As a personal coach, I continually examine the subject of following your dreams. Often, when we talk about following our dreams, we assume that the path to our dreams is evident. However, for most of us, our dreaming muscle has atrophied. A more appropriate question is, what is required to awaken our ability to dream? What allows us to explore the possibilities in our lives without our critical inner voices suppressing this exploration?
Following our dreams is an ongoing and dynamic process, one we can restart at any age. A few of us know exactly what we want, but many of us don’t. Honestly admitting we don’t know is a powerful beginning. I remember being terrified at 33 that someone was going to find out I did not have a clue what I wanted to do. Although I had collected a long list of what I did NOT want to do, I did not realize that making peace with “not having a clue” was, in fact, part of the process. I was an artist who did not realize he had a blank canvas right in front of him, and all he needed to do was start painting.
Next I want to discuss several assumptions that stop us from developing our dreams:
If I am sure I am on the “right path,” I will be ready to take action. I will know the outcome ahead of time.
From my experience, it works like this: when you take the first steps in exploring your dreams, the path reveals a little of itself. You take more steps and more of the path appears.
I did a lot of high-quality personal suffering trying to figure out what the “Right Path” was for me. I knew if I could be sure of the right path, I would be motivated and take action. I was never able to get enough assurance to start. I gave up looking for just the “right path,” and I started taking action by exploring different things.
Working with my own personal coach, I started noticing what attracted me. At the time, I was servicing computers for a large corporation, and I felt completely in the wrong place. I noticed that I was more interested in my customers’ dreams than in their computers. I started talking to the co-op students working with me, and asking them what their dreams were. One of them wanted to own a radio station “one day.” I asked how he planned to get from this job to owning a radio station and he had no idea. So I convinced him to meet with me for lunch once a week, and we began exploring what was possible. The entire time I had conversations in my head like, “Who are you to try this?” and “This will never lead to a ‘real’ job,” and “Get real! You have a well-paying job in a ‘good field.’ ”
My coach kept me going, encouraging me to do my job and to continue to meet the co-op for lunch. As a result, he realized that he did not really want a radio station; instead, he wanted to be an expert in a field he enjoyed. He now has his own internet security company.
If I hope and wish hard enough, or have the right attitude, my dreams will come true.
Sometimes we wish, desire, and hope instead of pursuing our dream. I once attended a Feng Shui workshop. An attendee went into a long explanation of how she had done all the “right” Feng Shui things in her garage, but dark oily stuff still kept dripping from the car. The presenter paused for a moment and responded, “Have you considered a mechanic?” Replace wishing and hoping with anticipating, discovering, and creating. Dreams come true for those of us who are receptive and who actively pursue possibilities.
I am unrealistic, wrong, or selfish to want to follow my own dreams.
It is not unrealistic, not wrong, and not selfish to follow your dreams. If you really want to honor your family and yourself, pursue a life you love, filled with many actualized dreams.
I will have to give up everything that is important to me in my current life to follow my dreams.
The all or nothing, black and white mentality that to pursue your dreams you will have to give everything up is a very narrow and noncreative perspective. Although sometimes we do seem to lose everything, that can be a great catalyst to get us into action. In 1994, I belonged to a business support group. At one weekly meeting, I announced that in the previous 6 months I had lost my wife, my cat, my house, my car, and resigned from my job, and I was starting to feel a lot better. Someone with a big smile replied, “Martin has been busy busy!” You can pursue your dreams, and keep what’s important to you.
If I don’t know what I want by now, then I will never know.
It’s never too late to determine what you want out of life. It is only too late to pursue your dream if you think so. In strengthening your ability to dream and create new possibilities, consider some of the following questions:
What environment has best supported you in creating and dreaming?
What context keeps you in action on your dreams?
What would it take to create more of that environment now?
Are you around people who support you in exploring new possibilities in your life?
Do you provide an environment for your friends to pursue their dreams?
Be an advocate of others’ dreams. Remember, friends don’t let friends lead ordinary lives!