” At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want ” Lao Tzu
If Lao Tzu is correct, then how do we lose ourselves so frequently? For several years I’ve known my personal path and the gifts I have to give. I believe that this is also true for many, if we will only take the time to stop surrendering our personal authority over to others and instead lay clear claim to who we truly are. However, simply having this self-knowledge of who we are and what we want isn’t enough.
In fact, it’s fairly self-indulgent. What truly matters is how we actively live our dreams into the world.
Unfortunately like many, I don’t always live my purpose and passion.
I pull my punch.
And this is how I give my dreams and myself away:
- First, I don’t admit to myself or reveal to others that I have certain gifts to give. I can easily fear that if others know what I want to give, I’ll either be overwhelmed by requests or completely ignored. These are the “old fear of success” and “fear of failure” ploys. Either way I can render myself mute. No dreams get risked here.
- Then there’s the fear that “your cause or dream is better than mine.” So, if you ask me to join your dream team, I can quietly forfeit mine and reduce my personal risk. We’re all still doing good deeds, it’s just your cause seems better developed and more important than the one I dreamed. Perhaps if I embrace your dream enough, I can disappear my dreams’s wants and needs all together.
- Or perhaps, I’ll get lost in the things I should do today, tomorrow and next month. All those shoulds, will keep me busy and unnoticed even to myself. Being too busy chasing the wrong priorities is one of the biggest dream killers out there, However, putting time into my dreams first makes me a selfish person, right?
- Even when I do focus on my dreams, there is a persistent nagging that my behavior will alienate me from others who don’t share my dream or at the very least I’ll miss out on something big or fun because I wasn’t available. Isn’t this one of the big dynamics that keeps us glued to social media and our emails, swallowing hours of our time? Current research says we each check our cell phones, on average, forty-two times each day.
- Surely I don’t have enough expertise, education and/or experience to launch my dream. Doesn’t it require at least some kind of related degree? This path can delay dream progression for years. If your dream does require specialized training, like medical school, then get after it. However, this excuse for many is often yet another way to stay invisible, unchallenged and wishing things were different even though they already possess the needed skills and talent.
So why do we keep coming back to our dreams despite our best efforts to avoid them? Because without our dreams, our causes, our gifts and our passions, we are simply living someone else’s life. How might our lives be different if we began to listen to our dreams insistent drumbeat? What would we learn and what would we risk?
I believe there are seasons to when we can risk ourselves and our dreams. But to identify those seasons we also have to clearly acknowledge our priorities. Recently, I was working with a professional woman whose high school age daughters were needing her differently than they had as young children. As this mother witnesses her children becoming more responsible and independent, she now has time to look at her career satisfaction. What she found was less than rewarding. So, she began to wonder how she could transform her current career into one that was more fulfilling. But, she is the breadwinner of the family and with 2 girls heading to college in the next few years, monetarily she knew the career transformation she’s contemplating would not work without great changes for her family. But is she stuck doing the same old same old, with no reprieve for another 8 years, until her daughters graduate college? No! There are many intermediary steps she can take over time that lay the path for a different and more satisfying future.
Let’s answer 5 important questions:
- What season are you in with your career: just starting out, middle, transforming or ending? Given that career changes occur rapidly and often in certain sectors, look carefully at your opportunities and possibilities. Begin to evaluate now, who you are responsible for and how those responsibilities may change over the next 2, 5 and 10 years.
- Are you an economic hostage to your job? Many of us are. Our responsibilities and possessions may have us in a position that we can’t afford to leave because the financial stability provide by your work. And that may be true for now. But if you are living someone else’s dream and are unhappy while doing it, what else might be possible down the road?
- How would you be giving your gifts to the world if money wasn’t an issue? We all have gifts to share with others, talents that make us who we are. They are most noticeable when we are doing something effortlessly and we feel most like ourselves. You may see these gifts as unremarkable or unprofitable. Until you share them, you won’t know how they will expand your life out in the world. The truism, “Your ordinary is often seen by others as extraordinary” may sound trite, but still true. Get out there and shine a little. See what feedback you receive.
- What would you be doing in your life if you had no fear? This is a question whose answers may surprise you. We are often the biggest factor holding ourselves back from exploring something new. What are you willing to allow in your life? I’m not talking about death defying activities. I’m asking you to stretch out beyond your current comfort zone. Challenge your negative self talk that says a quick “No” when you start to question your status quo.
- When is the last time you did something for the first time in your life? Here, you will find out just how risk aversive you are. If you can’t remember what that event was, it’s time to create one. You don’t have to go bungee jumping, but you might explore a new food, take a class or read a book genre that you’ve never tried. Expanding and enriching your daily life takes a little planning and the rewards add up over time.
So, let’s stop living someone else’s dreams and get more conscious of our own. Take a deep dive into these questions. I’m sure you’ll find some interesting surprises. In my next blog, I’ll be talking extensively about specific steps to take your answers and begin turning them into personal realities.
Next time in Fire and Flow: 7 Ways to Stop Living Someone Else’s Dreams