Inside: These 12 lies keep many people stuck and can hold us back from building a creative and purposeful life. This post may contain referral links.
Most mornings I wake up drippy with gratitude and delight for this imperfect and beautiful life of mine. I can hardly believe how fortunate I am to connect with women around the world, have space to putter and read, a family to love, and opportunity to use my gifts to encourage and teach on a daily basis.
But not that long ago I lived stuck. Afraid to write, to try new things, to take a risk.
I was productive and busy yet I wasn’t showing up fully to life nor doing my deepest work in the world. This was in large part because I hadn’t yet learned to examine and challenge the stories I believed about myself, life, and the world in general.
I choose to live on purpose and show up through fear
Courage isn’t the absence of fear but choosing to show up even when we’re afraid. In a similar vein, living a purposeful life doesn’t mean having life all figured out or always feeling confident but choosing to live awake and with intention each step of the way.
When we decide to step out and forge a life off the beaten path or one fully aligned to our core values and highest priorities, resistance tends to arise. Comparison and perfectionism clamor aggressively for our attention. And fear spins subtle lies or half-truths to keep us distracted and mired in complacency.
We need to wake up to the thoughts we believe about our worth and capacity to do hard things so we can separate fact from fiction, challenge the lies, and continue forging ahead – with joy and on purpose.
Challenge these 12 lies for a purposeful (and creative!) life
Daily, we can practice taking imperfect action to build a life that feels like home. When we stumble we can pick ourselves up with compassion and when we tip into trying to measure up or keep up to arbitrary standards, we can come back home to our vision and reorient ourselves.
1. My dream is impossible. It’s too big and will take too long.
When there is a huge gulf between where we are and what we want, we can feel incredibly discouraged. How will we ever get “over there?” Be willing to be a beginner and break that big vision down into micro-steps and take the longer view; if it’s worth having then it’s worth slow and steady work. We build a sense of competency as we experience small wins by focusing on small, consistent, purposeful steps. Bigger and faster are not always better qualities.
2. I’ll never be able to measure up or keep up.
This may very well be true … if your job was to measure up or keep up with everyone else. But your job is to walk out your unique vision, to honor your wiring and build a “right-sized life.” Perfectionism will keep us from even starting but we can loosen our grip on a need for our life or dream to look exactly one way and choose to stay open to joyful possibility. Yes, you may never “measure up or keep up” to anyone else but you may build a joyful, purposeful life that is far beyond what you could have hoped for or imagined, simply because you stepped out.
3. I’ve tried before and failed. So why bother now?
When we remove judgment and shame from the conversation, we see all our life experiences as useful information that can be harnessed for our benefit. Not one of us will get through life unscathed – there is no shame in falling – so get back up. Each day is a fresh start to choose who and how we’ll be in the world; we can show up courageous and curious. Learning to pivot and learn from life experience is a sign of wisdom so shake yourself off, cheer yourself onward, and craft a new plan of action.
4. I’m a fraud, a phony, and just making things up as I go.
If this is you, celebrate! It means you’re in the arena. We’re all making it up as we go and rather than this being shameful, it’s amazing. This life is a crazy, beautiful, messy adventure for those who step into it one day at a time. There are no certainties—no guarantees—just momentary opportunities. Mistakes should be made and learned from every single day. Or, as Marc and Angel say in their New York Times bestseller, “Allow yourself to be a beginner. No one starts off being great. Do the best you can until you know better. And once you know better, do a little better.”
5. Every time I try something new, I go strong for a few weeks then fall off the wagon.
This is a really common problem that can often be resolved by choosing an “all or something mindset.” Adopting a more sustainable approach to life and goals can help us stay the course. We can build daily, weekly, and yearly rhythms that feel joyful and sustainable. We can remember that periods of rest are essential to productivity and creativity. We can learn not to run from discomfort when things feel hard. And we can practice quieting the noise of perfectionism that tells us that success looks like “all or nothing.”
6. Everyone else has figured out how to adult – something’s wrong with me.
Life is messy for all of us. We are each uniquely gifted and we’ll be presented with challenges and opportunities to stretch and grow. While comparison whispers that everyone else sails smoothly through life, this is rarely true; what is more likely true is that you only see a tiny part of other people’s full, complex lives. And anyway, your job is to keep your eyes on your own path and stubbornly build and craft the life you desire.
7. I might be rejected or laughed at.
Not everyone will like or applaud you. You may be rejected at times and your work is not for everyone. Some people may even be downright mean. But here’s a foundational truth to keep in mind for a purposeful life: it’s not their job to like you. It’s yours. It’s your job to love yourself, treat yourself like you matter, and act as your own biggest cheerleader. When we decide to like ourselves, we find that we don’t crave external validation in quite the same way we once did because we’re clear on who we are, including our strengths and weaknesses, and on where we’re heading.
8. I’m not ready yet.
We find our way by stepping out and getting our hands dirty. Do you really need one more course, one more book, one more webinar, or are you allowing fear to keep you in hiding? When we step out into the bit of light we have, we learn what we never could from passive reading or watching what others are up to. We encounter both challenges and delight we couldn’t have dreamed up for ourselves. The truth is we’ll never be “fully ready” and will undoubtedly shift course as we go – this is a welcome, lovely part of the journey. Imperfect action will take you far.
9. Not everyone achieves success. Why would I be one of the chosen few?
Crafting a purposeful life necessitates defining (and continually redefining) success for ourselves. How will you gauge it, what will it look/sound/feel like? Is it strictly a number you can measure, or does it involve a holistic sense of how you’ll spend your days? When we own the truth of who we are and what we want instead of chasing other people’s ideas of “success” we are far more likely to find our way. And let’s say your precise vision of success doesn’t materialize: this may feel hard, but you can love yourself well, pivot, and keep showing up.
10. My partner/family/friends will think I’m foolish.
Let other people be responsible for their own thoughts and emotions. You take responsibility for yours. While I think it’s important to consider who we’ve allowed into our inner circle and if they deserve to be there, even people who love us may speak from fear or limited vision or feel triggered when we desire change in our lives. At times we need to seek support outside of our family and friend circle. Be wise about who you allow to speak into your life and remember to advocate tenaciously for what you want and need.
11. I have real limitations in my life. It isn’t logical to add one more thing to my plate or rock the boat.
A lot of us live with very real limitations in our lives (anxiety, chronic pain, a health condition, limited time or support). It’s healthy to be honest about our circumstances and then to own that we always get to choose our response. It is possible to build a life that honors our wiring and specific health needs and still step out and do hard things. We are each a complex tangle of strength and struggle and my life should not be an exact replica of yours. Finally, I have never been disappointed when I trusted my gut or intuition in small steps, rather than letting logic or reason alone completely rule the roost.
12. I should be living up to my potential.
Release the pressure or expectation of living up to your potential and focus on living on purpose. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we ought to. Do the messy work to identify your core values and how you want to feel as you walk through your days. Listen in to what you truly want and value and pay more heed to this than to all the chatter around you. We get to decide how we’ll walk through these short lives of ours. Let’s choose wisely.
Comparison, perfectionism and fear can be sneaky about all the ways they show up in our lives. The good news is we can wake up to the lies they spin and not permit them to stop us from doing the work we feel called to or from loving ourselves well.
In a noisy world full of possibility and shiny things it takes work to dig in and uncover what we most want and need, put blinders on, and slowly but surely build joyful and purposeful lives of our own making.
Let’s build wisely.
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First published as a guest post in March 2019 over at Marc and Angel Hack Life!