Do you remember being a kid - maybe seven years old - when everything was possible? You could grow up to be an astronaut, a cowboy, or a rock star. And you absolutely believed it. Your story was ever changing, endlessly exciting and most importantly, totally doable.
And you know what? If any one of us would have held tight to those dreams and kept on believing them with all of our might, there is a high chance that our paths might have been a little different. Because you see, the funny thing about our words and our stories is that they are the truth, even if they're spoken before the present-day reality has caught up with them. You've probably heard the famous quote by Henry Ford in which he said, "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right."
That quote has endured for the past hundred years or so because it's extremely accurate. The problem is, most of us let go of our childhood dreams and desires. We're told to "grow up", and to "be practical", whether this message comes from parents, teachers, peers, or even ourselves.
Fast forward a few years to when make-believe is no longer encouraged, and you start checking things off from that list of potential reality. Even my own teenage daughter is not immune, and despite hearing for years how important our thoughts and words are, she can still rattle off a whole slew of formerly desirable jobs she could "never" do for one reason or another.
Unfortunately, as our world of possibilities shrinks, we often start writing another story, and this one is far more dangerous. It can sound like this:
"I'll never get that promotion. There are so many people much more qualified than I am."
"Every time I look at a piece of cake I gain 5 pounds. I'll always be overweight."
"I'm terrible with money. There's no way I'll ever get out of debt."
The thing is, unlike the stories of possibilities from childhood, these new stories not only do not serve us, but the more we repeat them the more likely our reality is to reflect our words. And these stories are like a disease. They are disruptors on our life's path, distractors that keep us from walking in alignment with our purpose. The words that make up these limiting stories and beliefs are woven into the fabric of our souls, and eventually they can masquerade as a part of our personality. Sometimes we get confused and even let them define who we think we are.
And that's when we start feeling lost and out of sync with life. Oftentimes it's in middle age that people realize something is off. The lucky ones see it sooner and take corrective action.
But sometimes it can be tricky even to identify that there is something amiss, at least on the surface. We go through the paces of our life - showing up for work, paying the bills, and driving the kids to soccer practice.
But if we're paying attention we may start to hear a little voice - perhaps at first it's just a whisper. And it may sound, just a little bit, like the stories of our youth. We may hear hints of our forgotten dreams, clues about who we could be, if only we'd stop playing small.
But how in the world do you get from here to there? How does one go from doing all the things you're "supposed" to do, as a responsible citizen, to fulfilling your purpose and living the life of your dreams? Well, it starts with the simple fact that your thoughts are your powerhouse and first point of contact for true self-creation.
If we're mindful of those thoughts and carefully guard against the negative ones, we can start to once again speak in the language of what's possible. When we're able to open up our imagination and mentally transport ourselves to visualizing the life we want to lead, we're already well on the way to making it happen.
Once you can see where you want to end up you have to start playing a little game with yourself, with both your thoughts and your words. You have to think and feel and talk as if you've already achieved your goals. It's important to declare it to be true because this is the way to start shifting your energy around your story, which leads to a different ending entirely.
In this way, "I'm terrible with money. There's no way I'll ever get out of debt" changes to: "I'm so excited and grateful that this is the year I'm coming out of debt."
Instead of, "I always gain weight. I'll never be in shape," you can shift your energy around to, "I enjoy eating healthy and being active. I feel so good when I eat well."
Once you believe it in your very core you need to start taking steps to inch your way towards your goals. While it's neither possible nor important to know exactly what your journey looks like between here and there, it is critical that you take action, however small, in the right direction.
It's a simple choice, really - taking ownership first over your thoughts and words and then your actions, to consciously craft the life of your choosing, or to be a victim of mindless words and complaints.
Let me start you in the right direction with my declaration: I fully believe in you and am thrilled that you're well on your way to taking charge of your life and achieving all that you have set out to be and do. So go forth and conquer, and enjoy the journey, dear warriors. You've got this!
This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.