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Remember when you were young and people asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up? Maybe you pursued your “hopes and dreams” well into adulthood, and landed that job or career that gave you satisfaction and life purpose.

Or maybe you never really decided what your hopes and dreams were, or perhaps you stopped dreaming at an early age and just “became” whatever was next without much thought.

My oldest daughter is graduating from high school this year and is excited about her options. Many days she is torn between several interests and possible colleges- all conversations end with “can we afford that?” A mother of her elementary school peer described a similar “plight” for her son whose interests are way different than my daughter’s. It’s so amazing to see these 18-year olds whose common playground larks have led to distinctive powerful passions and possibly “life purpose”. For some kids, at least, they are able to decide where their heart leads them and begin to follow those dreams.

When do we lose that- the ability to listen to the inner beat and find a drum to sound it out?

Maybe you were able to escape adolescence with the inner beat still loudly sounding in your ears, like my daughter. But at what point did your special cadence diminish (or stop) and you just decided that working and paying the bills was enough? These days, I hear a lot of people saying “thank god I have a job.”

Really, are you just thankful that you have a job? Or is there more that you believe you’re meant for?

Yes, a lot of people have lost most everything they owned. But, does that mean you need to give up your dreams too? And do you have any idea what those dreams are for you now, different than when you were 18?

Here are 11 Tips to figure out what that “inner beat” is for you, and how you can allow it to sound in your ears and manifest in your life.

1.    Explore the activities you love the most.

What do you look forward to doing in your non-work time? What were the activities you loved most as a kid, and why? Perhaps you can never be a dancer or pro tennis player (with those creaky knees), but what causes your heart to beat now? Martha Beck’s Finding Your Own North Star is a jump-start to uncovering some of those heartbeats.

2.    Identify what you’re good at.

Some experts suggest that instead of an abstract “passion” we should instead focus on the activities we’re good at, where our skills and talents intersect with our interests. Whatever you’re good at, Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You is an engaging read if you want to explore which of your talents may be that next venture.

3.    Welcome failure.  

Fear of failure keeps us stuck. Bill Cosby said “In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.” A newspaper editor fired Walt Disney because “he had no good ideas,” Steve Jobs’ Mac G4 cube was a total bust, and J.K. Rowling was depressed, divorced and on welfare before she found a book series that worked. Trying, learning and quitting, trying again, learning and moving on is not a cycle of defeat but of gaining new insights and wisdom to expand your vision. What will you try next because it matters to you, regardless of the possibility of failure?

4.    Turn off the nagging naysaying voices in your head.

If you need to discern which of those voices to listen to or ignore, read here. It’s the “monkey brain” endless chatter, our limiting beliefs, that we most need to ignore. Create space for your unconscious brain to do its work (through life coaching, meditation, relaxation techniques) and allow your intuition and discernment to replace the monkey in your head.

5.    Remove the barriers.

What reasons do you allow to interfere with your forward motion? The excuses “I’m not ready” or “not good enough” or “don’t know how” or “not enough time/money” or “too old” are endless. And the alternative is to stay stuck. If “don’t know how” is among your barriers, tap into the 129,864,880 books that exist on the planet and see if you can figure it out.If “not enough time” is your chief complaint, turn off the sitcom on any given night and spend an hour exploring your options.

6.    Replace the triggers to bad habits.

There are 5 types of triggers that cause us to be stuck in our habits, according to research summarized in The Power of Habits . These cues to bad habits are related to time (I eat dessert before bed), place (I smoke in parking lots), other people (I drink wine with my girlfriends), emotions (I lose my cool when I’m angry) and preceding actions (I drink a lot of beer when I watch football).  To change your life, start by introducing new triggers to create better habits.  Maybe you’ll meet your girlfriends at the park, instead of the bar. What new cue can you introduce today?

7.    Confront your fears.

Fear is the stressful emotion aroused by impending or perceived danger, evil, pain. Here’s the key word- PERCEIVED. How many times in your life have you been afraid of the perceived danger, evil or pain but it never happened? Why do we spend so much of our lives fearing what may happen (but isn’t even likely)? In fact, it’s related to the prehistoric mechanisms in our brains that directed our bodies to respond to threat that kept us alive. While fear is still useful- it keeps us from stepping off a curb into oncoming traffic, we have been conditioned to anticipate danger where none really exists. The stress of living in fear not only damages your body, but limits your ability to dream big dreams.

8.    Create support networks.

Back to the creating alternate triggers- who in your life can help you move forward? Who believes in you, encourages you to take risks, supports you when it didn’t work out, tells you when your monkey brain is active, points you to another way? Spend more time with that person and people like her.

9.    Research your passions.

Do you know of people who do something (as a job, a hobby) like what you’re interested in? Go talk to him/her. If you don’t know someone personally, find someone who does- ask all your friends, put it out there on Facebook. Even if it’s a celebrity or famous person- google their background and learn how they got where they are. Inaction is the biggest threat to becoming who you are meant to be.

10. Read books that open up your limited view of what’s possible.

Of all those 129,864,880 books on the planet (and that was in 2010), surely there are 1 or 2 books that could help you learn more about how to develop your passion into something that’s sustainable as a future career or at least a hobby.

 11.  “Never never never give up.”

This quote from Winston Churchill was stuck on my refrigerator door for a dozen years while I worked through depression, career change and loss, divorce, near-bankruptcy, single-parenthood, chronic pain and teenagers. Go find this magnet or something like it and put it everywhere you look. Life is short- go make yours meaningful.

 You can do it- have hopes and dreams again. You deserve them. The world deserves access to your hopes and dreams. You are the only one on the entire planet who can contribute what you have. Get started now- pick a number above and focus on that. And if you can’t decide what number, contact me about Life Coaching and I’ll help you tackle at least one.

Holly Woods, Ph.D. uses Integral Coaching and Somatic Experiencing to help adults who are weighed down by stress or trauma, and who want to be free of the overwhelm so they can find a life full of joy and purpose. Sign up on the Right or Click Here to receive a Free Report and to receive my weekly newsletter. Please forward to a friend if you liked this post!