What do you do if you don’t know what your big dream is? What if you don’t have a clue what you’re passionate about doing with your life? What if you have several big ideas and you don’t know how to choose between them?
The right big dream involves a sense of direction and peace in your everyday life. It carries you when life kicks your butt. It’s your compass–the feats that give your life direction and meaning. And it’s linked to what makes you feel happy, or content.
There’s a little-known foreign film called, Hector and the Search for Happiness, starring Simon Pegg as Hector, a quirky psychiatrist who has become increasingly tired of his structured life. Armed with buckets of courage and child-like curiosity, he embarks on a global quest in hopes of uncovering the elusive secret formula for true happiness. (Source: Wikipedia)
In his pursuit, Hector learns 23 lessons about happiness:
1. Making comparisons can spoil your happiness.
2. Happiness often comes when least expected.
3. Many people only see happiness in their future.
4. Many people think that happiness comes from having more power or more money.
5. Sometimes happiness is not knowing the whole story.
6. Happiness is a long walk in beautiful, unfamiliar mountains.
7. It’s a mistake to think that happiness is the goal.
8. Happiness is being with the people that you love. Unhappiness is being separated from the people that you love.
9. Happiness is knowing that your family lacks for nothing.
10. Happiness is doing a job that you love or doing something you are passionate about.
11. Happiness is having a home and a garden of your own.
12. It’s harder to be happy in a country run by evil people.
13. Happiness is feeling useful to others.
14. Happiness is to be loved for EXACTLY who you are.
15. Happiness comes when you feel truly alive.
16. Happiness is knowing how to celebrate.
17. Happiness is caring about the happiness of those you love.
18. The Sun and the Sea make everybody happy.
19. Happiness is not attaching too much importance to what other people think.
20. Happiness is a particular way of seeing things.
21. Rivalry ruins happiness.
22. Women care more than men about making others happy.
23. Happiness means making sure that those around you are happy.
I feel like this little film is the pocket manual for finding out what is your big dream. The story is the dreamer’s journey. During the movie, the part I most enjoyed was Hector’s Lesson Number 10 (‘Happiness is doing a job that you love or doing something you are passionate about’) when Hector rediscovers his best friend in South Africa. The best friend loves his chosen work, and Hector begins to see happiness as being passionate about something you do–whether you make good money or not.
Living like Hector’s friend might be a problem for you because your reasons for work may be tied to money and security. That’s a tough road when you must choose stability over a big dream.
And then what if you aren’t even sure what is your big dream? What if you view going after your dream like Hector views happiness and you don’t know what is real joy?
When you are stuck at the “I don’t know how to find my dream” place, it’s because you aren’t clear on what EXACTLY fills your heart–just like Hector’s quest to understand happiness. Like Hector, you may believe you want one circumstance, and you begin to explore it, only to find it isn’t what you thought. You become disappointed and disillusioned about your dream because the situation you’ve chosen isn’t something you are passionate about being involved with every day.
Big Dreams Are About Happiness
• It’s the passion that keeps you in the game during all the highs and lows of dreaming.
• It’s the passion that gets you up at 4:00 a.m. to write that book you dream of publishing.
• It’s the passion that drives you to eat more rice when you are sick of it because you are saving all your money for your dream trip to Italy.
• It’s the passion that makes you train in the rain while preparing for the marathon you promised yourself you’d complete before you turn 40.
Not convinced? Let’s say you explore getting back into running because you believe it links to your unsure dream of being a triathlete. You remember how much you loved to run as a child and how you had successfully competed in races through the years. You are thinking that you miss running because it has been on your mind for some time. It feels like the need to become a triathlete is haunting your very existence. So you decide to buy some running shoes and hit the pavement running.
As you approach mile two–BOOM–you suddenly remember all of the details about running you hate and the reasons you quit. Disappointed, you throw your running shoes away and go back to your regular life with the belief you are a failure.
You didn’t fail–you were merely looking incorrectly at your past actions. Before buying those running shoes, you needed to explore your memory of running at a much deeper level. Maybe it wasn’t the actual act of running that made you happy–perhaps it was something else about the running. It’s in that “something else” where you will find your real dream.
You must investigate your past interests to understand their true meaning.
Maybe you loved to run because it was an escape from an awful home. When you ran to the hills above your home; you enjoyed to be away from the negativity below. You explored new trails to run, viewed different sunrises or sunsets, and challenged yourself to experience new situations. When you examine the profound reasons WHY you loved doing a pastime (like running) throughout your life, you’ll see a common theme beyond the activity–the real key to unlocking your dream.
Using the running example–maybe being a nature tour guide is authentically your big dream. Perhaps your true calling is to help people discover the peace that outdoor exercise in nature brings to your mind. Maybe when you review all of your past experiences, you recognize that all of your pastimes shared the commonality of you being the person who gets people to experience something outdoors, or you are the person who convinced dates to go running in nature with you. Maybe it’s never been about the running. Perhaps your happiness came from you getting people to enjoy being outdoors in nature.
Do you see how easy it is to focus on the wrong action when trying to decide what your dream is?
Explore Your Past With The Passion Test
Some years ago, I put together a small guide called “Find your Dream” with an exercise to pinpoint your WHY you think about certain pastimes. If you are one of those lost dreamers searching for your big dream, you should consider taking a passion test. Feel free to try this one.
Exercise 1 in my guide is the Find Your Passion Test:
Place a big T on a piece of paper and put “This gave Me Joy” over the left column and “I Felt” over the right column. If you have the e-book go to the Find Your Dream Worksheet #1 on page 11
Find a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed and answer the following on the piece of paper:
Think back to when you were young. What did you love to do before you were 12, or when you were in grade school? List all the things you liked doing that made your heart sour. Only list those things you enjoyed before 7th grade. Try and come up with as many things as possible. This should be done quickly so you don’t have time for doubt, or over-think your answers.
To help you with this exercise here are my answers to what I loved and felt . . .
• Riding my bike – made me feel free, adventurous, excited, new experiences, happy, independent.
• Playing with dollhouse – made me feel excited, new skills, happy, content, independent.
• Ballet/dancing – made me feel free, alive, adventurous, new experiences, challenged, individual, excited.
• Telling stories – made me feel alive, new experiences, excited, loved, happy.
• Writing in a diary – made me feel content, loved, adventurous, competent, pleasant, special, independent.
• Performing – made me feel happy, loved, alive, competent, free, special, new experiences, adventurous.
• Setting up performances – made me feel loving, caring, excited, free, new experiences, adventurous.
• Gardening with my Dad – made me feel loved, smart, caring, special, content, safe, happy.
• Helping my Dad fix things – made me feel loved, smart, new experiences, caring, special, content, safe, happy, loving, adventurous.
• Drawing and coloring – made me feel free, content, smart, safe, adventurous, happy, independent.
• Reading – made me feel happy, adventurous, smart, free, excited, safe, new experiences, independent, competent.
• Putting on the clothes my mother made for me –made me feel loved, caring, new experiences, content, happy, joy, special, safe.
• Ice skating – made me feel independent, adventurous, joy, free, new experiences, excited, happy, content, special, competent.
Now ignore what gives you joy and only look at how you felt. Mine looks like this –
Happy – 11 times
New Experiences – 10 times
Adventurous – 9 times
Content – 7 times
Free – 7 times
Excited – 6 times
Independent – 6 times
Competent – 5 times
Safe – 5 times
Loved – 5 times
Special – 5 times
Caring – 4 times
Loving – 2 times
Challenged – 1 time
These answers only capture one period of my life when I was young (age 12 and under) and it is not unusual to see the most important feelings were to be happy, want new experiences and love adventure. What child doesn’t live this way?
BUT! Is this still true for me today? Yes, but we aren’t done yet.
Part of the process of working through the worksheets in the book is to see what shows up. It is always different for everyone. You will be surprised at what you discover.
Do my answers above mean that I should run out and ride bikes for a living for my big dream? GAWD NO! It implies that bicycle riding represents something individual to me. For someone else it may very well mean getting involved in bike racing, but not for me.
For me, bicycle riding represents independent travel and the feeling of adventure–which still makes me blissfully happy. I love to travel. But as a young girl, bicycle riding was the closest thing to independent travel. I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, but hopefully, you can see where I’m going with this type of exploration.
You have to be a happiness detective and look at your answers from different angles to discover what it is you are most passionate. Was I good at the pastimes that gave me joy? Yes. I was an excellent dancer, bike rider, dollhouse remodeler, gardener, reader, performer, and storyteller. But I don’t want my dream to be “Dancer who bike rides and remodels dollhouses while gardening and reading then performing while sharing a story.”
Is there something that combines the pastimes I love?
Part of what I see in my past is a person who likes to make pretty surroundings. I am a person who wants to change my environment and share those experiences with other people. Just ask my son. He runs away when I start to move furniture. I’m someone who loves to write, but I also enjoy arranging and perfecting content on websites.
Managing a blog encompasses my love of writing (blog posts), redecorating (arranging web content), performing (sharing and engaging on social media), and telling stories (circle back around to writing blog posts). Some might argue that I should be a travel writer… maybe… But I enjoy overseeing a blog, and I would do it for nothing–which is a good indication of a passion.
What would you do for free? Would you do it until you dropped? Would you do it even if people made fun of you?
How you answer those three questions should help you begin to see if you know what your big dream is.
P.S. Author Barbara Sher is a master at helping people figure out what they love. I encourage you to try any of her books, but especially “Live the Life You Love: In Ten Easy Step-By Step Lessons.”
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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