By Noelle Sterne

May 19, 2017

Many of us dream of success in our most passionate pursuits. Every musician dreams of rock, or Philharmonic, stardom. Every actor dreams of lead roles and Oscars. Every sandlot kid dreams of a high-stat spot in major league baseball. Every writer dreams of big-time agents, bestsellers, fat money, movie adaptations, prime TV appearances, and induction into the Kindle Million Club.

How do we get closer to our Dream? Yes, work enough, persist enough, and pursue enough. But we must also feel we deserve our Dream.

Do You Feel You Deserve Your Dream?

If you feel you don’t deserve your writing Dream, no matter how much time and sweat and words you put in, how many agents and publishers you know, or how many “lucky” breaks you have, you’ll torpedo yourself. Spiritual and life counselor Louise Hay says, “When we have strong beliefs that we don’t deserve, we have problems doing what we want” (The Power Is Within You, p. 164).

Despite churning out pieces, queries, and pitches, for a long time, I felt I didn’t deserve writing success. Finally, I recognized some of the negatives that kept me gridlocked. The following questions arose. Are your answers embarrassed affirmatives?

  • Do you feel a vague sense of guilt when you’re writing what you really want to?
  • When you’ve just settled down to write, do you suddenly remember you absolutely must go get the car washed or clean out the refrigerator?
  • When you’ve marked out the whole afternoon for writing, are you gripped by waves of nausea, headaches, dizziness?

Your shifty unconscious has just dispatched the guilt Gestapo to subvert your creativity and stifle your Dream.

Unfortunately, our culture keeps this squad on active duty, especially for women. Career women climb the ladder, bang their heads against the glass ceiling, and, even when they crack through it feel an emptiness because they didn’t follow their other, more creative Dream. Mothers take the raggedy heel of the bread, serve everyone else the perfect wedges of pie, and scrape the dregs for themselves. They do another load of laundry instead of giving themselves a half hour to do what they really love. Wives put off their Dreams until their husbands establish their careers, children are grown, elderly parents are cared for, and church members are served their last supper.


To reverse your Dream-draining thoughts and actions, you don’t need twenty years of therapy. Only realize you have the power to change. Refuse to let the self-denial and guilt gang in, no matter how much they’re pounding on the door and punching the windows.

Even with a successful career in journalism, Elizabeth Gilbert admits in Eat Pray Love that she dared finally ask herself what she really wanted. Her answers ranged from a new linen shirt to living in Italy. But you don’t have to go on a shopping binge, relocate to exotic climes, or even leave your house. Instead, practice deserving with relatively small things.

Choose the better piece of toast or neater piece of cake, get tickets to the playoffs, order a mile-high pastrami sandwich and don’t share it, get a massage, buy that slinky pair of jeans (not your grandmother’s overalls), give yourself a daily bottle of imported beer. You’ll soon graduate to giving yourself the time, energy, and focus to pursue your Dream.

Dare to Deserve

If you’re questioning your deservingness, no need. Your desire to follow your passion signals that you unequivocally deserve your Dream. Otherwise, you wouldn’t desire it at all. Know your Dream isn’t flighty, stupid, ridiculous, or impossible. It is absolutely meant to be. Creativity and writing counselor Julia Cameron reminds us, “Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source” (The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, p. 3).

To focus on deserving, though, probably means giving up certain things you may have hung onto for years. Give up thinking about your face (wrinkled), your feet (bony), your weight (too much), your house (too untidy), your garage (a disaster area), your desk (piled high), your finances (lacking), your work (chronically behind), your mate (chronically annoying), your daily routine (too routine), your future (too scarily unknown).

Get to Deservingness

How do we rise above those octopus negative thoughts? The principles, ancient and lately rediscovered by many, are explained by spiritual teacher U. S. Andersen (Success Cybernetics: Practical Applications of Human Cybernetics, pp. 29-31).

  1. We are what we concentrate on.

If we concentrate on guilt, lost opportunities, and failure, we engender feelings of extreme negativity. If we concentrate on success, feelings of achievement begin to infuse us. We gain a glimmer of hope, a sliver of excitement, a glimpse (can it be!) that what we yearn for really can happen.

  1. What we concentrate on grows.

We’ve all had this experience. You wake up grouchy. You snap at your spouse and slap down the dog’s bowl, spraying kibble just out of reach. Then on your way to the second cup of coffee, you hit your head on the kitchen cabinet door, curse, and step on the dog’s tail. The dog yowls, waking the baby, and your spouse yells at you. And you haven’t even gotten dressed for work. You’ve been concentrating on grumpiness. Result? You’ve produced these matchless experiences the first thing in the morning.

Equally negative mindsets—of despair, feeling it’s too late, giving up—have produced the succession of events, choices, reactions that have sent our Dreams down the mineshaft. And have left us with flinty handfuls of shale instead of flowers

  1. What we concentrate on becomes real.

The marvelous human mind believes what we tell it, whether it’s in the world we see or the world of our minds. What we tell our minds we come to believe. When we repeat to ourselves that we’re failures, can never finish anything, will never get what we want, or the other guys always get the breaks, we believe these messages. We attract them, by our very concentration, into our experience and they become real to us. And this preoccupation leads to the next principle . . .

  1. We always find what we concentrate on.

A well-known axiom declares that things don’t just happen to us; they happen justly. “Justly” means that things happen just as we believe them. Haven’t our dire self-fulfilling prophecies come about—“I never could . . . ,” “I was afraid that . . . ,” “I knew that . . . ,” to our disappointment, dismay, or heartbreak?

