Last week I wrote about my students leaving and how I felt about it. It was my privilege to make a speech at their graduation assembly. As well as the expected thank you’s and fond reminiscences I wanted to leave my students with something inspiring, and for that I turned to my own high school graduation. When I finished my HSC exams my parents gave me a framed quote by Bryce Courtenay, which still hangs on my study wall:

Dream the impossible dream and start walking towards it. On the way you’ll be beaten up, chewed, spat out, mauled, ripped apart, given up for lost. This is called “experience” and its very, very valuable in life, because what you mostly learn from it is that you were more afraid of what might happen than what did happen. One bright sunny morning you’ll discover that the wild and unknown way you took is carpeted with moss and strewn with tiny flowers. It has become a familiar path, a well trodden direction which has put you miles ahead of anyone else and much, much closer to achieving your once impossible dream.

The idea that we are more often afraid of what might happen than what actually happens is so powerful to me. Too often we find ourselves too afraid of the possibility of failure to consider the opportunities when we succeed. I have been guilty of this negative thinking – in fact I regularly get caught up thinking about what I might lose instead of what I might gain. But I am trying.

Matthew Michalewicz [image source]

Matthew Michalewicz [image source]

At the ProBlogger conference I heard Matthew Michalewicz speak about the same idea. He clearly articulated how fear and desire are driving our decisions. Does our desire for something outweigh our fear of failure, rejection or the work that we must undertake to achieve the goal? Then we will work hard to achieve our goal. If our fear is greater we will not attempt the action, or will give up too easily. Looking back on my life I can see many, many occasions where this fear / desire dichotomy was at work: I chose not to audition for theatre school because I was too afraid of rejection; I applied for a promotion because my desire to prove myself was greater than my fear of not being good enough for the job; I asked Kirsty to marry me because my love for her far outweighed any fear she might say “No.”

Fear and desire rule our relationships, working life and the pursuit of our dreams. Fear is the “excuse” we give for not pursing our dreams – “I don’t have the time”, “I’ll look stupid”, “What if I fail…”. They are the thing that stands in our way, that we cannot see any way around, over or through. But if your desire is strong enough, any obstacle can be overcome. It is important to recognise this. To believe it. When working towards new goals identify what it is you want, and what it is you are afraid of. Name the thing that is stopping you from being successful, of doing the impossible, and then start maximising your opportunities for achieving your goal.

impossible dreamAs a family we are chasing new dreams, taking more chances in order to improve our life. Kirsty has taken the massive leap of faith to leave her job. Sure, we are afraid of not having enough money, of people thinking leaving a good job is a stupid idea, of failing at our new business goals. But our desire for something better for our family, where someone is at home full-time, where we have more time for each other, where we can travel, far outweighs these fears. We have dreams that twelve months ago we thought were impossible, but we are now working towards them. We are feeling optimistic and excited. We have decided to buy a puppy. We are chasing our dream of a happier family.

What is your impossible dream? What is holding you back? What are you going to do about it?