By Suzanne Falter-Barns
It seems to me there is only one real and proper way to live a joyful life, and that is to do the thing you are meant to be doing. There are people out there who make it seem like rolling out of
bed. But I know from experience -- pursuing your dream 'ain't always so easy.
I spent a good chunk of my adult life avoiding that things I really, secretly, deeply wanted to do. Instead, I vamped in a series of well-paying job that gave me loose credit card privileges, a place to get dressed up for every day, and a vague sense that I was acting like a grown-up. But I kept harboring fantasies of some other, better life. I dreamt about quitting my job and being a cabaret singer, or a musical comedy star, or a novelist. I imagined a great "someday" in my future when I'd be my own boss, richly rewarded for my talents and adored by throngs of loyal fans.
Twenty years later, I can say I'm finally living my dream, and amazingly enough, it didn't just land on me. I actually worked for it intensely hard over the past ten years. Life steered me towards writing, and slowly, I carved out a career for myself. A novel was published, then crashed and burned. Reviews were mixed. Two more novels were written and soundly rejected. A third novel was stopped and started, then stopped again. Ten thousand queries for magazine pieces were floated around New York, a dozen of which were actually published. Agents came and went. Jobs were quit triumphantly, then temp jobs taken in despair. A self-help book got 27 rejections, then was published by a small press. Then a major publisher appeared and bought that book and another one in a six-figure deal. A career was finally, fitfully launched.
What I see now is that living my dream is far from a perfect arrangement. Only yesterday I got a grumpy piece of hate mail from someone who'd read a magazine excerpt of my book and despised it. And self-help book two is still sitting on the floor in some editor's office, waiting for its moment in the sun. It's still hard, even after all of this, to sit down and face the blank page every morning. What I see is that there are potholes on this road, just like any other, and I simply have to ride through them.
The bottom line is that at the end of the day, this particular road leaves me feeling free and clean. I am not left beaten up at the end of the day. Instead, I have a content feeling in my soul. I live in peace, instead of wanting -- even though, ironically enough, it means less financial security, far more personal risk, and living in a permanent state of aching vulnerability. But, to paraphrase M. Scott Peck's wonderful book, The Road Less Traveled, who said the point of life was to make you happy all the time?
The way I figure it, we've got a clear cut choice. We either do the thing we were meant to be doing, or we don't. Now, for some of us, figuring out exactly what that thing is is hard. We carry around warring voices in our heads, a cacaphony of everyone from Mom to the nuns in elementary school telling us that what we want is fundamentally wrong and selfish. Or we're convinced that life has worn us down so much, we just can't rise above it all one more time. We figure we're too old, or too poor, or too fat. And God knows we have excuses -- good ones! There really is no time, money, space, resources, connections, etceteras to make your dream happen.
And yet ... there is.
I am here to say that all that is required is that for one insane moment, you decide to take on your dream. If you make that single, fortuitous leap into the void, and allow your intuition to guide you as you sail, you will land just where you need to land. Of this, I am certain.
This does not mean your path will be predictable or easy, nor will your outcome be guaranteed. Nor will you feel cozy and comfortable all the time. Just like me, you'll have those days of aching vulnerability and massive self-doubt. Then you'll have days which are among the most ecstatic you've known. All you can count on is that strong feeling of rightness, even on the fearful days, because you are doing what you are meant to be doing in this life. You are helping at least someone in the world.
Isn't that the interesting thing about dreams? They are all primarily and fundamentally about assisting others, whether your assisting in the Peace Corps or writing red hot romance novels. One way or another you are meant to give your gift to someone else, and so take your place in the great chain of interconnectedness. This is how you fulfill your mission in life.
Best of all, you're simply doing what comes naturally. You don't have to 'know' some fantastic body of wisdom you don't yet have, any more than you have to get it all right every time.
You simply have to be willing to make a few mistakes, bide your time, take the necessary risks, and hang in there for the long haul. And you need to take the long view in life, for your dream may not necessarily manifest in the first fifteen minutes you pursue it. Dreams to take time to develop, just like anything else good and true.
Most of all, though, you have to open your heart as fully and deeply as you can. No book, painting, screenplay, business plan, website, program,
restaurant, or creation has ever amounted to a hill of beans in this life, if it wasn't perfectly true and full of feeling. You cannot be stingy with your dream, parceling out only tiny bits of yourself here and there. If you're opening a dry cleaning business -- then make it uniquely your own. Put your stuffed swordfish on the wall, if game fishing is your thing, and offer that discount on dry cleaning waders. Or, if you're writing a play, bring all the creases in your soul straight to the surface. If you're opening a
restaurant, don't just create a menu that will sell -- create on you honestly care about.
Dare to be perfectly honest, perfectly real, and larger than life with your generosity. That is how dreams not only get launched, but fulfilled again and again. A peaceful life is ultimately a giving life, and one that gives back to you in spades.
Lessons From An Accidental Entrepreneur
Most of us are soldiers in the army of business. Even when we do strike out on our own, deliberately seeking to set new rules and have greater control of our lives, our time and our work, we nonetheless find ourselves trapped by rules of success.
What to Do When You Feel Like Quitting
Practical tips on how to wrestle the dream-killing demons we all share into submission.
Create the Life of Your Dreams: Oxygen Thinking, Optimum Living
All the written plans in the world, all the inscribed
goals, dreams and desires won't even make good wallpaper if
the first action isn't taken.
Instead of putting off doing what you know you must,
dedicate each day to working your plan to get better and to
move closer to your goals.