I want to hear about your goals – your BIG goals. The ones you know will take years to achieve. The ones that once you DO achieve it, you know there’s more work to do for you to get better + better.

The audacious goals. The bold goals. The goals that you plan your life around.

Some people have very specific goals. I find those people fascinating.

Others, like myself, are consistently in search of something to devote large amounts of time to. Say we have ADD or say we are flighty – we don’t care. We go where our curiosity leads us (and most of the time, we don’t regret it).

At age 33, I’m going back to college for a degree in Japanese Langauge and Culture, with the goal of becoming a translator between English and Japanese.

It’s officially the longest goal I’ve ever committed to. Typically, I get bored of something after about 3 years + move on to something else. This time, it’s going to take me 3 years just to complete my degree before I even start working as a translator.

Maybe bored isn’t the right word … it’s a matter of fear + passion.

You know the feeling when you have a goal you’re happily pursuing, but then it hits you … the OVERWHELMING urge to run as fast as you can either TOWARDS your goal or AWAY from it.

Right now, as I write this, 3 days away from registering for my first classes in Japanese, I’m feeling BOTH urges at the same time.

When you have the urge to run TOWARDS your goal at full speed, that’s passion. You’re driven by your unceasing urge to know or accomplish something, whether for yourself or for bragging rights (or both). You spend every spare moment learning new things + executing ASAP. You tell everyone it’s your “passion” as you spend all your money on it, cancel plans with friends, sleep less than 5 hours each night, + forget to eat.

Warning from my experience: After developing 4 different businesses this way, it’s a fast path to BURNOUT. Passion is great in small doses (to push through a project … etc.), but when you run your LIFE on it, you don’t give yourself time to think or absorb any lessons along the way. This leads to more stress, more push, and a massive waste of effort.

When you have the urge to run AWAY from your goal at full speed, that’s fear. You’re driven by an obsessive, anxiety-inducing self-imposed belief that WHEN (not if) you make a mistake or you don’t quite reach your goal, the response will be catastrophic. Or maybe you won’t be as good as you hoped. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll actually SUCCEED – and that may contradict everything you know about yourself up to this point.

Warning from my experience: In the span of your life, fear is + always will be your biggest time-waster. I’ve skipped 100+ opportunities in my 3+ decades on this planet because I was afraid. Afraid of failing. Afraid of looking stupid. Afraid of succeeding and everyone thinking I was a fraud. This lead to severe anxiety + depression + medication for 7 years. So I stayed in my comfort zone + grew more miserable by the day. Your comfort zone is not safe, it’s a prison.

What do we find in between fear + passion? Curiosity.

When either of those urges shows up out of the blue, it’s time to be curious about the story you’re telling yourself in your head.

When you feel the urge to run TOWARDS your goal at full speed, ask yourself, “What do I feel like I’m missing out on?”. 

There will always be someone with more experience than you. Most likely, there are many people succeeding at EXACTLY what you want to do, even if you don’t know them yet.

You are not behind. You are not missing anything. You’re going at your own pace + when you reach your goal, it will be more spectacular than you can imagine. And then you pick another goal + keep going.

For me, I know there are many many people who speak, read, and write Japanese + English fluently. A smaller number of those people are translators. There will be new translators joining their ranks even before I do. I have to spend my time learning + using the language before anything else. It will take time and I can’t shortcut that by downloading Japanese into my brain (maybe someday).

When you feel the urge to run AWAY from your goal at full speed, ask yourself, “What is my greatest fear in pursuing this goal?”.

Maybe it’s not making a certain team. Maybe it’s not passing a certain certification. Maybe it’s finding out that you don’t have a natural talent + may have to try harder.

Your goal in life is to challenge yourself. Your goal in life is to get the f*ck out of your own way. You may fail, but all failure is temporary. Try out for the team again. Take the test again. Find a new way to explain the information so it makes sense to you. A person who never makes mistakes never learns anything worthwhile.

For me, I fear that I will reach the intermediate level of Japanese + find out that it’s far too complicated for me to understand. The longest I’ve studied a language is French (4 years), but it’s a Latin-based language like English. Right now, my only goal is to focus on learning Japanese in every way possible. I’ll never know if I can do it if I don’t immerse myself as much as possible.

(If you’re wondering why I didn’t go to a language school in Japan to be fully immersed it’s because I can get student loans in the US to pay for college – those loans won’t pay for me to move to Japanese for 1-2 years + go to one of their schools.)

Fear + passion are going to come up during the pursuit of any goal. They’re a bi-product of your Ego trying to protect you from danger + pain. If you’re not working with deadly animals or substances, then you can ignore that self-absorbed Ego. (if you are, then be careful – you’re smart)

If you can’t sit with yourself and work through the source of your fear + passion, then pursuing ANY goal is going to be a temporary distraction, NOT a means to a fulfilling + memorable life.

Remember, you can’t take ANY of it with you when you die, so follow your curiosity.

You can’t predict where your curiosity will lead + that’s the whole point in pursuing it.

You can’t THINK your way to your happiest, healthiest self. You have to DO it.

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash