To dream or not to dream? That is the question.
Throughout my life there have been two forces pulling me in opposite directions. First, there’s the rational mind that tells me to be realistic, financially conservative and play within my comfort zone. And then there’s, what I’ll call, the aspirational mind which tells me to follow my instinct, take risks, and reach beyond my limits.
Straddling the line between these two has defined my life up to this point. My rational mind led me to get a job in a big corporation, pay off the majority of my student loan debt, and carve a financially stable life in sales. On the other hand, my aspirational mind has been the driving force behind this blog, my move to New York City, and my journey into being a coach.
Even today as I sit here just six weeks after being laid off from my last sales job I can feel both forces tugging at me. Do I follow this path into coaching that feels right but will undoubtedly be more challenging? Or do I return to the safety of sales and a stable income?
If only the decision was straightforward.
Over the last week I’ve realized that I’m not alone. I’ve spoken with many others who are dealing with opposing forces in their own minds. One friend wonders “should I stay in corporate sales or leap to an exciting startup?” Another asks “do I stick it out as a marketing manager or become a creative freelancer?”
The opposing forces of the rational and aspirational minds pull at us all.
So the question becomes, how do we decide which to follow? And does it have to be black and white or is there a way to have both? Undoubtedly, the answer is going to be different for each of us.
But I can help you figure it out for yourself. Below are the questions I’ve been using to deal with my own opposing forces and ones that I think can apply to you too. I call it the ‘Rational Mind vs. Aspirational Mind’ Exercise.
‘Rational Mind vs. Aspirational Mind’ Exercise:
Grab a notebook and answer these questions one at a time. Make sure you’re in a space where no one will disturb you and that you have enough time to give this some serious thought. This should not be done half-heartedly. Off you go!
1. What is the major decision you’re grappling with today?
Write it out in detail. Don’t hold back. It’s best to get all your thoughts on the page.
2. Which is the rational choice and how would it make you feel to go that route?
Focus here on your emotions. Note any reaction your body has to this choice.
3. Which is the aspirational choice and how would it make you feel to go that route?
Again, focus on your emotions. Note the reaction your body has to this choice.
4. Pick the decision that feels better emotionally and pretend it’s what you’ve settled on. Now, what is possible if you go down this path?
Focus on the good for now and let your imagination run. List out all of the possibilities that could fall in line for you on this path.
5. What would be the consequences of NOT following this path?
On this step, look into what you’d be missing out on if you didn’t choose this option. Will you always wonder what would have been?
6. If you do walk down this path, could you get back to the other path if you absolutely had to? How could you get back?
Try to consider here what you’d be losing. Would the other path be gone or would you be able to return to it six months or a year down the road if you had to?
7. What would it look like to make a small jump?
Maybe the risk you’re looking to take can be done in small steps rather than a huge plunge. What’s a small jump you can take that would allow you to test the waters? Can you commit to do this over the next week? Write it down.
This exercise helps to show that dreaming doesn’t have to be scary. You can use a process to arrive at your decision and create systems to keep yourself in check. While the rational mind is good for keeping you safe, it will not allow you to reach your full potential. On the other hand, your aspirational mind has the ability to bring you beyond what you perceive to be possible. If you can create a system that allows you to work safely in that aspirational mindset then you can find the courage to pursue for your dreams.