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Home / Articles / Columnists / The 15 Second Principle /  Don’t Follow Your Feelings, Follow Your Dreams
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Tuesday, January 3,2012

Don’t Follow Your Feelings, Follow Your Dreams

By Al Secunda  

Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not.

Thomas Henry Huxley


Following your dreams and getting married are very similar experiences. Both require that you remain committed to your agreements after the “honeymoon” is over. Once the initial highs begin to ebb, and some earthly realities settle in, what then? How do you respond when your dream project encounters its first major setback? How do you react when your new spouse appears less like a perfect angel and more like an extraterrestrial? How do you deal with your first rejection letter that arrives from a major publishing house? Do you still stay committed to your dream or relationship and attempt to work things out, or do you immediately head West?


While passion is a powerful motivator to help us begin a dream project, it rarely is strong enough to carry us over the finishing line. To reach our goals requires skills that go way beyond enthusiasm, energy, and bliss. When the going gets tough and we encounter problems, when we experience exhaustion, depression, and feelings of helplessness, we need to be able to feel all of the emotions, regroup, dig down even deeper, and take corrective actions.

If you are having trouble pursuing and/or completing your dreams or finishing important projects, look to see if you are relying on pure excitement and the right creative mood as your main motivational forces. Are you beginning that report, practicing an instrument, writing that novel, going to the gym, or staying committed to new eating habits only when you feel like it?

If your emotions and physical states are determining when and where you devote time to a dream project or precious idea, you will need a back-up emergency system when your passion begins to wane. Fortunately (or unfortunately), the most powerful back-up system available is your word. When you are not able to create from a magical or blissful “zone,” your commitment to your commitment must take over. It’s like a tag team wrestling event or relay race. Whenever your passion takes a hike, your word must be honored more than your current wants and feelings.

This is where The 15 Second Principle can be very helpful. Whenever you catch yourself shying away from an action that you know you should be taking, but don’t feel like taking, stop and ask yourself the following question: Is my commitment to this limiting feeling and/or body state more important than my commitment to my dream? Most of the time the answer will be no. At this point, regardless of how hopeless and lethargic you may be feeling, take some small focused action in the direction of your dream project or overwhelming task.

In closing, mastery is not about relying solely on zest and fervor to reach your destination. Rather, it’s about being more committed to your word and dreams, than it is to your fickle enthusiasm, doubts, and fears. What we are talking about here is the ability to be unreasonable by taking corrective actions and to steer your ship towards your destination, regardless of the weather conditions, your emotional state, or the addictive sirens singing on shore. Once your dreams and goals can develop into nonnegotiable agreements (by staying committed to your commitments), your debilitating feelings, low energy states, internal conversations, and addictive throbbings, will have less control over your life and influence over your destiny.

Keep showing up --- 15 seconds at a time --- and you will be able to accomplish just about anything.
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Calvin Coolidge


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