“What brave thing would you do right now if it was guaranteed not to fail?”

If you have an inspiring dream but it just never seems like the right time to get started on it, this post is for you. In it, I show you a simple way to get started without disrupting your whole life AND how to feel focused and inspired by your dream—even if you can’t work on it right now.


[ Listen to this on the David Levin Show podcast ]

[ transcript ]

Hey it’s David Levin. Author of Raise Your Inner Game. Co-author of QBQ The Question Behind the Question. Founder of Raise Your Inner Game Academy.

So, I taught a training program a while back, and on the application for that training was this question: “What brave thing would you do right now if it was guaranteed not to fail?”

And people answered with all kinds of exciting things:
“I would switch careers before I get my degree.”
“I would join an NGO to impact the lives of others”
“I would write a book and start speaking.”
“I would start a business.”

And I was just so excited by that. I loved hearing the specific ideas, but just in general, whenever people tell me about something they’re working on, it just lights me up. I just want to jump in and help however I can.

So, later in the program, as we were finishing up, it was time for them to do some planning on what they wanted to focus on going forward. So they got a worksheet, and the first question was “What do you want to work on now? What do you want to make happen?”

And this really surprised me: but not one person wrote down their “one brave thing.” Those powerful dreams, the one thing they most wanted to do in their life, they didn’t write it down. In every case, they wrote something safer, more reasonable, more certain.

Now, I am not judging them in any way. They were wonderful and impressive people. And I can totally understand why someone would do that. But it still made me sad. Because I thought, how many people out there are in the same place. They’ve got some big, important dream, something they would do in a heartbeat if they thought they could, but for whatever reason they’re not doing it. They think Now’s not the time. So they wait. And wait. And they end up in this sort of limbo where they’re not doing what they really want, but they’re also not moving toward it either. It’s a sad thing for me, for a couple of reasons.

First, when you’re in that place, it constantly reminds you, “I’m not doing what I really want to do.” “I’m not fulfilling my purpose.” So it sort of drains the joy and meaning out of what you are doing. You’re never really satisfied. There’s always this air of settling for less, of disappointment with your life. You know? It’s like someone asks you, “How are things?” And you say, “They’re fine. I shouldn’t complain.” Right? That’s not the way you want to live. You want to have more purpose and fire in your life than that.

Also, of course, it’s not the best for the people around you for you to have that sort of energy. You know I’m a huge proponent of people owning the impact they have on others, and this is an example. When you are walking around with that disappointed vibe, it rubs off on others. It weighs them down, too. And, of course, you’re also not helping the people you would help if you were working on your dream.

Now again, this might sound judgmental but I really don’t mean it that way. This is for you. This is the person you want to be. This is the life you want to lead. These other observations are just adding to the case that it’s better for you to be working on your dream.

Now, the biggest reason I think people put their dreams off is what I mentioned earlier, they think Now is not the time. And I get that. Sometimes it’s true. Most of the time, though, it’s just fear, which I also understand, and it’s not really understanding reality. If you look at success stories of all kinds—from the biggest startups to just the decision to get married and have kids, there’s almost never a perfect time to do it. You just have to get started.

But there’s a way to start on your dream that bridges both those situations—when you can actually start and when you can’t. In other words, you can hold a dream in a way that’s inspiring even if you can’t go all in on it right now.

So here’s how to do that.

First, you want to sit down and do some serious thinking about your “One Brave Thing.” What is it, exactly, that you want to do? Why do you want to do it? What does it mean to you?

And here’s a super helpful exercise for that: Project yourself into the future. Some number of years. Imagine that you’ve done your One Brave Thing. You’ve stepped up and made it happen. The book is out. The company is in business. Whatever it is. It’s real. You’ve done it. So, how do you feel about yourself? What difference has it made for you and others? Really feel those feelings. Make them as real as possible.

And then, also, do the opposite, project yourself forward, you haven’t done it. Never even tried. How does that feel?
This makes it very clear for you what you want to do, and most important, why.

And by the way, if you do this step, and ultimately decide, you know what, I don’t really want it, that is a great gift to yourself. Do not consider that a failure.