As Andersen also points out, these four mental laws always work, whether we consciously apply them or not. “The greatest danger in your life lies in dwelling on failure. The greatest reward lies in thinking success” (p. 31).

You may think that reversing negative concentrations takes too much concentration. And determination. And discipline. Yes . . . and not necessarily. Start using these very principles of thought to reverse your thoughts—if you tell yourself it’s hard, of course, it will be. If you tell yourself that reversal and replacement of those tentacled thoughts are easy . . . . How delicious does it feel to see yourself ensconced in your favorite spot writing what’s in your heart?

Notwithstanding unmade beds, unwashed cars, unweeded gardens, uncleaned gutters, unanswered emails, you do deserve your writing Dream. Just keep envisioning it, feeling how it feels to write, and letting yourself take the steps. Here are some true declarations to keep in mind:

  • You deserve to do what you’ve always wanted to.
  • You have enough time, money, energy, interest, cooperation from everyone around you to do what you’ve always wanted to.
  • Doing what you’ve always wanted to harms no one.
  • Doing what you’ve always wanted to keeps you healthy.
  • Doing what you’ve always wanted to enables you to help others.
  • Doing what you’ve always wanted to do feels wonderful!

And one day, in the midst of a fantastic creative session, you’ll realize you don’t have to work at deserving your Dream. You’ll know it’s here.

© 2017 Noelle Sterne

For reprinting, please contact Noelle Sterne through her site:

Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing

More on Grammar

More posts about Writing Advice

Our site is accepting submissions. Read our submission guidelines and climb aboard the Two Drops of Ink literary train – it’s on the move!

Looking for a summer read? Check out The Book Shelf

Poetry has found a new surge of interest. Read some great poetry on our site: The Wall of Poets

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook


  1. Hi, Dr. Sterne. Wonderful advice you’ve posited here.

    I have always been solidly supportive of my wife and two daughters. I kept it real – explained why,for example, with their short statures, they shouldn’t pursue a pro basketball career. My encouragement has provided rewards for all and made their lives fulfilling. Always reminded them that they were individuals first, but not selfishly, then whatever title after that.

    As you state, the subconscious is a devious, resourceful opponent, but can be outwitted.

    Thanks for this timely reinforcement about overcoming negatives.

    • Thank you, Slug. Your support and advice for your wife and daughters are inspiring! I enjoy your posts too–keep that humor coming. We all, often too serious, need it.

  2. Hello Dr Sterne,

    Thank you for sharing this positive and provocative post.

    I notice in my own life there is a tendency to self-sabotage. I am struggling to bring a long-outstanding project to the finish line. I do hope that it’s not because somewhere deep down within me on a psychological level, I don’t feel I deserve success.

    I agree with the idea that we attract into our lives what we habitually say and think. It’s hard undoing bad habits of a life-time but I’m determined to change. And that image of tentacled thoughts makes me even more determined.

    I love this – “If we concentrate on success, feelings of achievement begin to infuse us. We gain a glimmer of hope, a sliver of excitement, a glimpse (can it be!) that what we yearn for really can happen.”

    I’m off – to concentrate my unruly thoughts on success!

    • Ladycee–Thank you! Habits are hard. Little by little . . . each time we “fall,” we just remind ourselves to do better next time. The constant self-forgiveness is a good habit to develop too. Keep feeling success!

  3. I am from a blue collar home. When I write I feel guilty because I am not taking part in physical labor. I guess somewhere in my mind I feel like I should be lifting or moving something to make a living. I really needed this article. Thanks.

    • Hi, Chris–I used to feel guilty because in writing I wasn’t doing something “socially useful” like volunteering at a food bank or practicing social work. Then I realized that writing what is in my heart IS socially useful not only for myself but also for many other writers. Look how much writing has changed the world: Tom Paine’s “Common Sense,” the Declaration of Independence, the Bible . . . How about lifting your laptop while you’re writing?

  4. Thank you Dr. Stern for this reminder. I struggle with guilt at times. Distractions are also on my hit list to mange better. I seem to chase those pesky shiny objects that get in the way of my thoughts. I appreciate this list of mindful tips to help overcome. Thank you.

    • Appreciate your thoughts, John. Sometimes we must just let those shiny distractions stream through. They’ll get tired and then we can get onto our real writing business.

  5. This article has given me a lot to chew on. Thank you for writing it and thank you to Two Drops for publishing it. It mostly challenges me on my beliefs, or rather non-beliefs, about the “power of positive thinking.” I think there is a point of reality where it can not work, but perhaps you can change the way you think of yourself and that can open yourself to opportunities that you wouldn’t see if you were in a darker, more negative place.

    • Thank you for your honesty, Carol. So glad you are open to new ideas. Perhaps we can change how we think of ourselves–write a new story about our lives and expectations. What’s to lose? No calories, no credit card needed, no interstate traffic.

  6. What a wonderful reminder to keep the self-talk positive. We choose what we tell ourselves and by conscientiously focusing on the positive, the world will align with what it is we are dreaming about. I needed to hear this today. Thank you

  7. Good morning, Dr. Sterne. Thank you for this encouraging essay on how to get to deserving. You’ve listed, explained, and offered solutions for so many of the internal barriers and obstacles that prevent people from realizing their dreams and goals.

    I also appreciate that you listed two of my favorite thought changers, Louise Hay and Julie Cameron. I used Hay’s book daily at the recovery home, however, you’ve added another application for her wisdom specific to writing.

    This is a must-read for any of us struggling with the unwanted, but ever present negative self-talk and messages.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.