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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Realize Your Dreams: Step One

"...Too many people die and never live their dreams. And some don't even have dreams, or realize them if they do have them. I have big dreams, and I don't stop dreaming them until they happen."~Mattie Stepanek, from the Foreword of Reflections of a Peacemaker: A Portrait Through Heartsongs
The prospect of dying may be scary for some. For me, the prospect of dying without ever having lived is bone-chilling. It is the beast in the jungle, a sometimes hidden but very real danger. It is a handsome imp with sparkling blue eyes and a British accent whispering, "there's always tomorrow," into our semi-conscious ears.

As I reach for my dream life and study others who have lived their dreams, one thing has become clear: Change has a pattern; there's a definite process, and it starts with introspection usually brought on by pain, tragedy, or crisis.

Going blind caused Lisa Fittipaldi to look inward. After a couple years of denial, resistance, and self-pity she realized that living life as a blind woman would be miserable and full of danger if she continued her refusal to ask for help. She realized survival would be difficult if she remained reluctant to build a support system of close friends. She realized that she would be unfulfilled and depressed if she remained dependent and if she refused to challenge herself*.

The discovery that her boyfriend was cheating on her pushed Alycia Schlesinger headlong into months of agony-drenched self-discovery. She barely ate, she cried, and she barely slept. Eventually, she faced the ugly truths about herself that contributed to the downfall of her relationship. Finally she let her former lover's words sink into her core, "I loved you until you stopped loving yourself."**

Divorce from the man who had been her sole support shoved Laura Day into crisis and an inward search for answers. She had a baby to support, and she had to do it by herself. With panic looming, she looked within herself for clues of how to thrive, how to carve a life for herself and her child. What she found was very mature intuitive powers grown during her childhood experiences with a mentally ill mother.*** 

A life-threatening illness and the loss of a brother gave young Mattie Stepanek a gift of insight beyond his years. With the support of his mother and his indomitable spirit, Mattie lived his dreams. He died a little before his 14th birthday, but managed to write hundreds of poems and correspond with celebrities such as Oprah and former-President Jimmy Carter.****

All of these people's circumstances added a sense of urgency to their lives. Mattie lived knowing that he probably wouldn't live long. Lisa knew that life as she had known it for more than 40 years was over and that she had a limited amount of time to learn to navigate her world before her sight was completely gone. Alycia had to learn how to find joy and contentment within herself before depression swallowed her. Laura had to identify the inner resources that would help her to make a living before she ran out of means to support herself and her child.

Anyone who wants to realize a dream first has to do what all of these people did: Look inward and get real. Anyone who wants to realize a dream must first ask herself four simple questions:

1) Who am I? (What are my natural talents, my bad habits, the gifts I'm meant to give the world?)

2) What do I want? (financial freedom? fame? a successful relationship?)

3) Who do I have to become to get it? (Who has what I want? What attitudes and habits got them there?)

4) How do I become the person I need to be to achieve my dreams? (Which habits must you break? Which habits must you cultivate?)

You may be surprised at the insights that begin to flow through you. You may be surprised that after many years of self-sabotaging patterns you can finally recognize what's blocked your progress. And at first it may make you angry or sad.

At first you may want to beat yourself into submission. I know this impulse well, but just think: If I were my beloved only child what would I say to myself?

I think I would say: "You're a good kid. Believe in yourself, and don't be afraid to work hard. Work hard, and get real with yourself. Push. You'll get there. I believe in you."

*A Brush with Darkness: Learning to Paint After Losing My Sight, by Lisa Fittipaldi.


***Welcome to Your Crisis: How to Use the Power of Crisis to Create the Life You Want, by Laura Day.

****Reflections of a Peacemaker: A Portrait Through Heartsongs, by Mattie J.T. Stepanek