Life-size interruptions can pull the emergency brake to your big dream’s forward progress. Aging parents can become ill and need full-time care. Kids have baseball, soccer and gymnastic practice, violin lessons and homework to oversee. Work and college demands can take up most of your time. Catastrophic life events can force you to reconstruct your daily life.
You name it–life happens.
And working on your dream doesn’t seem fun when you’re forced to squeeze it in here and put it off over there.
There’s this mindset out in the world that if you don’t enjoy every minute of something, then you must have picked the wrong path. But ask any parent if they love every single moment spent raising their children. They’ll say that you love your child, so you do things you don’t necessarily love like changing dirty diapers or trying to help them with pre-calculus homework when you’ve already put in a 10 hour day. But you do love them, and so those “ick” experiences are also a labor of love.
Just because you don’t experience joy 100 percent of the time on your dream journey doesn’t mean you’ve made a mistake.
Expecting everything about your dream to feel fantastic is a fallacy. Going after a big dream is no different from real life–sometimes it will suck–because it intertwines WITH YOUR LIFE. And often when life is at its “suckiest,” a major life event can appear out of nowhere and set you adrift from your dream. When this happens, it’s easy to let go of your dream and think,
Bye. I’ll get back to you later!
You shouldn’t feel bad if or when this happens to your dream. It can happen to the most committed dreamer.
Dream quitting occurs because you don’t know how to shrink your dream down when you are up against a major life-setback, or boredom, or too many significant distractions, or life only “sucking” at the moment while you don’t know how to change the way you’re viewing your experience emotionally. During times like these, think tiny to remain in the “present moment” as a way to prevent your dream from dying.
In Thomas Sterner’s book, “The Practicing Mind,” he writes about the 4 “S” words for staying with a process. The Practicing Mind seeks to help you understand and develop the ability to live in the current moment while you work on your dream process as a natural part of who you are, and how the culture we live in constantly instructs you to the contrary. Sterner preaches how to be in the present moment and to become process-oriented to center yourself on your magical path. He is passionate this will bring you an excellent sense of patience with your life as you learn to enjoy all of your journey–even when it feels bad–and understand how to change it when necessary.(Source: The Practicing Mind)
The 4 S-Words For Staying With a Process
“Simplify” your dream by breaking tasks down into sections. You don’t set dream goals too far beyond your current reach. You make your goals as simple as you possibly can when being pulled away from your dream. If you are a writer, it might be as easy as writing a 140 character post on Twitter 5 days a week (or less). They could be ideas about your dream that you can later review. The Twitter character limits are one of the reasons I like it. It forces you to get to your point in 140 characters or less, and you can set your account to private.
“Small” refers to taking little, baby actions when you find yourself drowning under a challenging situation. Your ego is built to protect you from harm, and a large-scale dream often requires the kind of change that can overwhelm you emotionally, especially when life events are already taxing your emotional muscle. During challenging times, you’ll want to shrink your dream down to the size of a freckle by focusing on one tiny part. Maybe your dream is to buy a house, and you’ve saved some money, but a life event has stalled this dream goal. You can shrink this dream down to simply focusing on paying your bills on time, so your credit score remains intact.
“Short” speaks to placing a limit on the amount of time you will spend on a dream-related task. If we use posting something on Twitter each day as an example for keeping your writing alive, you can limit this action to 10 minutes (if 10 minutes is more than enough time). Tell yourself you will spend no more than 10 minutes posting your Tweet. Log off Twitter and walk away before the 10 minutes are over. This way, Twitter doesn’t become a distraction by keeping you on your device.
“Slow” is not a word you usually associate with successful people who are great achievers, but I agree with Sterner’s assessment in his book that society places too much emphasis on the speed at which we do things over the quality of the experience. The “slow” Sterner discusses has to do with your awareness and focus while working. For example, when writing a Tweet, you should concentrate on your fingers doing the typing, the feel of the keys and the words as you type them. Don’t stop to answer your phone, or to write a quick text, or to get up and get water–you remain focused on the one Tweet with your entire being. If you try this, you will find that doing something slow helps you to relax and accomplish it in less time with fewer mistakes. Say what? Yes, your mind may fight with you at first–trying to push you to speed up for all the stressful reasons–but stay with the deliberate, slow pace. If you stay focused without giving into speed, you will find that your entire demeanor changes and you relax. As Sterner likes to say, “When you work slowly, things become simpler.”
Here on the Pacific beaches, there are warning signs concerning rip-tides, a powerful, offshore current that can pull you out to sea and keep you there. Locals will advise you that if this happens, you shouldn’t fight against the current. Instead, you are told first to relax, rest a bit, and float to assess the direction and strength of the current before deciding if you have enough energy to swim parallel to the beach or if the current will take you back to shore on its own.
Like the ocean tides, there will be an ebb and flow to your dream progress. I know because I’ve experienced them. Cherished people die; beloved jobs disappear; adored children move far away; medical treatments happen to family members.
No one expects you to fight against a rip-tide of life setbacks without first stopping to gain your bearings.
If you stop working on your dream for whatever reason, treat your thoughts about quitting like a dearest friend. Tell yourself that everything will turn out as it should. Have faith in your ability to return to your big dream when the time is right.
Simply float along at life until you feel strong enough to swim parallel back to your dream.
Once you are ready, think small, keep it short, and make it simple.
Thinking small can be as easy as placing your workout bag in your vehicle. Keep it short by hanging your camera next to your handbag/backpack. Make it simple by drafting an action list while standing in a long line. Little strokes build upon themselves until suddenly you’re back working on your dream. Don’t fret. The world will wait patiently for your gifts.
Just remember not to fight against the current of life when something pulls you away from your dream. Take a deep breath, relax and apply the 4 “S” process. If you must rest, return to your big dream with a stroke of one small, short and simple task.
Catherine Hughes is the founder, content director and editor-at-large of 8WomenDream. She is passionate about helping women step out of their own way and strike out into a world waiting for their special talents. She’s a published author and a former award-winning mom blogger. Catherine has helped companies both large and small create engaging web content, social media narratives, and unique blogging platforms. She claims to be a redhead, but don’t hold that against her.
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