Dreams Do Come True (If You Make Them)
I’m on vacation this week on the island of Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Southern Massachusetts. There’s so much inspiration here that I could write about yoga, farmer’s markets, biking, the ocean. But having a little down time has given me a breather so that I can let my mind wander. These days my mind wants to ponder happiness.
My studies in Buddhist meditation have impressed on my how happiness doesn’t lie in the future. It’s right now. We can all wrap our minds around that. But at the same time, if you’re like me, what you’re doing in right-now-time usually has something to do with how you want your future to be. In other words following your dream.
Following Your Dream is Addicting!
Before I get into how addicting it is to follow your dream, let me clarify. My Healthy, Sexy, Happy program revolves around building up more than you break down, and so I encourage people to face and quit their addictions—including workaholism. Most ambitious people are hard working. There is a big difference between working hard and being a slave to your work. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about carpe diem that Latin term for seizing the day.
Regarding the addictive quality of dream chasing, ever notice how successful people seem to really dig what they do? They are always the ones who say things like, “Do what you love and the money will follow.” Well, there is a reason why successful people smile. Researchers have connected the brain’s pain killing neurotransmitter dopamine and thrilling behavior. Dopamine floods the reward centers of our brains when the brain thinks we need it. Thrilling behaviors like jumping out of an airplane would produce dopamine because the brain anticipates the agony of splatting on the ground. Walking into a bank to meet with a loan officer, wowing that person, and walking out with a loan to launch an online business also produces dopamine. You just slayed the dragon, baby.
So what defines “thrilling behaviors?” For me, it’s thrilling to be on a radio show or to give a talk. For someone else, the idea of opening the doors to his/her very own day care center for toddlers might be thrilling. Whatever your dream, that is thrilling for you. The thrill lies in your ability to make decisions, to think on your feet, to decide which rules to follow and which to break. The bigger the thrill, the bigger the high.
The Big Picture of Your Life
For many years of my life I was adrift. I worked hard but didn’t have clear sense of where I was going. I wanted to be happier and more fulfilled. But it wasn’t until I started setting clear goals and honed the specifics about how I wanted my future to look that I started making headway and getting happier.
I’m a big believer in establishing and going for dreams. Dreams can come true, but we make our dreams come true. The way to make dreams happen is to begin by charting a course. Planning and charting help you visualize where you want to be six months from now, a year from now, and five years from now. The Sanskrit word drishti means “gazing point.” In yoga, if you gaze at the appropriate drishti you’ll eventually experience the full expression of the pose. The same is true for life. If you establish your drishti—your gazing point at where you want to go—you’ll eventually experience the full expression of your life.
Get Roadblocks Out Of The Way Right off
I asked Harvard Business School professor John Davis, who teaches life planning, how people can determine their life goals. Dr. Davis explained that many people can’t tap directly into their real goals because they’re psychologically stymied by what other people—their parents, spouses, or friends—think they should do. We all know people who possess zero editorial when it comes to voicing opinions about our life, welfare, plans, and so on. Therefore, according to Dr. Davis, “Life goals are very often a product of what other people say you should want. There’s a certain amount of accommodating other people in your life that’s inevitable, but it’s useful—and ultimately productive—to know what exactly you want.” You may not get it exactly says Dr. Davis, but you can get close. He recommends that you allow your deeply felt interests surface in a symbolic way, uncontaminated by others’ opinions. Soooo how do you do this?
Begin by writing down your goals. The first goals you write down will likely reflect what others expect of you. Now you need to work at a more symbolic level. We’re all familiar with inkblots tests, better known as Rorschach tests. Someone may see a bus that’s going to hit a lady, another might see a sunrise over the mountain. These are symbols that project what’s in a person’s head. To get your deeply held interests to surface you need to search for symbols. One method is free association. Find ten images that you feel are representative of you. Tear out magazine scrap and go through all of your photo albums. Looking at and discussing how these images represent you and your dreams is a very good way to start an inner conversation that will lead you to define your dream for yourself. Defining the larger picture of your dreams sets the tone for your motivation, of which you’re going to need plenty
Refine Your Dream
Once you feel relatively set free from the expectations of others, write down your dreams from your heart. Be crazy with it. Harvard shrink Srini Pillay, author of Life
Unlockedrecommends that you lay your dream out as vividly and graphically as if you could have anything in the world you want. People don’t usually say, “I would like to be the president of the United States,” unless they really want it. It took me a very long time to come to terms with what I really wanted from life. When I did come to terms with it I realized, “Yes, I can do this—because I want to do this.” So lay out what your desires according to what fits your definition of happiness and fulfillment. Don’t over think why/why not. Just write it as you can visualize it for yourself.
