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How To Write Your Own Story

Problem: You want to do something amazing, but feel discouraged because you don’t know anyone who’s done what you want to achieve.

Solution: Instead of feeling limited because no one has accomplished what you want to do, imagine that anything’s possible and that you’ll be the one who does it first. Play out in your mind what you would need to do to move forward and get where you want to be, and then do it. Write your own story.

I wrote on my about me page that my secret (not so secret anymore) life goal is to move to Nicaragua and practice telepsychiatry. I’m not kidding. My wanderlust for Nicaragua started last year during a three week trip with my boyfriend after I graduated from medical school.

It was awesome. The water was warm, the food delicious, and the surfing top notch (over 300 days of offshore winds a year). The landscape is similar to Costa Rica, but without the overcrowding and American prices. Because a lot of the coast is still fairly underdeveloped, you can buy beachfront property for insanely low prices (like, imagine picking up a chunk of San Francisco around Gold Rush time).

I’ve been thinking about moving there ever since that trip. When I tell people this, they usually look at me skeptically. “Well how would you make money there?” they ask. “How would you pay off your debt?” [Cue me being depressed about my insane amount of educational debt].

I tell them I want to practice telepsychiatry, where I meet with patients from the United States via Skype connection. Yes, I understand there are certain practical considerations, like being licensed while in a foreign country and prescribing medications from thousands of miles away. But if I really want to do it, I don’t think those things will be the limiting factor.

With a negative attitude, such a dramatic life change would probably be tough. But I don’t have a negative attitude. I have the attitude that anything is possible. When you look at the world like this, most things really are possible. So when you want to accomplish something amazing, you don’t need to look for someone who was able to do it first. You can be the first one. You just need to take the steps to write your own story.

Realize That Anything Is Possible

We tend to limit ourselves when we consider what goals we want to accomplish. Instead of thinking big, we sell ourselves short. Maybe you try to make your goals “reasonable” so you feel it’s more likely you’ll accomplish them.

Well, I disagree with reasonable goals. I believe in reasonable action steps, but unreasonable goals. Imagine what you really, really want to do, have, or accomplish. Tim Ferriss has a process for this called Dreamlining. The idea is that you let go of your inhibitions and and imagine deep down what you want. Be daring, and also be brutally honest with yourself. Don’t convince yourself you want to start a charity in Africa when you really want to quit your job and sip Mai Tais on the beach.

If you’re like most of us, your biggest dreams will probably include some material comforts along with more lofty contributions to society.

Visualize Your Goals

Once you’ve let go of your inhibitions and are thinking in terms of anything being possible, it’s time to get specific.  Imagine your dreams in a ridiculous amount of detail. Where are you living, what color is the sky, what does it smell like? What’s your first thought when you wake up? Who are you surrounded by? Are you living on a colony on Mars (hey, anything’s possible). What have you created? Who have you impacted?

If your unsure what type of life you want to make for yourself, imagine what your ideal day would be like, from when you do to bed to when you go to sleep.

Write It Down

Take pen to paper (or fingers to keypad, if you prefer) and write down all of your brainstorming and ideas. Writing is a necessary part of taking the mishmash of daydreams in your head and creating a more congealed endpoint you want to reach. When your ideas have ripened, start to formulate a linear story that takes you from where you are now to where you want to be.

It’s good to be at least a little realistic here. If you need to win $100 million from the lottery to achieve your goals, it’s probably not going to happen anytime soon. But you’d be surprised what’s actually under your power and control if you look at things with the right perspective.

Decide What Actions Will Move You Forward And Take The First Steps

Now it’s time to figure out what actions you need to take that will get you moving in the right direction. Remember that battles aren’t won with one heroic action. They’re won with small, consistent steps that you take – day, after day, after day. As long as you are taking action – even if the steps are small – you are moving in the right direction. If you fail to achieve what you set out to do, it will probably be because you gave up too early. Don’t make that mistake. Make plenty of mistakes (and learn from them), but not the mistake of giving up.

