Have you ever listened to children talk about what they want to be when they grow up?
They talk about it with such enthusiasm and excitement and hope. “I want to be a teacher.” “I want to be a policeman.” “I want to be a movie star.”
For me, I wanted to be a writer. I devoured books by the dozen, and one day I was going to write a book. I was going to be just like my favourite authors, Stephen King, Wilbur Smith, John Irving, and later, Paulo Coelho. I was going to make it as a writer one day. One day, when I finished high school.
But it didn’t happen. I was just a ‘gunna’, someone who was going to do something but who in fact did nothing about it. I had the dream but not the drive, and when I graduated from high school I was accepted straight into the Adelaide University Medical School.
So I spent the next eight years at medical school studying anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, microbiology, and telling everyone I was gunna be a writer one day. One day, that was, when I’d finished all my studies and graduated from university.
But it didn’t happen. I moved to Sydney and completed my internship, still telling everyone that I was gunna be a writer one day. By now over a decade had passed and I hadn’t written a single word of the book I was gunna write.
How could I? I was too busy working, and with what little time I had spare I spent socialising and traveling. There was simply no time to write. But I would one day. One day, that was, when I could find enough time.
But it didn’t happen. In 1994 I flew to London for a six-week holiday and stayed for ten years. In 1998 I got accepted into the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) training program. I began working extremely long hours, as well as studying for my specialist exams, all the while telling everyone I was gunna write a book one day. One day, that was, when I passed the exams and became a consultant paediatrician.
But it didn’t happen. I was now thirty and had successfully postponed my dream of writing for over fifteen years, more than half my life to date. Not only had I achieved a double degree in medicine and surgery, I was now the Professor of Procrastination and I knew everything there was to know about fooling yourself and killing your dreams.
When friends and colleagues asked me why I hadn’t written anything, I always had an answer: no time, no money, no resources, no support, no knowledge, no opportunity. But I was still gunna write a book one day. One day, that was, when I had more time, more money, more resources, more support, more knowledge, and more opportunity.
But my favourite excuse of all time, the excuse I kept coming back to again and again, was this: “I don’t have a computer.”
I used this excuse for four years straight. It was so good I didn’t bother with any other excuse. It worked every single time. Nobody could argue whenever I used it; it was the 90s, of course, when home computers were not staple items. They cost a fortune, didn’t you know? I didn’t have the money to splash out on such a luxury item. I had to pay the rent and food. I simply couldn’t afford a computer. It would have to wait.
“So I can’t write my book until I get one,” I told everybody.
Why nobody told me to just pick up a pen and piece of paper and start writing, I don’t know. Perhaps they felt sorry for me. Or intimidated by my vastly superior mastery of procrastination. Nonetheless, the excuse of “I don’t have a computer” kept the pragmatists at bay and my sense of victimisation brimming.
Because that’s what I was, wasn’t I? I wasn’t just a gunna, I was a victim.
I was a victim of myself. I was exactly where I was because of the choices I had made. Who I was, where I was, what I was doing, every single aspect of my current situation was because I had made the choices that created the life I was living.
That’s our power. We have the power to choose—free will—and although that power comes with consequences, and therefore responsibility, it also paves the way to our freedom.
Brendan Burchard is a #1 New York Times best-selling author of Life’s Golden Ticket, The Millionaire Messenger, and The Charge: Activating the 10 Human Drives that Make You Feel Alive. In his book, The Motivation Mandate: 9 Declarations to Claim Your Personal Power, he writes:
“The march to Personal Freedom can be won only by declaring our intent and independence, stepping into our personal power, and battling through self-doubt and the distractions of the day until full victory is won.”
In other words, to succeed you need to have strength of will, you need to utilise your inner power to choose, and you need to have belief in yourself and your purpose in life.
He also asks 3 questions that reflect on how we can find our Personal Freedom through our chosen craft and daily activities.
Let’s examine each of the questions raised and how they can help us succeed and prosper in life.
Q1: Did You Use The Time Gifted You To Be A Purposeful Being?
I’m going to tweak the question for our purposes and ask:
Do you use your time to live purposefully?
The question is actually asking you to develop a deep understanding of your Why?
That is, your purpose, your reason for being on this planet and doing what you do.
