I have a theory about why so many dreams go unrealized. It’s not because of lack of motivation, skills, or available support (although those things are all crucial elements in success.) It’s related to the fear of not knowing what you want… It’s that many people are scared to want what they want.
It’s one of the most vulnerable things you can do, to take your Dream out of the safe little space that is your head, and put it out in the real world to fend for itself. Let’s face it: The World is not really a safe place for a Dream. It might get laughed at by friends, stomped on by bullies, or perhaps worst of all, you might try and fail to achieve your Dream. Better to keep it safe in the realm of perpetually possible, right? Always something that could happen in the future?
In my very first blog post, in my About Page, and in a recent post from my adventures abroad I make reference to this conflict I’ve been facing for over two years: Do I want to pursue elite-level Nordic skiing?
For years, a decade, the answer was an unquestioned, unexplored yes. Even when I suspected the answer might be no, the answer was still yes. The truth is that several years before I officially deviated from this path, I’d begun dreaming about different things: About travel, and running, and choosing my own race schedule. It’s important to note that in the world of Elite-level Nordic skiing, your options are pretty limited, and you absolutely have to be on a team. Nordic skiing requires a HUGE amount of support, and money, and the byproduct is that athletes have pretty limited freedom.
Breaking with the Elite-Skiing track I’d set for myself has landed me more than a couple terrifying questions:
If I don’t want to be a pro skier, what have I been doing for the past 12 years of my life?
If I don’t want to be a pro skier, will I ever be able to enjoy just racing recreationally? What will my relationship with the sport become?
Do I want to pursue other sports? To what level?
Who the heck am I if not a ski racer!?
There’s a lot of fear wrapped up in these questions…and we don’t like fear. Especially the kind that makes us question our identity. We’ll do just about anything to avoid it. Now, that’s great if you really need to, say, do the laundry, and with the alternative being facing your fears you decide the laundry really isn’t so bad after all. But what happens when you start making much bigger life decisions based on avoiding the difficult questions?
Let’s take last year, my first year in twelve away from Nordic racing, as an example. In an effort to distract myself from this fact and the various other questions it raised (see above) I moved to Alta, Utah to live and work at the alpine ski resort. Without a car, without knowing anybody, never having been to Alta, not knowing if there are Nordic trails there, etc…
Now, it should be noted that Alta is a sweet place, and that their powder is the best I’ve personally seen. Yeah, that’s me 🙂
But…I was super unhappy!
It’s just not healthy to ignore such pressing questions about the most important thing of all: WHAT YOU WANT.
So today I encourage you all to say, out loud, the thing you’ve been scared to even think about. In light of recent New Years Resolutions I’m sure many of you have made, I think this is a worthwhile exercise. Are you feeling brave? Say it:
“I want to lose 15 lbs before my son’s high school graduation”
“I want to crush my half marathon PR”
“I want to take a vacation to the Alps and be fit enough to hike for a whole week”
“I want to be able to finish a 5k race with my daughter”
The more emotionally charged, the better. Go on, say it. Why are you afraid of what you want?
“But Carly,” you say, “I don’t KNOW what I want.”
Hm, okay, fair. But do you know something you don’t want?
I decidedly Do Not Want to be an alpine ski bum. Cause, hm, I actually am addicted to endurance sports…and I love Nordic skiing too much…and I miss racing…
This is the thought process I went through, stuck in Alta for 5 months. And you know what, I think I DO want to race Nordic skiing. AND I want freedom to travel and choose my own race schedule and do other sports. The two have seem irreconcilable for so long in my tiny world of tunnel-vision focus that I’ve been afraid to say I want them both. It took striking out in a new direction (the wrong direction) last winter to show me that I know myself better than I thought I did.
Today, I took a major step in the pursuit of my Dream. Today was my first real race of the season. I’ve had more than a few people ask how I’m planning to race self-supported this year. Who’s funding it. Who’s waxing my skis. Who I’ve been training with. Who sets my training plan. Answer(s): Me.
Putting my brave face on:
“I’m Carly, and I want to train and race with complete freedom, accountable to no one but me, and I want to CRUSH IT!”
If I can say my Dream for the World Wide Web to read, you can say yours to yourself in the mirror.
Today I took action. I was nervous. If I bombed, there is literally NOBODY to blame but myself. If I had no fun, then I face all over again the question, “Do I even want to be doing this?” If I raced well and had a blast, then I wonder, “Why did I not join a team immediately after college?” and “Do I want to join a team next year?” No matter the outcome, difficult questions follow. And it will be that way every weekend from now until I’m done racing in March.
Scared? Yep, a little. But not as scared as I was before I faced my demon. I can’t accept stagnation in my life. I move forward, and I think you do too. Go on, what are you afraid to face? Give it a name, say it out loud, say it to yourself in the mirror. Tell me what it feels like to do that. Tell me what action you are thinking about taking to start moving toward your Dream. Seriously, leave me a comment if you are comfortable sharing with the world, or send me a personal message below. It’s 2017, folks. Let’s inspire each other.
P.S. Wondering how I did in the race? Click here 🙂