Ten years ago, I made a five-year plan. I envisioned a life in which I ran my own business, was married with a kid on the way, and enjoyed financial stability. I imagined that I’d be surrounded by supportive friends, living in a house I owned, and well on my way to entrepreneurial success. I had no sense of what was reasonable within the timeframe I’d chosen.
I figured if I put it in writing, I would succeed.
Now, I’m almost at the place I envisioned. It took ten years, not five.
The problem was that I didn’t take my limitations into consideration. I planned for a world in which I simply arrived at my goals, rather than working for them. I overestimated the amount of time I’d need.
How many of us are in this boat? How many of us figure that one year, five years, ten years is enough time, without figuring the real human costs of our lives into the equation?
I Needed to Take Time to Reflect
I worked hard to grow my business, a theatre production company. I can barely describe the amount of work it took. I remember feverish late nights building webpages, caffeine-fueled prop-building sessions, early-morning dashes to the print shop. I remember having jealous people mock my efforts, as I was slowly dying from the full-time demands of this non-job on top of my regular career. I started to hate what I was building.
I needed time to think about what I was doing. I never made space to reflect and reposition; I just kept hurtling forward as though my energy could provide the entire impetus for the company.
I was wrong.
Make a space, especially if you’re working nonstop. Take time to let yourself process and digest. By doing this, you’ll be able to identify other obstacles, rather than running headlong into them as I did.
I Needed to Work on my Communication
I considered myself a great communicator for many years. I was always baffled to hear from people that I wasn’t. Looking back, I see the problem: I skipped steps when talking to others. I assumed people knew what was going on. I expected everyone to be a mind-reader.
I may have been good at speaking, but I wasn’t good at sharing. Deep down, I knew the reason why: I was so afraid of criticism or pushback that I decided to push forward, without fear of repercussions or complaints.
As badass as that might sound, it wasn’t an effective way of pursuing my goals. It’s not that we need to delay our plans due to naysayers, it’s that our naysayers need not prevent us from asking ourselves the tough questions. Can we achieve our goals in the timeframe we decide? If not, why not?
I needed to be open to criticism for my projects to be viable. I needed to bounce ideas off people to make them better. I needed to communicate to others when I needed help.
I Needed to Let Myself Grow
I, more than any other factor, held myself back. I accepted jobs with meager salaries. I gave up when people said, “no.” I discounted and blamed myself at every turn.
Had I acknowledged my limitations, I would have been able to identify the way out. Instead, I took the things I could control as insurmountable obstacles and the things I couldn’t control as challenges to overcome. That meant that I couldn’t move forward. I’d locked myself into a paradox.
The first step to moving forward is to admit where you’re wrong. You know your faults more than others, although their critique can help point you to your flaws. The key is to see your limitations as an opportunity to improve.
This isn’t a call to openly accept non-constructive criticism or hateful commentary. By the same token, if there’s no one offering you feedback, you don’t have to seek it out. But you should take the time to question your own limitations and evaluate whether you’re equipped to lead the life you want. You just might find that you discover the key to the path you always wanted.
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