Nightmares are funny things. When you are asleep they can make the most mundane things, like cats, incredibly frightening. One minute you are patting a cute kitten, the next you are running down alleyways from a hoard of giant cats with razor sharp claws and diamond edged teeth.
In daylight though, the absolute opposite is true. The really frightening things seep into our lives slowly and before long we have accepted them as every day, mundane aspects of life. This is just how it is. Deep down we still ache to be truly wonderful and live extraordinary lives. A life that leaves a legacy that is talked about years after we have left this planet…well at least by our family members and friends.
Instead though we live these sad little nightmare lives. These safe and responsible existences. We struggle to work out why we are unhappy. Where did this funny emptiness come from?
When I was little, my father asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was sitting on the kitchen bench, kicking my gum boots against the cupboards below, watching him cook breakfast for my little sister and me. I knew straight away. I didn’t hesitate for a second. I wanted to be a dancer, a singer, a writer of books and an artist. My dad laughed and told me that I could be anything I wanted to be, as long as I was prepared to work hard for it. If my dad told me I could be anything, then I knew I could be anything. Anything in the world. At five, I never once doubted that what my father told me wasn’t true. For years I would sing and dance where ever we were. I practiced writing all the time, and I painted and drew for hours (much to the exasperation of my younger sister who wanted to play outside with bats and balls and such). Not once did it occur to me that I may never become any of those things. It was all I thought of. All I day dreamed about. My biggest problem was which one would I become first?
I’m sure that you all have similar stories to mine. And perhaps like me, you had well meaning people around you advise you to grow up. It was time to get a job that paid the bills. Perhaps you thought so too. Like me, there was a moment when you walked away from your dreams towards the quiet predictable nightmare.
But today is the day.
Today is the day we are going to wake up.
Today is the day we are going to reconnect with that feeling you had, when you knew exactly, without a doubt, what you wanted to be in the world. Your actual dream may have changed from when you were five. But that feeling, that obsession, that excitement you had when you imagined what your life would be like when that dream was realised – that’s where we are going to start!
5 Steps towards your dream
1. Lay your head down You need somewhere that you won’t be interrupted and where you can think. This may be on the couch, or lying on the floor, or in a park. Just make sure you are safe, comfortable and you can have at least half an hour to yourself.
2. Breathe Focus on your breathing. Breathe through your nose, into your belly, and breathe out through your mouth. Try and slow your breathing down, so you can relax. If your thoughts are distracted, acknowledge them, and then focus on your breathing again. I find it helps to talk to myself in my head. “Breathe in. Now I am breathing in. Breathe out. Now I am breathing out.” Keep going until you feel relaxed, and you are breathing deeply with and easy rhythm.
3. Step back in time Take yourself back to a time when you were passionate abut becoming something. Something that you lived and breathed, day in, day out. It could be a time when you were five and wanted to be a mountain climber, or when you were sixteen and wanted to be in a boy band. No, I’m not suggesting that you put all your effort in starting up the latest Backstreet Boys! But I want you to remember that excitement. That thirst you had to find out everything there was to know about what it took to climb a mountain, or record an album and then put together a choreography to half of the songs! I want you to remember how you used to day dream about living that life; a life that was full of the things you loved. Remember the excitement you felt. Remember the feeling. Focus on that feeling now. Focus on that passion now. Give yourself permission to reconnect the energy you had back then.
4. Imagine Once you have remembered what it was like to feel utterly passionate about something again, bring yourself back to the the present and focus on your breathing again.This time you are going to imagine the perfect life. Close your eyes again, and allow yourself to daydream. If there was nothing stopping you from what you want to do, and who you want to become, what would you be doing? Who would you be?
Imagine yourself walking into a room. You are in your favourite place, and you are incredibly happy. You are living the best life you can, doing what you have always wanted to do. Look around you. What do you see? You are with some amazing people. They are your greatest supporters, and you love having these people in your life. Who do you see around you?
You walk over to a huge mirror on the wall, and look at your reflection. Who do you see? Who are you? You can hear people talking around you. What are they saying to you? What are they saying about you? How do you feel inside knowing that you are living the life you have always dreamed about? What are you saying to yourself? What are you telling yourself? Open your eyes and think about your day dream.
You may want to do this exercise a few times until you really connect with the person in your day dream. Sometimes we have been living our quiet nightmare lives for so long, that even when we are all alone in our heads we find it difficult to allow ourselves to dream. The important thing is that there is no failure in your head. Who would you be if you knew you could not fail?
A side note: Now just in case you are thinking the dream is to become a millionaire, lets be clear that these things are not dreams but consequences. Often people will say to me, but if I become a millionaire then I can be the artist/rock climber/film maker/sports commentator, that I have always wanted to be. They think that the money will buy them the freedom to follow their dreams. But it doesn’t work that way. You are giving yourself an impossible task and then abdicating all responsibility. “Well, until I’m a millionaire, I can’t follow my dream.” Do you see how crazy that sounds? It’s also a bit like those who will say, “Well until I have everything lined up perfectly I’m just not going to risk it.” The truth is, it will never line up perfectly. Those little black ducks will never line up in a row! Little black ducks have a way of wandering off…All you are doing is giving yourself insurmountable challenges, because you are afraid to risk going after your dream. The dream is not to become a millionaire. The dream is to become the person you think becoming a millionaire will give you the freedom to become.
5. Live the Dream After day dreaming for a while, you should have an idea of what your dream is. If you don’t, take some time to write down all of the possibilities, even if they sound completely impossible. Remember, there is no failure. It’s your dream, and for the moment that’s all you are doing; dreaming a little.
Next time we will talk about the first steps to living your dream. For now though, if you haven’t watched it, you might like to check out Being Elmo: A Puppeteers Journey
It’s the inspirational story of Kevin Clash, a boy who followed his dream and changed the world with a puppet.