Someday is not a date on the calendar. Three traps keeping you from achieving your dream.

Published by Peter on

The speaker looked out at the hundreds of attendees and told us, “Someday is not a date on the calendar.”

It hit home for me, and for most of the people in the audience at last weekend’s San Francisco Writers Conference.

I’ve heard it before, of course. But it’s good to be reminded from time to time, especially in those moments where you’ve got a chance to take action.

Everyone has a someday thing. Some of us have several.

Someday I’m going to write a book. Someday I’m going to get a master’s degree. Someday I’m going to ask for a raise. Someday I’m going to try to reconcile with my sister. Someday I’m going to start my own business.

But someday is always in the future. It’s never today.

It’s also not tomorrow. Nor next Tuesday. It’s not June 5th, or the winter solstice, or your 57th birthday.

There is no date labeled “someday” on your calendar. Go ahead and check.

My calendar does not have “someday” on it. But it is available for sale and has 12 wonderful images and poems from my upcoming book.

Everyone has a someday thing. What’s yours?

What is your someday thing? I think everyone should have at least one.

You know it in your heart, but maybe you’ve been keeping it secret because telling other people will make it real. Or maybe you’ve been telling everyone for decades, and no one believes you anymore. Including you.

I’m the type that keeps my someday things inside because I’m a pleaser. I have a lot of champions in my life cheering me on, so telling them creates a pressure to see it through. I don’t want to let my champions down by changing my mind.

I used to think of myself as a dreamer, not a doer. But when I look back over my life, the evidence shows that I’ve done a pretty good job of pursuing my somedays. Better than average, perhaps.

One of my someday dreams growing up was “Someday I will be a published author.” Today I have my name on more than 10 books, five of which I’m the sole author.

I have new someday things, and I’m well on my way to achieving many of them. Each time I make progress, it opens up space for more someday things.

Not everyone is so good at it, however. Over the years, I’ve noticed patterns in clients, friends, colleagues, and even myself that keep people from making their someday things real.

If your someday thing is perpetually in the future, you may be falling into one of these common traps:

You’re looking too far ahead

If you only place value on the end result and not on the steps it takes to get there, then you may never take even the first step. It will always feel like the commitment to start is too daunting.

The solution is to find value in each of the steps along the way.

I’m not just talking about breaking down the big task into approachable milestones. That’s basic project management.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
(These men are not planning on eating this elephant.)

I took this photo in 2012 in Chitwan National Park in Nepal.

But breaking down the huge task into segments is only half the solution. You still need to find your self-motivation for each of those segments. That means finding joy or a sense of accomplishment in each of those milestones, or in the process itself.

The people at the writers conference all found joy in the act of writing. They wrote chapter after chapter, networked, and signed up for classes. But for each person at the conference, there are thousands who never even wrote one chapter because they did not find writing a single chapter a useful task in itself.

They look at writing that chapter as a chore, not as a valuable way to spend their time.

For each of these tasks, answer these questions:

  • What will I learn from this task?
  • What will I have accomplished by doing this task?
  • How will I feel about myself after finishing this task?

If you can’t find the inherent motivation to complete the next milestone, do you care enough about getting to the finish line to struggle through this step?

This is as true for starting your own business as it is for learning to dance as it is for writing a book.

Something else keeps taking your time

“I just need to prioritize it.” How often have you heard yourself say this about a big dream you have but just never seem to get around to?

I believe there’s truth in the idea that we make time for the things that are truly important to us. If you’re never actually doing the thing, then how important can it really be to you?

I like to ask my clients some version of “Imagine you’ve achieved your someday thing. You did it! Hooray! Now, what role do you see it playing in your life? How is it part of your identity?”

This is similar to the question I ask people who are thinking about job and career changes. What role do they see their job playing in their life? How does their job fit in to their overall identity?

If your someday thing is not truly part of your personal identity, then perhaps it’s just fantasy cosplay. What you’re drawn to is the trappings of the thing, not the thing itself. It’s fun to think about accepting a Grammy, but who wants to do all that rehearsing and performing? It’s fun to think about being a published author, but who wants to do all that writing and editing?

If your someday thing is truly a part of who you are in your very soul, then you should be able to find time for it, at least in small bits and pieces.

I wrote an entire trilogy while working a full-time job, volunteering as both a scout leader and soccer coach, raising two kids, and fixing up a home. Among other things.

My post-apocalyptic young adult trilogy.

I was able to do that not because I’m better than everyone else but because writing is part of who I am at my core. It was profoundly meaningful to me to finish those books. So I found time, even among all my other important priorities.

You’re working on it but never getting anywhere

I love the term “productive procrastination,” and I hate when I realize I’ve been doing it.

This is when you are choosing tasks that feel productive but which are far less important than what you really should be doing.

For example, reading books about writing feels like you’re investing time and energy toward your goal, but it’s not actually writing. You can’t be a published author if you don’t write.

So when people ask how it’s going and you have little progress to show for all the work you’ve put in, you may be letting yourself fall into a trap of productive procrastination.

Today I met with a client who is working on her memoir. She told me that early in the process she found herself doing a ton of research but not much writing. Today, she’s flipped that around and making steady progress. She’s eliminated most of her productive procrastination and has found real momentum toward the goal.

You can do that, too. If you really do care about turning your someday thing into a reality.

A note about fear

When I talk to new clients who can’t seem to make progress on their goals, they frequently jump to “fear of failure” as the reason.

That’s a cop-out. It’s an easy answer to a very complex question: Who are you, really?

A lot of people carry around their someday thing like a favorite teddy bear. By saying they will someday be X, that allows them to identify as X without actually having to achieve X.

And when they deeply examine their identity, they may find they don’t truly want that someday thing after all. Or, they are unable to achieve it due to things outside their control. Or, worse, their fantasy version of it isn’t reality and they’d have to give up the dream.

No one wants to lose their favorite teddy bear. So it becomes easier to keep saying “someday” than to give yourself a hard, long look and decide whether “someday” should become either a firm date on the calendar, or “never.”

I can help.

I work with top executives and middle managers to improve their leadership skills, their workplace culture, and the effectiveness of their teams. Also, I help individuals identify and achieve their personal goals. Would you like to become more aware, be more effective, be more empowered, and feel fully prepared for your next steps?

Let’s talk.

You can help.

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Categories: Life


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