seven is a lucky number in many cultures and I like to embrace superstition when it's encouraging. Whatever moves us forward!

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