We are pleased to share the following article from guest contributor and reader Matt Koenig from 1 Year Sabbatical. Matt reached out to us in February to talk about his story and struggles with living the good life. His story was inspiring and we wanted to have him share how he and his wife have handled the ups and downs of living your dreams.
When Betsy and Warren asked if I would write a piece for the site I was very apprehensive. I didn’t feel qualified to speak to anyone about following your dreams and living the good life. In fact I felt like a complete and total failure. How could someone like me who failed at things more often than not write anything inspiring? Despite reservations I wrote with the hope that in some small way my struggles will show that failure is not the end of the world. In fact it is just the beginning.
I’ve dealt with the seemingly polar opposites of dreams and fear. But rather than opposing forces I think they are complimentary opposites. I’ve always seen fear as a negative force that paralyzed me into complacency. But fear can also be the opposite, a highly motivating force that sparks one into action.
When faced with a choice between life and death most of us will choose life even if that means making difficult decisions. Aron Ralston the mountain climber who while hiking in an isolated canyon in Utah became trapped by an 800 pound boulder grappled with the choice between certain death and cutting off his own arm in order to survive. He chose life.
Now our decisions may not seem as dramatic but aren’t they? We are all going to die. The older I get the more this thought haunts me. We get one shot at this life. Am I doing the things I dream about or is the fear of uncertainty pulling the strings?
A year ago my wife and I dreamed of taking a yearlong sabbatical to Indonesia. I blogged and talked a lot on a variety of hip buzz word topics. But all I was doing was talking. I had no real plan and I wasn’t taking actionable steps toward realizing that dream. Maybe I was more in love with the dream than in actually doing it. Talk is cheap but action is the currency of life.
We failed miserably. I felt like I had not only let myself down but everyone who supported our dream. I hated myself and my life. I stopped blogging, sank into depression, argued and fought with my family and mentally surrendered to the thought that this was how my life was supposed to be. I felt trapped, unable to escape a situation that didn’t appeal to me. I had no clear picture of what it was I really wanted.
Fear is an insidious force that manifests itself in ways we often don’t even realize. It pretends like it’s a good friend just trying to protect us. It’s that smooth talking rational voice inside our heads offering up any excuse at all for remaining complacent. It wants us to ignore our gut feelings and extinguish our desires. This is my struggle.
When fear fuels failure what do you do? How do you deal with embarrassment? How do you react? I’ve learned a lot about myself over the past year and life taught me a few lessons. Here is what I am doing now to deal with failure and strive to live the good life.
I don’t feel embarrassed
. We failed. People may have even written us off, even said negative things. I’m over the embarrassment. Embarrassment only leads us down the path of self-pity and that walk steers us away from our dreams and goals. Who cares if we failed? We now know what not to do next time. I try to remember that this is MY life.
Evaluate our failure
. Why did we fail? What do we need to do or change to make sure we don’t do the same thing again? Mistakes and failure are how we learn. We are taking a long hard look at where we went wrong.
Re-evaluate our dreams and goals
. After the disappointment we took a step back and re-evaluated our goals. Were they realistic based on the parameters we set? I firmly believe that anything is possible but one must also be realistic about the timeframe. We had set a financial goal for our sabbatical that turned out to be unrealistic based on constraints we placed on ourselves. We also didn’t have a realistic plan to reach those goals. It’s easy now to look back and see the problems. Failure is simply life showing you a different path to reach your goals.
Set new time frames with very specific actionable steps
. We messed up. We failed. We took a step back (or forward) and re-evaluated our situation. Now we are working to set a new time frame and make very specific actionable steps to reach our goals. Our biggest problem was that we were so caught up with envisioning ourselves living the dream that we failed to take the required action to actually get there. Anything worth doing requires work and sacrifice. We are now working on a well-defined list of steps we need to take and assigning a realistic time-frame to each. I’ll say it again; action is the currency of life.
Never ever, ever, ever give up
. Regroup! We will never give up on what we want. We might fall on our face again. We might make a fool of ourselves. We might have many uncomfortable moments and conversations. But our dreams continue to haunt us and make us miserable until we do something about them. Never give up! We fail? Regroup! We fail again? Regroup! But we never give up. Our life depends on it.
I hope our experience offers you encouragement that failure is not the end of the world. In fact it is just another step in the right direction.
Matt Koenig is a husband, a father to two wonderful boys and a photographer. He is on a journey to live in positive and inspirational ways, complain less and experience all this world has to offer. You can connect with him at http://www.mattkoenigphotography.com.
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