Are you ready to move forward with dreams which support you?
If you’re new here you might find it helpful to read my last blog. In it I shared Cheryl Strayed’s experience of how her unattainable dream was paralysing her, & letting it go gave her the freedom to be who she was supposed to be. And I introduced her suggestion: ‘Don’t let your dreams ruin your life.’
I want dreams which support me & I hope you do too. And the start of new year (& decade) seems the perfect time to put this in motion.
I invited you to join me reflecting & generating ideas of dreams you may want to take forward, who you might want to be etc so by the end you’ll be ready to step purposefully in the direction of your choosing.
We’ll do this together through a series of blogs & within each I’ll ask a number of questions & include tips & my own reflections. You can answer as many or as few questions as you like, however experience tells me that those you’re resistant to answering are the ones which will help you most.
I’m a visual person & seeing all my answers together really helps so I’ll be answering the questions on A4 paper using coloured pens. You might wish to do this, or you might prefer to use a new journal. You could be more creative & add pictures or drawings; please do whatever is comfortable for you. Other than that, I only ask that you come with an open mind & a willingness to dig deep.
You can use this process to reflect on any timescale. I use it each year & you might wish to think about the past year, or go back several years. For me 2 things happen when I use a longer time period – first I have fewer answers & secondly they’re bigger things. For example I can think of several small things I’ve achieved today, yet when I think back 10 years the items on my list are bigger & there are fewer. I mention this as something to be aware of.
Why we’re taking our time
We’ll spend January reviewing & dreaming & we won’t be starting anything new until Spring. You might be used to jumping ahead & making new resolutions or goals & of course you can do that, but I advise against it. And here’s why.
Imagine you’re a gardener. Before you add new plants it’s helpful to reflect on what grew well in the previous season & what didn’t, to pull out stubborn weeds, take a view on the environment & tend the soil so it’s ready for new planting. If you jump straight in & add new plants they might be not ideal for the conditions & may become choked by weeds.
So this is what you’ll be doing. This week you’ll be considering what grew & what didn’t, ie what went well in your life, what didn’t go so well & which dreams are no longer serving you. Because just like in the garden; you need to create space for new plants to grow.
Then in following weeks you’ll consider what you’d like your garden to look & feel like.
Are you ready?
In the way that feels right to you, please answer the following questions. Please take your time & perhaps answer them over the course of a few days, adding more as the answers occur to you. I found a lot of help within the pages of my journals & the photos I’ve taken & you might find this too.
You can do this on your own, or with friends & if you’re on your own, remember no one is looking so be free with your writing. Don’t hold back.
A. Let’s start with the positives
There are many reasons why it’s helpful to start with the positives; mainly to build your self-esteem & confidence. I like to think of this as similar to a gratitude practice, ie whatever’s going on in life there are ALWAYS things to be grateful for AND no matter how negative you feel you’ve ALWAYS achieved something.
1. What have I achieved/created?
Write down 10 things you’ve achieved & then list another 10. Keep going, include large achievements & small; if you did it, write it down. Don’t be shy; be as positive and creative as works for you.
I’m always surprised by the length of my list; I used to write my successes & achievements on pieces of paper & put them in a jar but I’ve got out of this habit so remembering takes more effort. I always do this over a few days as things will pop into my head at unexpected moments so I suggest you also take your time & keep your list close by.
My list for last year includes some big achievements such as re-publishing Finding Joy, passing 100 hours of Yoga teacher training & blogging every 2-3 weeks. And it also includes smaller things such as prioritising my self-care by taking time on my own, keeping going through a really hard 2hr yoga practice, starting Nordic Walking & re-starting embroidery. I’m guessing yours will be like this too.
I’ve kept the next 3 questions together because there may be some overlap in your answers, that’s perfectly Ok.
2. When was I most in flow / what felt easy / when did I feel most alive?
Take your time in answering this, put yourself back into a time where you lost yourself in something & it felt amazing.
