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What is holding me back?

I usually have trouble starting new projects. Even when the project is as adventurous and exciting as international travel and volunteer work, my first reaction tends to be, “that’s too complicated, too disruptive to my normal routine, and man, it’s easier to just watch ‘Six Feet Under’ with my roommates than it is to get rolling on this trip.”

In these situations, the question I ask myself is, “what is really holding me back?”

In almost all cases, the honest answer is: me.

The most important thing I have to do when I start a significant project, is overcome the mental barriers, and own it. This is actually a good thing. It means that there is nothing physically preventing me from achieving my goals. Nothing, other than myself that is.

The truth is, I like hanging out around my apartment and being a homebody. But what I like even more, is the wild adventure of stepping off a jet and into a country that most people can’t even find on a map. When I run off to some exotic land and do my best to make life better for a small group of people, in whatever ways I can, I feel like my life has purpose. These are the moments when I feel most alive.

So why do I mention this? Because I suspect that you and I are similar.

Before I travel and volunteer (or do just about anything that alters my life) I have to overcome my own tendency to stick to my routine, and stay within my comfort zone. The way I overcome this is by focusing on how damn amazing this project will be. I focus on how much cooler my life will be with this experience in it. I remind myself that one day I will die and that I will seriously regret it on my death-bed if I don’t live as well as I can.

That sort of focus is enough to get me to turn off the TV, and to start looking at organizations, doing applications, and finding financial support.

I know that for many people, traveling to, and volunteering in, the developing world seems like something that is only possible in dreams. I’ll tell you now: it is not. You can make this dream a reality.

Doing so starts with you. The first step is to own it. Admit to yourself that this is something you want to do, and then admit to yourself that you can do it. The truth is, you can. There are no legitimate excuses for not living your dreams, particularly when they involve giving back.

Once you have accepted the fact that you can do this, the rest is relatively easy. I know that the entire process seems a bit overwhelming. In my presentations I explain step by step exactly how to get involved internationally. I start with a detailed discussion on how to overcome the mental barriers. I provide mental exercises to boost confidence and make trips to the developing world a tangible reality. For most people, myself included, once we master our minds, the rest of the process is far less difficult.

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