Believing In the Possibility That We Can Change Our Lives
This article is permission to once again believe in your ability to create the life you want (probably for different reasons than you might think) because it make sense if you've lost faith or feel doubt about having goals and dreams.
Dreaming big is a tricky thing. It can create fear of the unknown or an intoxicating hope. When you lean into hope, there is an excitement and enthusiasm for all that's to come. You get busy, you try things, you start to believe in a bigger, brighter future, and it all feels right until, in my case, the bottom falls out (I'll elaborate more in a minute). After several failed iterations, why wouldn't you feel jaded or distrust your ability to create your dreams?
I share this from my own experience. I have listened to so many people's personal success stories. I've read their books, tried their planners, filled out their workbooks. Each time there was hope and each time I ended up in a place of painful disappointment. I first thought the problem was me since everyone else "seemed" to be finding the silver bullet and experiencing instant success. Then I thought it was useless to dream big, to have a 3-year or 5-year plan, or to want for anything beyond the ordinary - since nothing but the ordinary ever came true for me. (Can you smell the coping logic and rationalizations?) Ultimately, I felt stuck and resigned myself to give up on dreams and make the best of what came my way.
Luckily, life did't let me stay goal-less and dream-less for long.
Once I had a better perspective, (and that perspective took some work) I learned so much about myself from these pursuits. I learned that I love the feeling of enthusiasm and setting off on a big bold adventure. I learned that I loved to dive all in and put my heart and soul into what I am doing. For a while I called these tendencies naive and shamed myself for them, but now I realize they are at the core of who I am and are something I embrace.
I also learned that hope and enthusiasm as your only execution strategy is a problem, and taking an all-or-nothing approach (meaning it has to be completely successful without modification, or it is an absolute failure) is pretty stressful. And I learned to stop following the processes of other people or trying the latest success fad, and to instead utilize my strengths and play into my personality. Finally, I learned that some things take more time than we'd like, take walking a twisty, thorny path, and take a being lost for a while.
Part of my growth was welcoming all that was fun and playful in what I tried before (heart-centered), and layering in some new skills of realism, practicality, planning, and long-view commitment (head-centered). I was correct that I was naive - but not about the enthusiasm. I was naive in thinking that change happens magically over night, that there are silver bullets and that plans go perfectly without modification. The ideas I had about success, what it looked like, how it should feel and unfold were childish and full of fantasy thinking. I wanted to be the dreamer, but I wasn't quite ready to take on the rugged journey of the dream.
If you've felt jaded by dream pursuits gone wrong, your story might sound different than mine and that's ok. The problem isn't you, your dream, or how you approached your dream. It's how you judge the outcome. Dreams are a journey for those of us who are willing to embrace growth. I'd even argue that the goal or the dream is irrelevant and ultimately it is the growth that our souls want. The journey just provides the experiences we need.
When we think dreams are a way to prove our worth to ourselves or fix something wrong in our lives, we are running away rather than building upon what we have - and that's ok. But our pursuit of the dream is going to give us the experience we need to see there is nothing to prove, there is nothing wrong, and dreams aren't what you think they are. The "dreaming" part of you might desire the destination, but the "being" part of you wants the transformation. In the "failed dreams" of your past, you didn't achieve the dream because you were achieving something greater, more valuable instead, yet something intangible for your brain to grasp.
Once you open up to the idea that A) the goal is somewhat arbitrary and any pursuit that you apply your head and heart to fully will give you the opportunity for growth, and B) once you embrace the fact that growth takes bravery and a willingness to face hard, unknown things, the landscape changes. Your focus pivots from "when will I, or why didn't I GET THERE" to what's the next thing I need to grow through on this life-adventure of transformation.
So dream. Dream big. Start the journey and see what learnings await you. Pack your bravery, your willingness to see and face hard things, your self-kindness and grace, and openness for the unknown, because the terrain is uncertain and rugged, and the views are an unexpected surprise of your own unfolding.