When you were a child, what did you dream of? Did you want to be the President of the U.S. giving orders in the White House? Did you imagine twirling on stage as a beautiful ballerina? Did you tell everyone that you were going to be a Mom, an Astronaut, an Actress, and a Doctor – and TOTALLY BELIEVE it? Me too!
Children are full of BIG dreams. Yet, as adults, we play small. What happened?
Someone somewhere told you your dream was silly. Or stupid. Or impossible. You began thinking you they were right. How many people can be President anyhow? And who the heck do I think I am thinking so BIG? I should just be grateful for what I have and accept what comes. (Right??!!! Wrong.)
While I’m a huge fan of gratitude and mindfulness for their scientific benefits to your brain and peace in your heart, there is a difference between appreciating the present moment, and staying small and stuck out of fear. Appreciation opens your heart; fear closes it. Appreciation makes your brain move forward; fear makes you ruminate in negativity. The key is in “both/and” – being so full of gratitude for all that is good that it motivates you to know you can have even MORE of what you want. As my favorite author Marianne Williamson says, “Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.”
You can play BIG. You can dream BIG. In fact, you must. Your beautiful gifts, talents, and heart are needed in the world!
I used to be afraid of dreaming big because I dreaded people knowing if my dream didn’t come true. I also didn’t want to tell people my dream because maybe they’d think I was arrogant. So I accepted mediocrity and sometimes misery… a job that didn’t fill me, lovers who wanted me to be someone else, and watching everyone else fulfill their dreams while I fell into a deep depression. One day, my mom said, “No more! You’re depressed because you have Dreams. You need to take action.” She helped me sort out my dreams using a tool that I STILL use today..
I still sometimes find myself self-doubting, feeling insecure, questioning my big dreams, and belittling myself. And then I need to remind myself it’s normal to be afraid, that I’m inspired seeing someone else realize a dream, so it’s okay to share, and that even if I “fail”, I’ll survive. I always do. You do too. The worst feeling though, is regret for never trying.
Here are two tips to dreaming and achieving BIG:
1. Best Possible Future Self: This research-based exercise from Dr. Laura King says to set aside 20 minutes this week to get quiet and dream. Sit in a quiet, beautiful space, take 5 deep breaths, breathing light into your heart, and then imagine that one year from now, everything has gone your way. You feel excited and alive. What is your home like? Relationships? How do you feel about your work? Note: even if you don’t have a partner, or know what job you want, it doesn’t matter- embody the feeling. And if your brain wanders, bring it back. Then write all you see as if it’s happened. Two years ago, I loved my little Manhattan apartment, but I as was doing this exercise, my soul said it wanted a big, plush, beautiful house in nature. I felt myself writing in my own cozy office, saw me and Josh sipping hot cocoa by the fire, and felt my heart expand in spaciousness. I felt like dancing and knew to begin dreaming big about it. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between what it thinks has happened and what actually happened, so fill your brain with vibrant detailed imagery. Repeat this often.
2. Journal about your childhood dreams. Even if they seem silly now, let your inner child play. Let her write everything she ever wanted. Write it in FULL color, even draw. Feel your heart expand and play. If you don’t remember your childhood dreams, think of everything you now regret. What do your regrets teach you about what you NOW want? For years, I regretted not going abroad in college (which I did b/c of a guy). So as an adult, I decided to go there for a month. It was scary to ask my boss then for time off, but I needed to give my soul this experience. So I asked and he said yes! (You never know until you try). You can’t go backwards, but you can move forward.
With so much love – to you moving forward!