Are there any naysayers in your life? Someone who is perhaps discouraging you from pursuing your goals and dreams? Someone who thinks that you are joking and says it’s impossible when you share about your grand plans for your future? Someone who sabotages your efforts when you try to instill a new habit or quit a bad habit in your life? Someone who is keeping you from achieving your highest potential?
Naysayers in my Life
At every point in our life, we’ll have some naysayers in our circle, be it our colleagues, acquaintances, friends, or even close friends and family. These naysayers are termed as such because their favorite response is always “nay”. Say you want to quit drinking alcohol. They’ll go “nay” and tell you that drinking a few more mugs won’t kill you. Say you want to lose weight and you want to eat healthy. They’ll go “nay”, that healthy food is boring, and offer you unhealthy, junk food instead. Say you are thinking of pursuing your passion. They’ll tell you that it’s not feasible, that it’s not practical in the world today, that it’s not going to make you money.
Most of the times, naysayers have little to add to the conversation, serving only to extinguish your hopes and dreams.
I have faced my fair share of naysayers in my life.
Back in school, one of my teachers was a big naysayer. She would discourage us (me and my classmates) from aiming too high in life (by too high, I really mean trying to aim anything at all). She also pre-judged each student based on her biased assessment of his/her abilities, then treated the student as such, hence creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Rather than encourage us as a teacher, she was often a wet blanket, telling us to opt for pragmatic courses and career paths than set big goals and dreams. She never came across as passionate in her teachings.
When I decided to become a vegetarian 3 years ago, I had the weirdest reactions from people around me. One (then) colleague said he bet that I would “give up” after a few weeks (I had no idea what he meant as I was looking at it as a permanent lifestyle choice, and not as a goal). Another colleague made a joke out of it during a team lunch. One senior director tried to taunt me with meat and seafood during a team dinner. Some people tried to challenge my decision, even though I didn’t broach the topic to begin with. A friend said he was going to make me want to eat meat again. That never happened.
When I decided to quit my regular job in 2008 to pursue my passion, everyone said no. A close friend said I was just going through a phase and I would regret it in the future. Another friend asked if anyone said I was crazy. People, personal mentors and friends alike, advised me against it. Each of them had their own set of reasons why it was a bad decision. Some said that economic recession was coming soon. Some said that my job was fantastic and that I would never get such a great job in the future. Some said that I was too young and didn’t have the right skills and know-how to achieve results in my new path. Some said that I was wasting my previous education and my career path.
Dealing with Naysayers
Each time I meet a naysayer, I’ll first try to understand where he/she is coming from. When it’s clear that the person is projecting from his/her own fears rather than adding anything constructive, I’ll disregard his/her input on my goals. Subsequently, I’ve grown immune to these naysayers, flicking them away as soon as they appear in my life. I avoid them like the plague. When they try to offer uninvited advice on my life, I’ll tune out. My body is there, I’m looking at them and I’m giving them the periodic nod, but my soul is not present. All these are toxic waste they’re trying to dump onto my goals, and I’ve no intention of taking them.
For each of the above goals I mentioned above, I ended up achieving them each time, and then more. Each time, I discovered that life on this new path was nothing like what the naysayers had painted it to be. Each time, I found more joy, love and fulfillment on my new path than my previous one. Each time, I discovered more about myself than if I were to remain where I was.
You see, for naysayers, they don’t know about how it’s like to achieve your goals at all. Everything they’re saying is just to scare you into going back where you came from. Why? Because they’re actually scared themselves. They’ve never done any of what you’re trying to do and they’re scared that you’ll succeed. They’re scared that if you succeed, it’ll show that they have been wrong all this while about life, and about their lives. They’re scared to discover that they’ve been undermining their potential and wasting their lives all this while.
Your life is yours and you don’t need other people telling you what to do. If you’re currently facing a naysayer or two, here are 7 tips I have for you to deal with them: