“There is only one way to learn,” the alchemist answered. “It’s through action.”
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
It is a Saturday morning in San Francisco and I’m here to speak today at Women’s Travel Fest, an annual, three-day event that inspires, empowers, and celebrates women’s travel. The panel topic is overcoming obstacles to travel and live the life you love. As I sat down to prepare for our roundtable discussion this week, I found myself making excuses. Excuses why maybe there was someone else that would be a better fit for this panel. A woman like Reese Witherspoon in Wild, who has trekked 1,000 miles alone on a trail, had a life-changing, big adventure. Traveled to more countries. Sold everything and lived as a vagabond. Then I realized that while these big life adventures are real and achievable, it is not what most people do – or want to do – in real life. Some of us have kids, husbands, wives, and jobs. Mortgages to pay. Adult responsibilities. Aging parents to care for.
Maybe we don’t feel like we need a full life reboot, just some fine-tuning to pursue our personal passions. Make time for things that matter most to us like family, friends, travel. Many of us have good marriages, happy families, friends, careers, and are not looking for a radical shift, just a thread in the daily routine that is distinctly our own. This is where I believe the real courage lies. In the ability to chase your dreams and take a slice out of the daily pie for us. Why? It is too easy to make excuses. Excuses why today is not the day to start a new project. Start writing that book. Book that yoga retreat we have always wanted to take. In every day life, these little moments and little excuses where we miss opportunities to show up and take action to fulfill our dreams.
Sometimes the things we really want for ourselves are things that we put off doing. Why? Perhaps out of fear of putting ourselves out there, we will somehow let ourselves down. Or be subject to criticism and judgment. Maybe we get too busy taking care of others, that we end up pushing aside the stuff that fills us with energy. In conversations with friends this is a persistent theme.
“It would be so nice to take that girls trip, but Jack has three soccer games this weekend.”
“I have always wanted to start my own business, but this job pays me so well it is hard to think of giving up the consistent income.”
“I am a stay at home mom and my kids need me to be there for them (even while they are in school all day).”
“I have always wanted to write a book, but just can’t seem to carve out the time to write everyday.”
“I want to be super fit and healthy, but just can’t find the time to workout.”
“I’ve always wanted to travel alone but I have been too afraid to do it.”
I’m a master of excuses and have said all of these. In fact, while I consider myself a doer, I am really good at making excuses, especially in times of stress where I can’t see the path To what is next. Looking back, do you want to know what caused me the most stress in these times? My indecision. The excuses I made for why I couldn’t take that first step.
Like that time when I was miserable in my job and desperately wanted to start my own business and start a family.
Like that time when I was a new mom and thought my story didn’t matter anymore and to be a good mom meant that pursuing my passions didn’t matter anymore.
Like that time I wanted to start this blog but was too afraid to put myself out there.
I look back to these turning points where it was not the circumstances, but my lack of action that was the root of my suffering. When indecision was an old friend that had long overstayed his welcome.
When we think about breaking free of obstacles, we typically think of making big, radical life changes. But for some, it is in the quiet whispers and moments where we get our wake-up call and find ourselves surrendering and gaining the courage to pursue our passions. In these moments, we make a conscious decision to let go of perceptions that hold us back from pursuing our calling. We release the endless mental mind chatter and fear that cripples us into inaction. We trust the process and stop comparing our journey with others. We stop making excuses and start making plans. Sometimes these breakthrough moments come wrapped in big opportunities. But more often than not, I’ve discovered they come in quiet perseverance, in the small steps and actions we take to move the ball forward everyday. In our ability to stop making excuses and make space to seek out that which fuels us- even if we don’t know what that is yet. In taking action in our everyday lives while juggling our marriages, motherhood, career, and life that is anything but neat and tidy. In trusting the process and making the decision to pursue our dreams in the little, everyday moments.
What excuses have you found yourself making for not taking that next step?