3. Which were my favourite moments?
Again, pick out a few moments which stand out. A couple of my favourite moments (the party we held for our 25th wedding anniversary & doing the Dragon Dance on the Yoga retreat in India) were also when I felt most alive.
4. What am I most proud of?
These may be the same or not, a couple of my examples are blogging regularly & also making gifts for close friends.
When you have all of these, take time to celebrate all you’ve done & who you are. Give yourself a huge pat on the back and absorb everything you’ve achieved. By now you’ll be feeling confident & you’ll have increased your level of self-esteem. Hopefully you’re surprised at how long the lists are.
B. Now, let’s move on to the not so positives, the things which didn’t go quite so well
Going back to the garden, now you need to consider what didn’t grow very well & which weeds need to be pulled out. You may find these harder questions to answer & be tempted to skip over them, however again you’ll get more benefit if you dig deep. I encourage you to keep at going & anytime you’re struggling, give yourself a boost by going back to your answers to the questions above.
So here we go; deep breath…
5. What dreams do I have which I haven’t achieved?
Write them all down, all those dreams which are at the front or back of your consciousness, nagging away, especially those which have been there for a while & manifest as repeated & unachieved goals or resolutions. Of course THE dream might be at the top of your list.
For me, for several years I’ve had a specific dream of eating differently & being more committed to exercise & each year it falls away. I’ll be using this process to dig into which elements of it will be useful to let go of & which others I still wish to achieve reframed into a different dream.
Now you have your list, answer these questions;
How have I stopped myself from achieving my dreams?
You might be resistant to answering this & prefer to ‘blame’ others for what you haven’t achieved, but in your heart you know that you are 100% responsible for everything you achieve & don’t achieve.
In my example above, one way I stop myself is by buying & eating chocolate or cake & then beating myself up.
What is holding on to my dreams costing me?
You always pay a price for hanging on to an unachievable dream; the price Cheryl Strayed paid was two-fold. She was stopping herself both from writing & for becoming who she was supposed to be. This was the case for me when I was still hanging on to the dream of becoming a mother & it may also apply to you.
For example holding on to how I’m ‘supposed to’ look, how much I ‘should’ exercise & how I ‘ought to’ eat is costing me peace & happiness, from enjoying my food & beating myself up is reducing my self-esteem.
If this is a hard question to answer, listen to your language, especially where you use words like those I’ve highlighted above because they signify where you’re conforming to others’ expectations & not your own.
Which of these dreams are no longer serving me & I’m ready to let go of?
Take a look at your list of dreams, note those which it’s time to let go of completely & others which may stay in part, perhaps reframed.
For me, I don’t want to completely let go of my dream of healthier living so I’ll be examining aspects of it to see what I want to achieve in a different way.
6. When did I pick myself up & show how resilient I am?
I love this question & it’s a reminder of how much more resilient I’ve become over time. As I’ve said before, what used to take a wave to knock me over now takes a Tsunami. You will definitely be experiencing this; insensitive comments will be affecting you less now. Write down all the examples you can think of.
I showed my resilience last year in how I worked through challenges with a couple of close relationships & how much less I take on other people’s energy.
Time to celebrate
Congratulations, you’ve got to the end of this week’s questions. Give yourself a pat on the back & take some time to celebrate every answer, because by committing to this process, you’ve been open & honest, & those are huge qualities to be proud of.
Now you have a picture of your garden. You know which flowers bloomed & which need to be dug up & replaced. Hang on to this & next week you’ll take it a step further.
Here’s some inspiration
I’ve wanted to share this inspiring poem, called The Journey by Mary Oliver for a while & today seems appropriate.
If you’re not sure why you’re doing this work, sit quietly for a few moments & listen for the voice deep inside you calling you to stride into the world as the wonderful, amazing you & in the direction of your choosing.
I’d love to hear how the questions resonate with you, please leave a comment below or drop me an email.