Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

The Difference Between Dreaming and Starting

I spent last year focused on one word: DREAM. It had been years since I’d given myself permission to pursue my passion.

Engine Start Picture

Photo credit: Norlando Pobre (Creative Commons)

As a result, I saw a lot of fruit, including the opportunity to publish a book (something I’ve wanted to do my whole life).

But this year, I’m focusing on another word: START. I only have so much time, and I want to spend it where it counts — on doing, not thinking about doing. Not dreaming. Starting.

Dreaming is waiting

The first girl I ever asked out was a cheerleader named Katie. It took me months to work up the gall. Finally, one night after school, I walked up to her and did it.

I had envisioned the conversation for months, practiced it for weeks. But when it finally happened, it was a completely different ballgame.

As it turns out, starting isn’t the same as dreaming. The two are quite different. Although the latter may lead to the former, dreaming can be overrated.

Why waste your time waiting? Do something better and far more productive. Start.

When I finally asked a girl out — something I had never done before — I felt a release. A euphoric high. A sense of empowerment. I liked it. I still get that same feeling every time I do something for the first time.

After she said yes, Katie walked away. Then, she turned around and said with a smile: “IT’S ABOUT TIME.” I’ve been hearing that phrase ringing in my ears ever since I started writing again.

What held me back for so long? In a word, fear. Maybe the same thing is preventing you from realizing your dream. If so, here’s an important lesson: the fear never goes away. Whether you start or not, it’s always there. Might as well have something to show for it.

It’s about time you began working on your dream.

Choosing to start is scary

All decisions are, actually.

The word “decide” shares the same Latin root with incise, meaning “to cut.” Which is appropriate, because deciding is the art of cutting off all other possibilities.

If we are going to start, we will need to decide.

This is a struggle for some of us, especially creatives. Creativity is the ability to see the theoretical, to imagine endless possibilities. But our creativity can cripple our ability to choose. It can paralyze us with fear or hesitation, causing us to delay the inevitable.

So, you’ve got dreams. Who cares? The world doesn’t need your dreams; it needs your action. It needs your life to matter. So do you.

How do you begin? Start.

This is not a dress rehearsal

This is life. The real deal. The main event. And there is no practice. Every day, you are participating, or not.

You were made to create something — to build a family, write a song, found an organization.

You weren’t born to simply follow orders. You were created to be creative — whether you’re an artist, plumber, or saleswoman. The legacy you leave hinges on your decision to start. To create something worth noticing.

If you wait, you fail. Every time you hesitate is a moment lost to the Resistance. Don’t stall; start.

I’m currently working on something having to do with how we make (or rather, don’t make) decisions. Here’s a line that applies:

If there is such a thing as ghosts, they are undoubtedly the spirits of decisions never made.

You only get one life. Don’t regret how you live it. Start something today — even if it means starting over.

(One final note: Starting includes finishing. You don’t really start until you decide to follow through. Otherwise, you’re just dreaming.)

What’s something you need to start this year? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I am the best-selling author of five books, including the national bestsellers The Art of Work and Real Artists Don't Starve. Each week, I send out a free newsletter with my best tips on writing, publishing, and helping your creative work succeed.

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