Don’t Go Alone
Being different isn’t always easy. Perhaps you’ve felt like you were different than your friends or family. That’s a good thing, and we’re going to need to settle into who God created us to be if we’re going to move ahead. To be purposeful and at ease with who we are, we’re going to need to be incredibly truthful with ourselves and the people around us.
While different in so many ways, we both share a common faith and a strong sense of adventure. We’ve found our superpowers because of our differences, not in spite of them. We’ve used these differences to sort out what things are worth the effort to pursue and which ones we should leave behind.
Something happens when we mess up. We get to start fresh. Are we going to get it wrong from time to time? Yep. Will we make big things out of small things? You bet. Yet God is infinitely patient with us. Sometimes the mistakes are small ones and sometimes they’re big ones. I’m still messing up the simple things in my life like taking my temperature, but God calls me His own nonetheless. He does the same with you. We need to get this straight as we explore our ambitions, or we’ll let our past failures block our bright futures.
We’ve all suffered setbacks. Maybe you’ve tried to go after some audacious dreams that got derailed along the way. Maybe a few others sunk at the dock. What do you do when this happens? This book isn’t full of airtight answers, but it will ask a few questions and offer a pathway to reframe your thinking. In the meantime, though, don’t feel bad about not being perfect before you start.
Get Under the Ice Cap
Maybe you know your ambitions (or have a pretty good sense of them) but have been too afraid to make any moves. There are a lot of people in this exact spot. Perhaps you’ve been living with unexecuted dreams for years, wearing them like an old T-shirt, yet avoiding them like a weird roommate. This is something that happens to our best ideas all the time. We’re so close to them, or we’ve ignored them for so long, that we can’t even see them for what they are anymore. Then just when we think we have corralled them, they change. When this happens, don’t get bummed out; get current with your new ambitions. I know it feels like a hassle, but it’s a good thing. We’re supposed to be new creations, and there will be nothing new about us if everything remains the same.
To help you get unstuck. I want you to line up all your ambitions and distinguish between the ones that sound good but aren’t, the ones you should completely ignore, and the ones that are worth throwing everything you’ve got into. When you figure these things out, in Starbucks parlance, I don’t want you to merely go Tall or Grande; I want you to go Venti on them.
Who Are You?
If we don’t take the time to discover what’s beneath the surface in relationships, or faith, or careers, we won’t go for what’s best; we’ll just keep reaching for whatever is available and easily accessible. Going under the ice cap requires asking ourselves Why did I do that? Make a time and a place to do this. If you needed dialysis, you wouldn’t miss the appointment because a meeting came up. Trust me, you need this uninterrupted time. Do whatever it takes to get it.
An unexpectant life is one that is merely on repeat. A life lived in constant anticipation, on the other hand, is one willing to do a load of self-examination. We can’t fix what we won’t take the time to understand. If you’re willing to make the trip under the surface, you’ll find some pretty great stuff there. Some hard stuff? Sure. Some scary stuff? You bet. Some stuff you’d rather avoid? Definitely.
But at least you’ll understand the real you. You’ll be dealing with the real causes of your insecurity, not merely the manifestations of it. You’ll confront the actual impediments in your life, not just the perceived ones. Why settle for the surface-level version of yourself when you can go a little deeper and discover the core of who you really are? Don’t waste another moment without getting to know yourself. You’re worth it. Don’t believe this simply because I say so, but because God does.
Where Are You?
Where are you? Be courageous. Figure it out, own it, then write it down or say it out loud. Have a friend take you to Starbucks, make them pay, and have three minutes of authenticity together. Tell someone, perhaps even a few people you trust, where you really are. If you can’t find the words, slip them the note you wrote. We need to tell people where we really are so they can meet us there. Tell God, too, and for Pete’s sake, shoot straight. Don’t green screen your life or airbrush your circumstances to make them look different than what’s really happening. God already knows—He’s been waiting in the garden and wants you to get honest enough with yourself and with Him to just say it. Besides, He likes to hear the sound of your voice. Use it and tell Him. Once we figure out where we are, He can lead us from there.
