Monday, November 30, 2009

Dreaming to Live

I have always been put off by the idea of having a “job”. The word itself has negative connotations; it’s something you have to do and you don’t want to do. Most people can’t stand the thought of Monday morning and can’t wait until Friday, when all that “work” is over for a couple of days. I always thought it was better to be poor and doing what I loved than wealthy and doing something I hated.

So many of us find ourselves stuck doing a job we don’t like because we have to pay the bills. We have grown accustomed to the steady paycheck and frankly we feel comfortable with the routine and security. Even though we want to pursue a dream, we don’t want to step out of our comfort zone. Comfort and routine have taken the place of self-actualization.

All of us have dreams but many of us don’t have the courage to pursue them. We have been told since childhood “that’s impossible” and we decided to believe it. We don’t want to take risks or make sacrifices, and our fear of failure keeps us stuck where we are. We feel we aren’t able or that we don’t deserve it or we feel guilty about going our own way or having more success than our friends, family members or parents. Instead of believing in our dreams, somehow we have come to have more faith and conviction in the belief that our dreams are impossible.

Some of us put our dreams on hold out of responsibility to our family. We want to provide our loved ones with security and avoid taking risks, even though they would support us in pursuing our vision if we expressed it to them. If it’s not about family, we justify the status quo with the belief that “my company and my colleagues need me. What would they do without me?” So we put responsibility to others before our dreams, even though the contribution we could make if we live our passion would be much greater than the value we add when we do something we hate because we feel we have to.When we do a job because we feel we have to, life loses meaning. We find ourselves depressed and disillusioned, and rightly so. The emotions are a signal letting us know that our circumstances do not match our values and aspirations.

Oscar Wilde said “the supreme object of life is to live. Few people live. It is true life only to realize one’s own perfection, to make one’s every dream a reality.” Dreams make life worth living. They give meaning to existence and guide us to unleashing our full potential. Which leaves one question: are you really living?

I believe we all have something unique and something of value to offer to the world. We all have unique talents or interests, and we all have something we are passionate about… but we don’t believe we could make into a living. The happiest, most fulfilled and most successful people in the world have taken their passion and turned it into a livelihood. Some believe we each have a calling, but I believe we each have the power to choose our calling.

When we turn our passion into something that adds value to others’ lives and something people are willing to pay for, life becomes what Deepak Chopra calls the “continued expansion of happiness and the progressive realization of worthy goals.” They say that money buys happiness… but really, happiness buys money.

One of my favourite examples of someone pursuing a dream is the story of Debbie Macomber. Debbie wanted to be a writer. For 2 ½ years she typed in her kitchen each morning after the kids went to school. One day her husband Wayne decided it could go on no longer, telling her they could not survive any longer on his income alone. Distraught she remained awake all night. When her husband asked her what was wrong she told him she was convinced she could make it as a writer.

After a long silence, he told her “All right honey, go for it.” For another 2 ½ years her family struggled financially. And it paid off. Now Debbie has written over 100 books, some have been New York Times best-sellers and 3 have sold for movies. There are over sixty million copies of her books in print. Needless to say, after years of penny pinching, the family is quite comfortable now (no need to mention their 7000 square-foot mansion).

So are you doing what you love? What is your vision? How many reasons do you have for why you cannot pursue it?

Self-actualizers pursue their passions. They take something they absolutely love to do and they find a way to use it to add value to other’s lives. They love what they do so much that they can’t believe people pay them to do it. And they thrive. It’s not about working toward some destination, but doing what they love and enjoying the journey.

Most people don’t think big enough. Instead of being driven by possibility, we are held back by our own limitations and limited perceptions.

What is your “impossible” dream?

I'd love to read your comments below…