One of favorite inspirational books is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Please read it even if you are agnostic (like me); it is a remarkable tale that will help you develop a philosophy for your life. In his introduction, he talks about how we even fail to accept our dreams by saying that “we don’t all have the courage to confront our own dream.” I was surprised how he used the word ‘confront.’ In other words, when we wanted to be astronauts as kids, and then abandoned that dream for something more predictable like doctor or carpenter of accountant, we basically convinced ourselves that it was stupid to dream so big. He identifies four obstacles that come in the way of achieving our dreams:
1. Being told by our parents that everything we want to do is impossible. I think our parents mean well when they tell a child that she cannot touch the moon or fly like a bird, but it is also common for reasonable, realistic parents to focus on getting a job that would pay the bills, rather than trying to change the world. I do not want to blame the parents, but what happens is that over time, we start repeating to ourselves what cannot be done. This has to stop. Why? Because even a loser can tell you a story of how he accomplished something extraordinary by just putting his heart and soul into it.
2. Love for people who have expectations from us: What Coelho is saying that when people around us expect something from us, we feel guilty to pursue our dreams and want to make them happy what is expected from us. Yes, it is hard to tell a loving mother that you are going to be an artist creating art rather than make her proud by getting a law degree. Coelho argues that love should actually provide us the impetus to do things rather than drag us down, because except for Tiger Moms, people who love us want us to be happy.
3. Fear of failure: As my grandma used to say, only those who never fail are the ones who never try anything beyond their comfort zone. If you are going to challenge yourself, you are going to fail over and over again. The fun part is that the more often you try something, the better you are going to get at it, and the sense of ‘euphoria and confidence’ that you will experience when you get up each time and start all over again will change the course of your life.
4. Fear of realizing the dream: If you don’t have it yourself, you probably know someone who has convinced herself that she does not deserve to have something. It could be a woman who gave up her dream to become a researcher because she looks at other mothers who are devoted to their children, or a man who does not want to leave his family and friends to pursue something big. It is important to remember that we are on our own and as selfish as it sounds, we have to achieve our maximum potential, because the ‘saintly aura of renouncing joy and conquest’ is meaningless.