Critics and doubters — par for the course. But what do you do when the critics and doubters are too close for comfort? What do you do when the people closest to you don’t support your dreams?
This is a question I recently received from a young woman who, despite setbacks and criticism from her mom, is pursuing her dreams:
Q: “What advice do you have for those of us with negative parents? I’m in a bit of a transition phase and I’ve had a couple failures along the way. As much as I try to tune her out, my mother constantly states that my life won’t amount to much and that I’m forever walking around like a headless chicken. I’m 28 and I feel like I’m running out of time.” – C.M.
Doubters are dreamers with broken hearts
Atticus, an ancient philosopher, once said: “The doubters are just dreamers with broken hearts.” This is true. Unfortunately, when you decide to chase your dreams you’ll come across many broken hearts … doubters — even those that should be in your corner.
Here’s a look at 8 practical steps you can take to keep moving forward in the face of opposition.
1. Put your blinders on
Like us, horses have peripheral vision, which means they can end up running off course unless they are made to remain focused. In the same way, if you want to stay on course you’ll need to put on your proverbial blinders. In practical terms this will require you to clarify your vision, put it on paper and map out a plan. Then start executing non-stop. Get so clear and focused on next steps that you don’t have time to consider the opinions of others.
2. Understand their motivation
Your mother loves you. So I’d wager that her motivation come from the right place. However, the advice is still ill-placed. When people doubt your ability to succeed, consider their reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way. She may think she’s helping you, but you don’t have to validate her perspective.
3. Get familiar with psychological projection
I’m sure you’ve heard the adage, “What Susie says of Sally says more of Susie that of Sally.” This is a classic example of psychological projection. By definition, people defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.
When someone says your life won’t amount to much it is often a projection; a statement about how they feel about their own lives. That may be her reality, but it doesn’t have to be yours. After all, life is all about perspective. As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”
4. Qualify their advice
Some people are simply not qualified to give you certain advice. Everyone has an opinion and subsequent advice, but good advice exhibits two important attributes — it is backed by experience and/or training and shared in a constructive way.
As a successful female entrepreneur I can share qualified advice about what it takes to start a business. However, if you ask me what it takes to perform open heart surgery, I’m not your gal. I’m simply not qualified in that area, which means any advice I’d have for you is theoretical at best. When it comes to successfully pursuing your passion you don’t need theory — you need practical and applicable insight.
5. Set clear boundaries
Set clear boundaries of acceptable communication. Make it clear that discouragement about your pursuit is not acceptable. If you come to an impasse, tell them you appreciate their opinion, but unless they can support you in your vision, it’s not a topic that you’re willing to discuss any longer. You have to cultivate open and honest communication with people in your life.
6. Create a support network
Remember what I said about qualified advice. It’s natural to seek out support from people that are closest to us. However, people can’t give you what they don’t have themselves. People always come from a place of what they have to offer (and that’s okay). But that doesn’t mean you should take their opinions, criticism, and approval (or lack thereof) for full value. It’s time to get around people and ideas that will stretch your vision and not choke your dreams. Create a support network from scratch. Entrepreneurship does not have to equal loneliness.
7. Don’t blame them
Most people have been conditioned by the 9-to-5 mentality that you must work for someone else in order to sustain yourself. We know that’s not true, but nonetheless, somewhere — someone is still holding flat earth society meetings. As Warren Buffet once said, “In some corner of the world they are probably still holding regular meetings of the Flat Earth Society. We derive no comfort because important people, vocal people, or great numbers of people agree with us. Nor do we derive comfort if they don’t.”
8. Roll up your sleeves
Roll up your sleeves and get to work. Nothing rallies support like a little bit of success. You want respect? Go out and get it! I’ve found that people can’t argue with results.
Ultimately, the vision you have for your life is yours — not theirs. Don’t be discouraged by people who don’t support your dreams. If you believe in your dreams, chase them. Chase them until you’re out of breath — then keep running.