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The One Question You Need to Ask to Reach Your Dreams

Published on January 8, 2016 12:00 AM EST
The One Question You Need to Ask to Reach Your Dreams

“Why not me?”

Technically, I didn’t come up with this question. In 2014, Glamour Magazine posted a picture of actress Mindy Kaling on Instagram for their Women of the Year awards. The top of the photo was captioned “What are the words you live by?” and Kaling held up a sign that said, “Just ask – why not me?”

The One Question You Need to Ask to Reach Your Dreams

Neither Glamour nor Kaling will ever know how much I needed to see that question.

The One Question You Need to Ask to Reach Your Dreams

There is a theory in communications that states when the mind is introduced to new concepts, it stretches and never retains the same shape again. I always loved the visual image I conjured up of that happening – my brain essentially becoming a rubber band with the ability to infinitely stretch and never break. When I saw that Instagram post, almost imperceptibly I began using Kaling’s sage wisdom in my everyday life. Every time I asked myself this question and followed through with a positive, actionable answer, it almost always led to success.

It’s time for me to share that kind of infectious “I can do this!” feeling with the masses. This is why you need to start asking “Why not me?” in everything you do.

1. It kicks self-doubt to the curb.

No matter who you are, what you do, or how old you are, you are not immune to doubting yourself. Self-doubt, to its credit, does have its benefits. Sometimes it helps to thoroughly question yourself if you’re not totally sure about making a decision that you can stand by in the long-term.

However, self-doubt usually errs on the side that prevents you from reaching for your dreams because it makes you feel as though you’re not smart or good enough to do it yet.

“How can I apply for a job that requires five years of experience if I only have two? I guess I should avoid that listing and aim for something less ambitious.”

“One of my Facebook friends works in the same field as me and is always posting about her success. We do the same stuff, but I never get shout-outs like that! I want to get on her level, but I’m pretty sure this means I’m just not as good as she is.”

“Ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to write a book. I have no idea where to begin or even if my writing is any good. Maybe it’s best if I don’t even try. I’m probably not as talented as I think.”

This is the moment where you have to stop thinking of all the “what if I screw up?” scenarios (which, by the way, are imaginary and haven’t even happened yet!) and consider all the “but what if I tried my best and ROCKED IT?” possibilities.

Ask yourself “Why not me?” in the moments where self-doubt is working its way in your head. The moment I started doing this, it was a total breakthrough for me in how I approached fulfilling my goals, both personally and professionally.

Why can’t I do it?  

What is really stopping me from doing it?

Am I really going to let self-doubt hold me back when I know I am more than qualified to try?

If you have good ideas, can think and see them through, and strategize on what you can bring to the table, then there’s no reason why you can’t try and see what happens.

2. Consider the tone in which you answer this question.

In my head, whenever I ask myself “Why not me?” it comes from a place of thoughtfulness and curiosity. I like to think that because my initial tone is positive it helps me reach my goals a lot faster.

Never ask yourself “Why not me?” out of sheer jealousy or anger. If you do this, it tends to cloud your plans with unhealthy ulterior motives. Never think that the keys to success lie in making sure everyone else around you is humiliated or stepped on so you can look better in comparison. That’s not what this is about!

Take a moment to step back and evaluate where you currently are. Think carefully about where you want to go and the reasons behind how – and why –these actions will get you there and help you grow, personally and professionally. Let the overall tone of who you want to become guide and define your plans.

3. Keep trying and challenging yourself.

One of my biggest role models is Leo Burnett, Founder of the advertising agency Leo Burnett Worldwide. Burnett was an ad executive who created this own company in 1935 during the Great Depression. He was also in his 40s – getting a slightly later start in life as an entrepreneur than say, Mark Zuckerberg in his dorm room.

Late start or not, Burnett’s agency wound up cementing itself amongst the world’s advertising giants with its clever, iconic campaigns for brands. The agency grew to become successful and still is today, with 85 offices in 69 countries.

Burnett once said, “When you reach for the stars, you may not quite get them, but you don’t come up with a handful of mud either.” This was from the man who started up his own business in an era of significant economic struggle and through a lot of hard work and perseverance created catchy slogans and beloved brand mascots we still see today.

I always like to think to myself that Rome wasn’t built in a day. You can’t expect to start with nothing and in less than 24 hours establish a foundation that keeps you eternally successful. If at first you don’t succeed, try again. And again. And again.

When nothing works out or lands the way you want it to the first time, keep trying from as many different approaches as possible until everything begins falling into place (and it will). For every success, keep challenging yourself with new perspectives and ideas. Focus on honing your craft to grow, learn, and evolve at what you love to do.

4. Note to self: don’t forget to live!

A few years ago Katie Thurmes, Co-Founder of Artifact Uprising, was reminiscing in Bella Grace Magazine about how she found herself caught in a time of her life where she was creating photographic art at a fast-paced rate. She was so busy that she found her hunger to create quickly subsiding. Thurmes was past the point of asking herself “Why not me?” Now it was time to admit that the fire in her belly needed to be refueled.

Or, as she bluntly put it, “You can’t do a good job if your job is all you do.”

While I realize that so much of this post discusses all of the ways you can strategize and plan ahead to reach your dreams, sometimes you have to let go and let flow. You may not have initially planned to spend your day striking up a conversation with a stranger at Starbucks or swinging by a networking event on the way home, but when you take a moment to step outside of your comfort zone, you’ll find that it’s where some of life’s most serendipitous conversations – and moments – exist.

And that maybe, just maybe, the new people you meet are also asking themselves “Why not me?” too.

The One Question You Need to Ask to Reach Your Dreams
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