Be as detailed as possible with your dream. Write down specifics of:
Your career: What we do for a living defines us not just for others, but for ourselves. What do you want to achieve ultimately? “I want to be fill in the blank.”
Money, honey: How much money do you want to earn? What standard of living would you be satisfied with?
Education: Learn, learn, learn and never stop learning. I’m not college educated and I’m making my dream happen. Two of the most fascinating and successful men I know also didn’t go to college. That said, not having an education can hold you back in many careers. But doesn’t have to be college per se. If you’re going to be a horse whisperer, you might want to intern for Monty Roberts. After you decide what you want to do, figure out how to learn and get educated in your field.
Relationships: Love and friendship are most important in the long run. What kind of friends and partners do you need to be happy and fulfilled? What kind of friend and/or lover are you? Are you giving enough to sustain lasting relationships? When you make your life plan, consider ways you can make changes to accommodate love and friendship.
Strive for optimal health: What are your goals for your health? I hope you’re thinking optimal health, because I believe that real success in life incorporates mind, body, spirit wellness.
Face your addictions: Following your dreams takes stamina. Stimulants (caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, diet pills) wear down your adrenals. What’s the point in getting to your dream if you’re going to be burned out and unable to enjoy your accomplishments? Deal with your addictions as soon as possible. My healthy, sexy, happy program outlines a complete program for quitting addictions.
How does marriage and raising a family fit in?: Being a crummy husband/wife/parent is not something you’re going to be totally psyched about when you’re on your deathbed. Following your dream doesn’t mean leaving everyone else in your wake.
Joy and bliss: Why bother if you’re not going to totally love it? You may as well jump on the gerbil wheel.
Now you know your grand plan, establish a five-year plan. John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” That’s cool. We all get that life throws curveballs. But it’s still good to make plans and to chart a course. I know an actor who’s always cast as a villain. He has his five-year plan on his cell phone so he can refer to it regularly. One of his goals is to play a villain who is so memorable that he’ll be a Halloween mask the following year. How specific should you be with your five-year plan? Very detailed is the correct answer. And when you get a Lennon-curveball, you can work around it based on the elaborate structure you’ve already laid down.
Surround Yourself With Believers
I recently left a twenty-four year relationship (on good terms) and moved back to LA alone. I found that a lot of my old friends were not that enthusiastic about my new life and my ambitions. After a couple of bouts of loneliness and feeling betrayed, I decided to create a brand new base of support. I got out my cell phone with all of my contacts in it and scrolled through and made a list of everyone I wanted to get in touch with. This list included a few media people I’ve met lately as well as a few people I met years ago but lost close touch with. I called, emailed, and texted everyone and set up lunches, drinks, dinners. This week I’m in the Vineyard with two such women who I reached out to. One is an Academy Award nominated (two times, no less) costume designer I met a zillion years ago and got back in touch with on LinkedIn, the other is a Brazilian fashion designer who I met through an old friend whom she was dating. Both of these women support me, and are into what I’m doing, and I feel the same way about them. The naysayers can go naysay someplace else.
Get out your contact list and start making plans with people who will support you and who you can relate to on this new, next tier of your journey.
Never Ever Set Limitations For Yourself
I know a woman with chronic fatigue syndrome who could barely make it from her car to the classroom decided that she couldn’t just lie there and watch the curtains move. She dredged up the monumental will to drag herself back to college and graduated summa cum laude. Although she is still sick, and suffers through days that would slay most of us, she’s designed two products and has an Internet business that is taking off.
What are the limitations you’ve set for yourself? It’s a good thing to write them down and decipher what they mean, why you have these belief systems, and ways to overcome them.
There are inevitably going to be times on the way to your dream when you feel Looney-bin imbalanced. Establishing healthy habits: eating, exercise, meditation, a quality sex life and scheduling these activities into your calendar can keep you reminded of what’s important: Your happiness.
Peace, Fun, Love.
Your girlfriend in health,