“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts” - Eleanor Roosevelt
We spend a lot of time in this world finding excuses for not realising our dreams. “I don’t have the time” is a common one. “I don’t have the money” is another. “What if?” and a barrage of potential unknown, scary consequences is also rife.
The entrepreneurs I interview regularly have found ways to quash those questions in their minds, and find the confidence to ride over them, finding their way to fulfil those dreams, albeit often with false starts before they do.
When we announced to our friends and family that we were going to travel the world with our baby, so many people we spoke to said they would love to do the same, but…. “what would we do with our house?” …"how would we afford it?” … "what if we couldn’t find jobs afterwards?” …. were the same rebuttals that came again and again.
The reality is that to find the way to do what you really want to do in life, you have to tell some of those thoughts to, quite frankly, sod off. That first excuse, “I don’t have the time”, is one that we can all do something about though. Having the time to think through what we really want, and think through a way to get there, is a crucial first step to doing something, anything at all, that gets you started on that path to what you want. First steps are everything. They make you more enthused about your end goal. They make you realise that it might, just might, be possible. They enable to you see a path made up of many steps, rather than one, scary unattainable goal in its whole form.
So, how much time do we need? I’d argue a day is enough to get you started.
I recently had a day of time given to me. For my 40th birthday, my thoughtful husband booked me a day and a night at a yoga retreat. I hadn’t had any time (bar a few hours) away from our 16-month-old son since he’d been born, and I was in dire need of headspace. That one day was the most productive I’ve had in a long time, despite also finding some time to relax. We have a current dream to continue our travels on a more long-term basis, making our freelancing remotely a more permanent, stable endeavour, and continuing to see the world as a family. Remote working, or being a ‘digital nomad’ isn’t as easy as it sounds, as lots of companies are late in catching up to this way of working, so some creative thinking to really crack it is required. That day enabled me to break down the problem, think about it from different angles, and come up with a clear plan for us to make it happen.
Here are my tips for your 24 hours to make life work for you:
(1) First step: clear your 24 hours
This is the most important part. You need 24 hours without distractions. No kids nipping at your heels. No work emails to answer. No dinner to cook for your family. Enlist the help of loved ones and friends here. It’s 24 hours, it IS feasible. Get someone to look after the kids, and separate yourself from the family home if necessary. Book a day off work for something that isn’t holiday, but is an investment in yourself and your future. Make this a 24-hour appointment that CANNOT be missed. Plan up until it in the way that you would before going on holiday, so that your out of office can be on, and you don’t feel tempted to pick up the phone and start checking in on life.
This isn’t going to work if you don’t commit to making this 24 hours solely for you and your headspace.
(2) Find a good space to think
For me, this is ideally out of the home. Away from the distractions of the fridge, TV, family photos, magazines, whatever it is that may draw your attention away. If you can afford to book a hotel for the day and night, do it. If not, explore finding a quiet space where you can focus for the day, whether it’s a beautiful local library, a local co-working space, or a café that isn’t filled to the brim with noisy commuters. It needs to be a space that you can happily stare at the walls in contemplation, so make it nice, make it quiet (unless you need noise to think, some people do), and make it all yours.
(3) Bring big sheets of paper
Anyone who has ever worked with me will know my love for a large piece of A3. My one regret in my packing decisions for this year away has been the inability to have a big A3 pad with you at all times, as a small notebook doesn’t quite hit the mark in the same way. There are two roles for this being paper, and it being big. The paper side of things means you can turn off the laptop and your phone, as you won’t need them for this initial bout of thinking. The BIG side means you can think creatively, up, down, left, right. We need to think in a way akin to mind mapping to get you out of any funk that may give you excuses to not make the first steps to what you really want. You need space for this kind of approach.
Plus, it’s fun. There’s something about thinking and jotting stuff down and doodling on A3 that makes you feel like you’re back in school. Which is exactly where we want to be. Because when you’re young, you don’t have all of the ready excuses to why you can’t achieve something that we somehow have inbuilt to us as adults.