Don’t let this kind of honesty discourage you. It’s okay to be somewhere and wish you were in a different spot. It happens all the time.
We can’t get on the path toward our ambitions without figuring out where we are. What has felt like your resting place is now a starting line. If you have the honesty and guts for it, what you’ve been stuck in is what you’ll be freed from. Where you are today is simply the harbor from which your ship is about to sail. Cut loose the lines. The horizon is where you’re heading because it’s where your ambitions reside.
What Do You Want?
What do you want? Jesus asked people what they wanted all the time. He didn’t have problems with the people who messed up grappling with the issues in their lives; He didn’t like it when people faked it. If you find yourself tempted to be artificial or disingenuous, find a new way to deal with your insecurity. Bite your tongue, swallow a goldfish, or shave off your eyebrows if you need to, but break the cycle. Look at Jesus. He surrounded Himself with disciples who couldn’t get the nets on the right side of the boat most of the time. At times they had desires that must have seemed superficial at best. But Jesus was kind, direct, and never mean to them. When you’re real and authentic with Him, He won’t beat you up when you mess up because He’s embarrassed by you; He’ll embrace you because He loves you.
Remember the passage in the Bible where the blind man called out to Jesus so he could be healed? Jesus’ friends tried to help out by telling the man to stop yelling, but the blind man just yelled even louder. Maybe you should do the same if people have been trying to get you to quiet down about your ambitions. Quit whispering them to yourself and, instead, start shouting them into the world. Jesus asked the blind guy the same question He asks all of us every day. “What do you want me to do for you?” The answer must have seemed pretty obvious to the blind guy. But just like God in the garden with Adam and Eve, I don’t think Jesus needed to hear the answer. He wanted to make sure the blind guy was clear on his ambitions and knew what he wanted more than anything else. He wants the same thing from you too.
Chase the Jeep
There’s a big difference between waving at Jesus and following Him.
When Jesus invited you on this adventure called your life, He did it so you could fulfill the ambitions He has for you—to be fully alive and fully His. He also wants you to align your faith with your talents and chase after the Jeep. He wants you to stare down your fears knowing He’s got your back and can handle anything that comes your way. It’s not as simple as this though. Oftentimes we compartmentalize our faith—it’s what we do in church or during a daily devotion we feel guilty for skipping.
On this path to discovering and living your most beautiful, lasting ambitions, you’re going to have to activate your faith in order to drive your life. You’re going to have to give it all to Him. Jesus is knocking on the door of your life because He wants the whole room, not to just have you take a safe look at Him through a peephole or the crack between the door and the crack you’re in.
It’s natural to seek comfort and familiarity in life. A life filled with uncertainty can feel too chaotic and stressful. Just the right amount of stress, however, can awaken our senses and bring out some of our best traits. This tension is almost always part of chasing a dream. How about you? Are you afraid of living on the edge of yikes? Does it get you completely amped and ready to take on the world? How would you describe your default reaction as you start to take some steps toward your dreams?
You might be able to divide the world between people who procrastinate and those who don’t. It’s the late-night crammers before the big test versus the people who studied for weeks. Be honest with yourself—are you a procrastinator? Do you think of a dozen reasons why not to get started? Decide now how you’re going to respond as you take your first steps toward a dream.
Sometimes the resistance we feel toward action comes from inside us. Other times it comes from the people around us. Can you name one or two people who you think will try to tamp down your dream? How will you respond when they start to douse your attempts?
Perfectionism can be a major roadblock to our dreams. We think, If I can’t do it exactly how I want, I won’t do it at all. Don’t fall prey to this. Are you a perfectionist who does less because it won’t be exactly right the first time?
Fear of failure is another big reason from people struggling to realize their dreams. What if you failed on purpose just to get it out of your system? The truth is, failure is a reality for all of us. You might as well join the club and realize that not every attempt toward your dream will be successful. The real challenge is this: how will you respond to failure?