The belief starts early, fueled by words in picture books. It’s the story of a princess in a trap, as a witch extends her sharp fingertips in delight over the beauty she is about to squash. Only moments before her demise, the prince arrives and rescues the princess. The vile witch is vanquished. Goodness reigns.
You may pass this off as a harmless fairytale. But it’s not, as we’ve collectively taken that storybook truth to heart. It is woven into the plotlines of movies, television shows, books, and plays, and it colors our beliefs, choices, and actions. We plod along in our lives, doing our assigned duties, putting in that extra effort and believing that someone will notice. That our boss will grant us that promotion we so desperately deserve. That our colleagues will wise up to our contributions and give us the credit that is so overdue. That someone, somewhere out there, will tune into our brilliance, and extend an opportunity that will change everything. That our day will come, and whatever we’ve been dreaming about will be ours.
It’s a reassuring thought – that the universe is looking out for us, waiting to swoop in and perform a daring rescue, if needed. So many of us lead our lives dependent on this fairytale fantasy, without even realizing it. We don’t make our opportunities happen; we wait for them. We wait and wait until there is no time left to wait, and the game is over.
So what are we to do?
Here’s a thought – stop waiting. If you aren’t where you want to be, do something to change it. Realize that reaching your goals is dependent on your actions, not anyone else’s.
People are, by nature, terribly self-centered. Nobody is standing idle, waiting to give you that opportunity you so desire. The only person that cares enough to elevate you to that next level is you. You may have incredible support systems – but they can only take you so far. And likely they only want to help you so much. So in the end, it’s still about you.
You might have role models, people who have obtained the success you aspire to attain. And you might call them the lucky ones. But if you scratch the surface, you will likely see that playing safe and waiting wasn’t how they achieved success. They got there because they were talented, worked hard, had ambition, and because they went for it. They were not only ready when an opportunity struck; they sought out that opportunity. They made opportunities where there were none. If they didn’t like their job – they found another more rewarding one. If they couldn’t get what they wanted out of a job, they created one. If their relationships were holding them back, they let go of them and searched for better ones. They forged a new path, and as they did so, had to cut down a lot of weeds and hear their beating heart racing from fatigue, stress, and angst. But they persisted because they recognized that if you don’t break down the boundaries to success and fulfillment, no one else will.
You’ve heard the stories that leaders tell of failure. They failed and failed. And failed some more. But they picked themselves up and tried again because they knew that waiting was not the answer.
Too many of us are frustrated by the gap between where we are and where we want to be. In that mental checklist in your head, you may be doing everything right. Showing up. Check. Doing what you’re told to do. Check. Working hard. Being polite and respectful. Being creative. Check, check and check. And yet, you’re nowhere closer to where you want to be, and you have no idea why.
We spend so much money trying to find the answer. The self-help industry brings in over $10 billion a year, and executive and life coaching have exploded. Every crevice of the Internet is filled with free guides, resources, and maps to build a better life and snag the job of our dreams. And yet most people don’t change much as a result of that 10-day transformational program or that lovely book or inspirational coach.
Because we’re still waiting. Because as much as we read, or paint vision maps or write out goals for the week, many of us are still relying on someone else to give us that extra push we need to move ahead in our careers and life.
Success isn’t about action so much as a shift in your mindset. You have to realize that you are in charge of your future. You have to believe that you own it. You have to be confident that you can get what you want. You have to be willing to take the risks necessary to propel you from where you stand now to where you’d like to be. More than anything, you have to accept that the traditional, standard path to success and happiness may be nothing more than a waiting game.
Stop waiting for opportunities that may never come, and start realizing that the only person that will rescue you is you. Once you embrace yourself as your hero, your behavior will follow. So step out of the storybook and into the world where you make things happen, where you are the author of your own fabulous story.