Understanding why you do what you do, understanding the purpose of your life, is an essential key to unlocking your true potential and inner prosperity.
Our Why? is our purpose, our reason for being who we are and doing what we do. Living as a ‘purposeful being’ therefore means we live for a bigger reason than ourselves. It means we strive for a cause, whatever that cause is, that we ‘hitch our wagon to a star’, to coin a phrase from Ralph Waldo Emerson.
When Michael Schumaker, winner of 7 Formula One world titles, was at the peak of his career he said, “I was born to race motorcars.”
He knew in every cell of his body that he was born to fulfill this role. He dedicated himself to his life purpose, and because of this he gave himself the best possible chance of achieving success in his chosen career.
I too knew what I was born to be, a writer. I felt it from an early age (and still do) with every cell of my body. But I didn’t dedicate myself to my life purpose until I was thirty, after I had a vision of my death 50 years in the future and decided to change career paths. Up until then, I played it safe. Writing wasn’t ‘a real job’, as everyone kept reminding me, and doctors made a comfortable, safe living.
But to live for a cause—to live purposefully—is liberating. The purpose driven life isn’t a bed of roses, but it frees you to be who you were born to be.
As Helen Keller said, “True happiness… is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”
Q2: Did You Follow Your Own Path And Make Your Time Count?
This question is reasonably self-evident:
Have you followed the road less traveled?
In order to thrive and prosper in this life, it’s important to be true to yourself.
This means expressing the real you, which often means distinguishing yourself from the crowd and not following the mob. It’s having the courage to create a unique identity, a unique voice, to stand up and say, ‘This is me! I’m different. Take me or leave me.’
A deeply ingrained part of human nature is the need to belong. In fact, one of the 3 fears we are born with is the fear of abandonment, which in later years of childhood and adulthood transmutes into the fear of rejection, of being unworthy, of being unacceptable to others.
One of the hardest things to do therefore is to put ourselves in a position in which we open ourselves to rejection, ridicule and scorn. It’s much easier to toe the line, to go with the crowd, to do as others do because then at least we don’t have to feel isolated and abandoned.
Following your own path is a deeply personal and courageous act because it makes you vulnerable. But this is where inner strength comes to the fore, the strength of character to say, ‘Take me as I am, or don’t.’ The strength to quash the temptation to follow where others go and instead take the road less traveled.
Taking the road less traveled follows the First Tenet of Success: Success is Self-Defined.
Q3: How Faithfully Did You Tend To The Dreams Sowed In Your Soul?
This question is really about one thing:
We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t procrastinate, so the question isn’t, ‘Do you procrastinate?’ rather: ‘How much opportunity has procrastination stolen from you?’
How much opportunity in wasted years? How much opportunity in earnings? How much opportunity in self-worth and respect?
Following your life purpose is a way of being. But it is also a way of doing.
The Fourth Tenet of Success is: Success is a Habit.
Success and prosperity require action, actually doing what’s necessary to achieve what you need to achieve. Without action, there is no success.
Procrastination, however, is a killer of action. As such, it is a killer of success and prosperity. We procrastinate for many reasons, but usually underlying those reasons is a fear of some description. Fear of failure. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of rejection. Fear of success, even.
As I said at the beginning of this article, I myself procrastinated for 15 years before I had the courage to write my first book, The Golden Chalice (actually, it was called The Naked Soul back then, but that was changed later after a major rewrite). The dream of writing had been sowed in my soul, but I ignored it.
The cause of my procrastination was the fear of rejection, of nobody liking what I’ve written, of readers laughing at my story (yes, the famous quote from Groucho Marx comes to mind, “From the minute I picked up your book to the minute I put it down, I was convulsed in laughter. Someday I intend reading it.”)
I told everyone and anyone who’d listen that I was going to write a book, but I didn’t. I just invented more and more excuses as to why I couldn’t write my book, avoiding at all costs solutions to why I could write it. I had every excuse under the sun, and it cost me 15 years in lost opportunity.
So, as a fellow traveler on this road called life, there are 3 important questions you need to ask of yourself:
- Am I committed to living with purpose?
- Am I following my own path?
- Am I allowing procrastination to kill the dreams sowed in my soul?