I went through a similar thing after my last record nine years ago now, when I was deciding what to do with my music career. My whole identity up until then had been wrapped up in music. So it was not something I could step away from easily. But when I really sat with it at that point and considered it deeply, it just became clear that I didn’t want it anymore. I really didn’t. It didn’t fit with the life I had and loved and wanted to continue. So that made it an easy decision, and I have never regretted it. It seems weird now and then to not be doing music because I had done it for so long. But I don’t regret it. And letting go of that opened up great new possibilities. Writing books, training, speaking, all the work I love so much now. So if this process helps you can get clear and move on, that’s a great thing, too.

Assuming though that it reminds you how much you do want to do your One Brave Thing, now it’s time to put this simple three-step system into action.

Step One is to think in a very practical way about two or three simple things you could do. Small things. Baby steps. But on the path to your goal.

That’s the key image. They’re on the path. If you’re on the path, and you stay on the path, at some point you will get there. By definition. If you stay on the path, you’ll get where you’re going. So they don’t have to be big steps, they don’t have to be major progress. They just have to be on the path. Make sense?

So, for example, for you, what could be some small baby steps you could take? Maybe it’s go to the library, get a book on the subject. Maybe it’s call someone you know, ask for a meeting. Get some feedback on your idea. Maybe it’s sign up for a class on writing or marketing. Okay? Simple, practical tasks on the path to your goal. That’s Step One.

Step Two is to do the tasks. And it doesn’t have to take very long, because again, they’re small things.

And then Step Three is to “reflect.” Meaning, you sit down and think about how things look now. I’ve done these tasks. What’s next on the path? So you plan out two or three more tasks. And then you just repeat that cycle. Act. Reflect. Repeat. You can do that, right? Absolutely. And it makes a huge difference.

When you’re working like this, even though your life is pretty much still the same, you’re also working on your dream at the same time. It’s a real part of your life. You’re not waiting. You’re not hoping. You’re working. You’re doing it. And that just makes your life feel completely different.

And this can be true even if you choose to not work on your dream right now.

At any point in the process, even in the very beginning, if you decide that now is truly the time to be working on it, that’s fine, too. You can still have your dream be an active part of your life.

Here’s what you do. First, write down why now is not the time. Just be really clear and honest about that. And then—and this is the critical part—make an appointment with yourself at some date in the future to take another look. 1 month. 3 months. 6 months. Whatever makes sense. Put a reflection appointment on your calendar. When the time comes, you’ll look at it again and decide.

So now, everything you’re doing today is still part of your long-range plan. You’re still intentionally moving towards your dream, even if you’re not actively working on it right now.

Now, this may sound like you’re just fooling yourself, just tricks. But it’s really not. This has a real impact.

When you’re engaged with a project in your mind, it brings all sorts of helpful things to bear. You’re thinking about it in the background, coming up with ideas. You’ll mention it to people who will have their own ideas and interest. Thoughts bubble up from your subconscious. That’s a big factor. You’re just much much more likely to see opportunities to move forward. It really does make an impact. Plus, it makes your life feel much more alive and energized.

  • So that’s the basic idea.
  • Think about your dream
  • Anchor why you want it. The feelings about it.
  • Come up with some simple, practical tasks you can take to get started.
  • If not now, set a time in the future to take another look.

And then live every day knowing that you are actively working toward your One Brave Thing.

Try that out, see if that doesn’t make a difference for you. And let me know what that dream is, too. I would love to hear from you, what you want to do, would love to cheer you on toward making it happen.

All right, that’s it for this week. If you are hearing this somewhere other than my site, come on over—davidlevin.com. Grab the free download there—”Three things you can do right now to love your work and life again.” Put your name on my newsletter list, so I can let you know about new posts and offers when they come out.

You might also want to think about grabbing a copy of Raise Your Inner Game if you haven’t already. If you are into personal development, you will love this book. You really will. And it is especially helpful for overcoming the stress and distraction and negative thoughts than keep us from following our dreams. So, you’ll see a special offer for that on my site too. Davidlevin.com.

If you would like to get these posts in your podcast player, so you can listen to them at your convenience, go to the iTunes store, search for the David Levin Show. Subscribe there. That’s a great way to go.

Otherwise, thank you. Keep up the good work. I’ll talk to you next time.

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