A few years ago, my dentist told me a story that made my stomach turn. A woman presented to the clinic complaining generally of pain in her gums and jaw.

As is often the case in Southern California, this lady looked like she had it made – from the outside. She rolled up in a gorgeous Mercedes and walked in with her fake boobs, fake bake, and ostensibly real Louie on full display. She also happened to have veneers on her teeth.

But all that bling didn’t absolve her of the responsibility to take care of her oral hygiene.

With a brief examination, the dentist identified multiple issues. The lady had rampant gum disease so severe that her gums were actually oozing puss.

The dentist went on, but that’s where I stopped listening!

Apparently, this lady thought life might be easier if she could construct a façade of perfection. However, it seems that she embraced a few important oversights.

I’m sure brushing her teeth wasn’t the only one!

 

The farce of fictional conditions.

We already discussed “the myth of if” and “the great by now hoax.” Fictional conditions are another way we hold ourselves back!

We assume that our dreams would fall into place much more easily if certain things were true:

“It would be easier if _________ .”

An infinite blank.

There are a million ways to fill in this blank. Our excuses are only limited by our creativity! What’s more, our excuses are backed by reasonable assumptions.

But each still results in a non sequitur – the conclusion that we can’t pursue our dreams because of the excuse we’ve put in the blank simply never follows.

For each excuse we think of, there are people succeeding despite their circumstances.

Let’s explore a few …

It would be easier of I didn’t have a full-time job – We always assume that more free time equates to more opportunity to pursue our dreams. However, that’s virtually never the case. In reality, the structure imposed by routine makes us far more productive by forcing us to focus our efforts! What’s more, many times the dreams that we want to pursue won’t generate an immediate income. Consequently, our jobs actually fund our dreams if we manage our money well.

It would be easier if I wasn’t a full-time student – This fictional condition is simply the reverse of the full-time job excuse. Ironically, people use this excuse just as frequently and it used to be my favorite. As a student, you have tremendous control over your time but often very little money. You look forward to the day when you don’t have to study and imagine how much easier life will be with a steady income. In reality, however, every season of life brings with it inherent challenges and advantages. Our job is to figure out how to mitigate the former while capitalizing on the latter.

It would be easier if I was/wasn’t married – I have many single friends who romanticize how much better life will be when they are married – as if all their other dreams will just fall into place. Similarly, I have married friends who romanticize what they could accomplish if they weren’t obliged to please a spouse. Once again, in reality, both situations have benefits. Marriage is wonderful, but it introduces its own complexities. As the Apostle Paul points out, a single person has only his own concerns to worry about, but I can also attest to the significance of a spouse’s support and encouragement. Regardless of your current situation, leverage its benefits to pursue your dreams.

It would be easier if I didn’t have kids – Parents often blame their inability to pursue their dreams on their kids. As Jon Acuff describes, this leads to a cycle of shame and guilt: “Regret not following your dream. Blame your kids because you’re busy. Feel guilty for blaming your kids and not loving them as much as other parents who don’t blame their kids. Give up on your dream for a little while. Eventually regret not following your dream again. Repeat.” He further points out that he was unable to write a single book in all his free time before having kids. Since then, he’s written several.

It would be easier if I was older/younger – Age is a perennial excuse and a corollary of “the great by now hoax.” It’s particularly insidious because there is never a time that it doesn’t seem to apply. Young people feel they’ll gain more credibility as they age. Thus, it’s easy to justify delaying pursuit of dreams and goals. Older people feel they have less energy than when they were young. Once again, it becomes easy to rationalize inactivity. There may be some truth to these sentiments, but not the kind that leads to disqualification. When you’re young, you’ve the benefit of vigor, stamina, and time to make lots of mistakes. When you’re old, you’ve the benefit of wisdom, credibility, and connections. Thus, no matter what your age, you’re well-positioned to pursue your dreams.

It would be easier if I was rich – It’s fun to think about winning the lottery, but money is not the panacea we often imagine and wealth is not a prerequisite to your dream (regardless of what that dream is). I’ve never read the biography of a successful person with a chapter describing a trust fund, lucky lottery ticket, or buried treasure as the lynchpin for success. What’s more, most of the wealthy people I read about while in line at the grocery store seem pretty unsuccessful. They aren’t living their dreams – they’re in rehab! We’ve all met happy wealthy people and miserable wealthy people. So don’t wait for an inheritance to set you up for success. Start now.

It would be easier if I was shorter/taller/thicker/thinner/more beautiful/more handsome – Insert your chosen superlative here. This is the farce that the lady in my dentist’s story believed. We all have things we’d like to change about our physical appearance and it makes sense to do what’s necessary to make sure we’re healthy. But don’t overemphasize the significance of your physical appearance. In business school, I learned a particularly poignant lesson on this farce from Pat Pittard, former CEO and Chairman of Heidrick & Struggles International. He maintains, “7 is the number!” In other words, people resent you if you’re too attractive and find you repulsive if you’re ugly. Just shoot for average and move on!

Let it go!

It doesn’t matter what excuses you’ve been using to fill in the blank.

  • We’ll always have external restraints on our time.
  • Practicality requires that we make a living to cover life’s necessities.
  • Fulfillment requires investing time into our most important relationships, whether our spouses and children or other friendships.
  • We can’t rewind the clock, choose to be born into a wealthier family, or change most of our physical characteristics.

Instead of making excuses, our time is better spent determining how to overcome the challenges we face. Don’t subscribe to the farce of fictional conditions.

Chances are, there’s nothing holding you back.

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth post in a series dedicated to helping you recognize common excuses that inhibit your ability to live your dreams. Don’t miss the others! Subscribe via the link in the upper, right-hand corner of this page.

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