(4) Decide what it is you really want to achieve with your day
This isn’t going to be a new career or business idea for everyone (although for some of you it might be, you might have that clarity already). For some of us, it might be a problem that we start with, e.g. “I’m not happy with my job”, or “I don’t get to see my kids enough because of my job”. If you’re starting with a problem, try and re-work it as a solution, so you’re working towards something positive. Start with your problem in the middle of the page, and list off in any random order what it is about that problem that bothers you. There’s no limit here, and you should go as fast as you can, so it’s fluid and you don’t necessarily have time to reconsider or judge your responses.
For example, “I’m not happy in my job” – could be ‘the hours are too long’, ‘I don’t like the commute’, ‘I’m not inspired by my boss’.. etc etc. What you want to do is reframe these into positives, e.g. ‘I want a job with shorter / flexible hours’, or ‘I want a job that is closer to where I live’. Working towards a positive, rather than away from the negative, puts you in a positive space of mind, and enables you to think proactively about the solutions, rather than be frustrated by the situation itself.
For others, it might be a singular thing you want to achieve, e.g. “I want to be able to take 3 months off to go snowboarding” or, “I want to be able to work 3 days a week so I can see my kids more”. You’re already there with your positive aim. Use your first steps to make sure it’s as specific and tangible as you can make it. Again, list as many different aspects to that solution, and try to prioritise which are most important to you.
(5) Work out your common objections / the objections of others
We all have negative voices in our heads that can limit our potential. The ones telling us that we’re not good enough, that our ideas aren’t ready to put into place, that someone else could / is doing it better, so why bother? To silence these voices, we need to first give them some air. Once they’re out in the open, with all of their criticisms laid to bare, we can start to kick down their defences.
So, going back to our example of ‘I’m not happy with my job’, which we’ve reframed as ‘I want a job with shorter / flexible hours’, we may list out the following objections:
· No-one else at work is doing it
· My boss would never go for it
· I’d never get all of my work done
· I won’t get put forward for promotion
· They will think I’m disinterested in my work
· What if they don’t think I’m good enough…. etc etc
Once you’ve listed them all out, take a good hard look at them in print. They already start to seem less scary once you’ve written them down. Go through each in turn and play devil’s advocate. Why might your voices be wrong? If you were giving advice to a friend in your situation who had the same objections, what would they say?
If you’re really struggling, this is your opportunity to phone a friend. Choose someone who is a positive influence in your life, the kind of person you go for a drink with when your day has been bad, not to moan about things, but because you know they’ll give you a positive way forward. Ask them to run through your list with you, and give you that push that you need.
(6) Assign actions to each of your objections
Once you have your list of objections, and your reasons for pushing back on each one, you need to work through a list of actions for each that would help you address that objection.
If you’re struggling, think through the following:
· Is it something you can gather evidence for from others who have done it?
· Are there people who can help you influence that situation?
· Is there research you can do to better help you approach it?
· Is it something you can propose a test for, to help you prove your point?
· Can you propose being the first, and use this as a positive, even if it’s not tried and tested?
· How might the situation actually benefit the person you’re proposing it to? Think of it from their side – and if necessary, list out their objections and repeat the prior exercise
If you can, put a potential timing next to each action – even if it’s approximate, e.g. days / weeks / months. Try and list them in order of priority / necessity to reach your goal to give you a broad timeline.
(7) Pick one, just one to get you started. Do it today.
It doesn’t have to be a big thing, but pick one action from your list, and do it this minute. The momentum, and achievement you’ll feel from having got started on your plan will be enough to get you going on the rest, trust me.
(8) Tell someone what you’re doing. Make them your cheerleader.
This might be your ‘phone a friend’ person from the earlier exercise, but either way, it needs to be someone who encourages you in life, but also gives it to you straight. Tell them about your plan, and ask them to be someone who checks in on how you’re doing, or will act as a mirror for your thoughts and actions as you progress.
(9) Pour a large glass of wine, and do whatever you fancy for the evening
I promise that the above won’t take you a full day and a night, if you let yourself be fluid in your thinking, and you’ve removed all other distractions. And if you’ve successfully got everything else in your life covered for the day, do something you love, you’ve earned it!
(10) Revisit your plan with a fresh pair of eyes
In the morning, before you step back to reality – revisit your broad plan. Make any tweaks, but don’t second guess yourself. Congratulate yourself on having made that first step, and schedule your next step in before you lose your momentum.
You’ve done it! 1 day of your time, but a huge investment in yourself.
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