Picture the scene. You’re climbing a tree. You’re going higher and higher, up into the branches. The sky is getting closer, the ground further away. How do you feel?
Now imagine you’re ten years old and you’re in that same tree. You reach for a branch. It cracks, ominously. Do you stop climbing? Hell no. You want to touch the sky. How do you feel now?
Like a champion. A king. Invincible.
That’s the difference between a twenty something’s brain and a ten year olds. At ten, we believe we can do anything. We don’t comprehend fear the same way adults do, and see every day as an adventure. The world is our oyster. We want to be professional athletes, scientists, presidents. We’ve got our whole lives ahead of us, and we can’t wait to grow up.
But then we do grow up. We become teenagers, and suffer the perils of breakups, broken hearts and hormones. We take exams, work hard for them and don’t get the results we were hoping for. We don’t get into our first choice university. We don’t get into university, period. We apply for jobs, we don’t get hired. We get a job, but it’s not THE job. We go through another break up.
What am I getting at? Growing up is HARD WORK. We go through set back after set back, and slowly we become conditioned to feel like actually, maybe we can’t be anything we want to be after all. Instead, maybe we should just accept the hand we’ve been dealt, and carry on down the road we’re on. Sure it might not bring us alive, but it’s safe and comfortable.
The only problem with thinking like this? You’re only living half a life. You see, those limits and barriers that we set ourselves – they only exist in our own heads. We make excuses to others that’s it’s too late to change our career paths, or give up our jobs to go travelling, or achieve a lifelong goal. But the truth is, the only barrier here is you.
I know it’s easy for me to sit here and make it all sound so simple, when the reality is there are probably a whole heap of factors preventing you from chasing your dreams. I’m sure you probably do want to quit your job to travel, but you’ve got no money, or a mortgage, or a child. But you know what? Even then, with all of those reasons not to do it, there’s still one resounding reason why you should – because you can.
As we get older, we lose our sense of trust in the world. We become aware of social injustice, corruption, lies, prejudice. We learn about all the bad things in life, and start to forget about the good. We become cautious. We learn that not everyone is as nice as they seem, and that some people will do anything to get ahead. And with this loss of trust, we lose faith. We stop believing that the universe will take care of us, and that everything is going to be ok. We listen to our heads instead of our hearts. We let fear of failure get in the way of what we really want.
Steve Jobs once said “You can’t connect the dots looking forwards. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something. Your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart. Even if it leads you off the well-worn path. And that will make all the difference.”
The most prolific people in the world are the ones who have taken chances, and who haven’t let fear stand in their way. Steve Jobs was a college drop out. Coco Chanel was raised in an orphanage. Malala suffered a near fatal shooting by the Taliban. These figures have impacted the world in phenomenal ways, yet each had their own personal barriers to overcome.
What we have to understand as adults, it that we have and always will be in total control of our destiny. If we let fear of the unknown stand in our way, we’ll never achieve anything. But if, like our ten-year-old selves, we see the world as an adventure, and we go out and chase it, and live it, then really what can’t we achieve?
This article was originally posted on six-two as part of The Travel Project.