A decade ago Margaret was accepted into the University of Pennsylvania’s MAPP program, the first applied positive psychology graduate program of its kind. “What’s the big deal?” you might think. People apply to college and graduate school every day. For Margaret, it took courage.
First, she had responsibilities. She was already paying college tuition for one daughter. She was also taking care of her teenage daughter still at home, who would be starting college the next year.
Obstacles to the dream
Expenses were increasing, and the MAPP degree had a hefty price tag. She also had a busy consulting and coaching practice to run. She couldn’t just take a sabbatical, study full time, and expect her business to still be afloat when she returned. Lastly, Margaret hadn’t stepped foot into a college classroom for more than 20 years.
Yet in her heart, Margaret was convinced this new field of positive psychology was something she just had to study. She had to find the courage to follow this direction. Courage originates from the French word coeur
, meaning heart.
Follow your heart—and your brain
Our brains give us the ability to dream of what we want, but our hearts motivate us to act on those dreams. It takes courage to start a business. It takes courage to leave a comfortable job to embark on a new career. It takes courage to ask your boss for more challenging work or a raise. And most of all, it takes courage to go against the expectations others may have of you.
In our coaching of hundreds of business leaders, colleagues and friends, we have found three main culprits that prevent people from pursuing their dreams: fear of success, fear of disappointing others and uncertainty of the very next step.
So what can you do to be more courageous and resilient or to be what we call a “positive deviant” in our book, Profit from the Positive
1. Quit being an expert
Asking for help is one of the hardest things any of us can do. But remember this: You know how good it feels to help someone, right? Give your friends, family and colleagues that same opportunity.
2. Put on an explorer's hat
Exploring empowers and creates momentum. Dust off your resume and go on an interview just to practice. Looking to start your own business? Reach out to other business owners and pick their brains. Ask, "How can I make this work?"
3. Win debates against yourself
Ignore the inner critic that tells you to "Play it safe" and "Don't look stupid." Trust the inner voice that says, "You can do this"; "What's the worst that can happen? and What might I learn even if I fail?
Herminia Ibarra of INSEAD business school suggests that if you want to follow your dreams, don't quit your job cold-turkey. Dabble in the field or job you want. Blog. Volunteer at a business or organization for a few hours a week.
What have you been dreaming of doing? What is one small step you can take today to act on those dreams? Let us know in the Comments section, below.