When I write my own story, here’s what it sounds like:

“Elana Miller, genius psychiatrist and all around awesome person (maybe?), graduated at the top of her class from USC medical school (true) before becoming the best resident ever at UCLA (I’ll aim for it, but unlikely given how amazing my co-residents are). While at UCLA, she ramped up her blog, The PsychoSphere, creating amazing content that helped gazillions of people become more empowered and self-aware, and created a legion of important products that changed lives for the better and earned her enough to pay off her debt and create the wild and adventurous life she always dreamed of (now we’re getting to the good stuff). She lives in Nicaragua with her boyfriend, Peter, in a beach-front bamboo shack, hosting soirees with all her friends and family who fly out to visit, working as a telepsychiatrist between the hours of noon and 2pm – unless the surf is really good.”

When you write it out, it sounds possible, doesn’t it?

What story do you want to write for yourself? Share in the comments!

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Photo by Dene Miles

Comments

  1. wait. you don’t want to move back to boston? i’m not sure i understand.

    • Ha… yeah I don’t know if the wonderful mud/sleet/rain/snow days of Boston are really calling so strong these days…

  2. Damn, that sounds really good! I’m gonna give that a shot right now…

  3. You GO! I bailed out of general surgery residency for an unexpected chance to work as a consultant in corporate america. It’s better-especially the hours- but still not what I want to do. I think your goal and idea is fabulous and I am sure it will work. Medical Tourism is getting bigger. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what my thing will be. Won’t it be awesome when our debt is paid off and we are free of that burden?

    • Thanks Dara! Good call bailing out of general surgery (I almost applied in surgery, but switched last minute). I’m so looking forward to the day when I’m no longer a slave to Federal Direct Loans – that’s when I think I’ll really feel like I could take off and go anywhere or do anything. I can really identify with the “About Dara” page on your blog. I’ll definitely check it to stay updated on how things go for you!

  4. Elana,
    I love the post and the attitude behind your message. Without daring to dream big and take steps to live the life I really want, I would never have quit my lucrative corporate law job and moved to Kathmandu. So far, so good.
    On a somewhat related note, for anyone out there who sees a specific already-existing dream job out there and feels some anxiety about having to follow the exact “right” path to get there, remember that the person in that job right now probably did not follow a scripted path since childhood to get where they are today – it just looks that way in hindsight. As you write your own story and visualize your goal, keep in mind that it is okay to create your own path to your destination rather than having to replicate those who came before you. In doing so, you might discover other paths and destinations yet unknown and undreamed.
    Best,
    Brian

    • Hey Brian, you are definitely an awesome example of someone who’s created his own story! I agree that scripted paths only appear in hindsight, and there was probably a lot of fumbling and missteps that happened before that person got to where they are now. Keep kicking ass in Kathmandu!

  5. Awesome! Writing your own story is what it’s all about! Forget the status quo, and what others think you should do. Dance to your own music.

    Thanks for the post.

    • Thanks Rachel! I think the results are much better when you do what you want to do, rather than what others expect you to do… plus it’s a lot more fun that way too :-)

  6. I really loved that post,Very inspring and written as though just to me. Must be the talent of the writer to have people rekate so we,, AT a true crossraods in my, as so many others, this was ecellent advice. Time to get off the proverbial couch and failo if you msut. As Entein said the only failure is in not trying. Who better than Ensteinto offer that pearl of wisdom

    At the end of the day we are all searchinf for something, even if we don’t admit. I freely admit I am seeking soemthing and thata I am not alone.
    With recently discovered Adukt ADD a lot of my life is clearer. Doe not make it easier but att least it has name If I had only known 20 years ago, I doubt life would have been so much playing catch-up instead of never getting in the game. Being an outsider in your own life is like the little kid pressing his smudgey face against the windowpane of rhe candy store, or in this dau and age the video game store. He should pull back and thrpw a rock thrpough that window ( which Mom and Dad) will pay for! and see and feel touch and taste what’s inside, What is the worst he coculd fiund,, Hiimself maybe And find ourt he really hates video games Hope I spelled everything right, otherwide you just look like an idiot.

    KImberl DeOliveira

  7. ooop saw some typos.Its late here and the room is dark. Husband asleep ( loudly)

    • Thanks Kimberly! No worries about the typos :-). Thanks for sharing your experience – I think struggles like that challenge us to do things we didn’t realize we could do.

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