Stephen Hawking passed away recently. Most of us will remember him as one of the world’s most well-known physicists. We might recall his amazing accomplishments and incredible discoveries that changed the way we think about the universe. Some of us might not realize the odds he had to beat to achieve this greatness. His inspiring story is of how his five decades-long struggle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) never halted the pursuit of his passion. He was a known genius who didn’t let his disease stop him from achieving his dreams. But what if he had?
Some of us tell ourselves stories that hold us back from reaching our goals or dreams. We all have an “it”, or a descriptor, that can become the obstacle. We can come up with all kinds of reasons for not reaching for our dreams, which really seem very legitimate to us. When we begin to explore what gets in our way, it’s vital to make sure that we are not blaming or shaming ourselves for having a hard time moving forward with our goals and dreams or beating ourselves up. It’s about understanding what inhibits us from reaching for what we truly want.
It Doesn’t Have to be a Disability
The word ‘disability’ implies that a person is not able. People use this word so freely, yet on an unconscious level, using that word subtly communicates to ourselves and others that this is true, that we are unable. Perhaps we could instead consider the “it” as a physical or emotional challenge. Is there an emotional, cognitive, or physical challenge, then, that is keeping you from realizing your dreams?
If there’s something we really want to do, whether it be big or small, we might be limiting ourselves because of what we tell ourselves. Or perhaps we don’t try because of what we believe other people are telling us, or what stereotypes say. But it’s about us and not about what other people say.
What’s Standing in Our Way?
Self-limiting beliefs stand in the way of realizing our dreams. It’s potentially hurting ourselves when we say, I can’t do this because…
- I’m not capable— or not intelligent enough— or courageous enough.
- I don’t have enough money—or energy— or creativity.
- I’m obese—or in a wheelchair—or had a heart attack.
- I have bipolar disorder—or cancer—or I cannot see.
- It’s too hard— or too scary—or it will take too long.
Live Up to Our Own Potential
When we look at others who have accomplished goals and realized their dreams, it is important that we do not compare ourselves to them. This isn’t helpful because we then often feel bad about ourselves. It’s about seeing them as an example of what is possible despite their challenges or seeming limitations and being inspired by them. Seeing them as a role model might help us as we try to live up to our own potential and not limit ourselves.
- Rick Allen, the drummer for the English rock band Def Leppard, lost his arm in an automobile accident, went on to pioneer the art of one-armed drumming and returned to the band.
- Marlee Matlin, who is deaf, has become a very successful mainstream actress.
- Singer Demi Lovato is outspoken about her bipolar disorder and her desire to eliminate the stigma of mental illness.
It’s possible to live well, feel well, and also find happiness with bipolar disorder or any other mental illness they’re struggling with.Demi Lovato, WomensHealthmag.com
Dreams don’t have to be that of fame and celebrity status. Our dreams are never small, if they’re important to us and our happiness. We are each very special, unique human beings.
I’m Living My Dream
You may not know this about me, but I cannot see. One of my dreams was to be able to communicate and share a lot of my professional experience with humans and therapy in a more extensive way. I realized the best way to achieve this dream was by writing articles to reach out to a more expansive audience. Today I cut my finger. That makes it a little challenging to use the Braille writer, but I will do my best, because writing this article is part of my dream.
Because my vision is impaired, I could have left that as a dream and I could’ve just stayed stuck. Or I could’ve made a different choice, to see it as a challenge to be met, and that’s what I did. While acquiring my bachelor’s, and then my master’s degree, I struggled every time I had to write a paper. Part of it was because it felt hard, so I told myself it was. Even though I ultimately did well, at the time writing felt like torture. Once I started to work myself around those thoughts I overcame many of my limitations, self-imposed and otherwise. Now, over the last several years, I’ve written hundreds of articles.
No Dream Too Small
Don’t reserve dreams for sleeping. Whatever the dream is, or the desire is, do not let something we are physically or emotionally experiencing make us believe our dream is out of reach. If there is something that we really want to do, but self-limiting beliefs hold us back, we can start to work toward changing that. When we notice those negative thoughts, we can observe them, acknowledge them, write them down, and then work to change them. We can replace them with positive affirmations to help shift our mindset.
If we start with small steps to get that taste of success and don’t listen to that negative voice, we can forge ahead and not let fear stand in the way. We each have our own journey, on our own timeline, because it’s our individual dream and no one else’s. If we focus on moving forward we can start pursuing the small dreams to work on achieving the big ones.
Let’s Work Toward Your Goals
If your dreams and goals are being held back by fear or self-limiting beliefs, speaking with a trusted psychotherapist at Nassau Guidance and Counseling, located on Long Island, can help. Our licensed therapists have helped many people find the courage to work toward achieving their dreams.