Something interesting happens in life when you begin actually LIVING it; people begin to ask you HOW you did it. It’s fascinating how we look at this adventure called living. Since I started writing and publishing, I am often approached by people who share their dreams and their fears about pursuing those dreams with me. It’s a bit like a looking glass into my past. Not that long ago, I was sitting in the same place wondering HOW people managed to live their dreams. After all, dreams are just that, dreams. Reality is something entirely different; isn’t it? Is it? Reality is what each of us perceive it to be. The first step in living your dreams is believing that you can.
How many times has someone told you in your life that you need to be REALISTIC? I heard that so much growing up that it became my engrained mantra. It’s a soul sucking mentality, this idea of realism. We come into this world like little sponges that have yet to absorb any water. We are immediately submerged in the perceptions of all of those around us. Often, we are fed by the word NO in life far more than we are by the word YES. Let’s face it, there are times that NO is appropriate. It’s the word our parents, teachers, and mentors use to protect us. It’s often shouted in response to some danger. A baby about pull the dog’s tail, a toddler about to touch the hot stove; these are potentially harmful situations and they are often met with the forceful use of the word NO. We hear that word used so powerfully and frequently that it becomes part of us. It carries weight. It restricts us. We tend to remember the restrictions placed on us in life more than we do the encouragements we are given. That, I believe is largely because the former is generally spoken with more passion than the latter.
What I have learned is that there isn’t any well-kept secret to living. The difference between the people who live their lives fully and make their dreams reality and the people who never do is simple. People who reach the stars believe they can. NO is not a roadblock, it’s a detour. Everyone who achieves success in life professionally and everyone who finds fulfillment personally hears the word NO repeatedly. They just do not dwell on it. Okay, so someone said no….onto the next thing. They do not fear failure because they do not perceive the word NO as a failure. It’s a moment like all moments. NO will pass and give way to the next opportunity. Failure is only a temporary stop on the way to success. Failure is a lesson, not a conviction.
What do I mean by that? People often look at the setbacks in their life similar to some crime they have committed against themselves or their dreams. They convict themselves of the failure and as a consequence they incarcerate their dreams. I didn’t get into the college of my choice. I will never be a doctor now. I guess I will become a teacher instead. I blew that audition. I didn’t get a call back for that other audition. No one wants me. I guess I should just go back to school. That person hated my book! Apparently, I can’t write. Who am I kidding anyway? Or…I don’t look like those women in the magazines. Who will ever want me? I give up. Pass me the Ho-Hos. Convicted in the courtroom of your mind of some perceived transgression and imprisoned indefinitely because of it.
What happens if you change your attitude about those pitfalls in life? I didn’t get into the college I wanted. So what? Their loss. I’ll show them what they missed when I am Chief of Surgery and they want me to lecture their students! Eh, they didn’t want me for that role? Must be a bigger and better one waiting. You didn’t like my book? Really? Not enough action for you? Not enough sex? Okay, I’ll write an action packed one with some steamy sex scenes under a different name. Let’s see what you have to say then. The word NO can either be the extinguisher to your dreams or it can be the match that lights a new flame. It’s important to remember that how you perceive the word NO actually is a choice. You have to choose to shift your perception and reaction to that word.
I am not suggesting that it is easy to make that change. It isn’t easy. Few things in life that are worthwhile are easy. That’s also part of changing your perception. Adversity is a teacher. It is meant to empower us not paralyze us. Challenges make success more rewarding and gratifying. If everything in life came easily, we would have no growth. Success would have no meaning. It would be empty. That is one of the most important lessons I have learned. Happiness and grief are both temporary. Gratefulness and fulfilment can be permanent. They are NOT the same things. To learn to be grateful for the rainbow of experiences in life is to be empowered. To be empowered will lead you to gratefulness.
I was reading a book that Steven Sears wrote recently. It’s about writing for television. I am fortunate that I have gotten to know Steven a bit over the last two years. In it, he tells a story about meeting Richard Dreyfuss. (There’s a great story behind this. I will include the information for his book. You should read it.) In his recounting, Steven mentions that he told Dreyfuss at one time he thought he would never have a chance because “only special people win the Oscar.” Dreyfuss told him that it never occurred to him that he couldn’t. And, therein lies the mentality that I am referring to. In no way am I diminishing Richard Dreyfuss’s talent. There are thousands upon thousands of gifted actors who will never achieve what they dream of. Certainly, there are many reasons for that. If you don’t believe that you CAN, than you almost surely never will.
My coach and friend, Pina often says that when you are in action you draw the right people to you. Think of life as a mountain range. In life, we go up and down. That is just a fact. When you are standing at one of those peaks, how do you perceive the view? Are you weighted by the inevitability of another climb or do you look at the next peak and wonder about the view when you reach it? If you pursue your descent and ascent actively and with curiosity, you are likely to attract the resources you need to reach that next mountain top in record time. If you look at the journey as daunting, you will likely trudge along. No one wants to climb a mountain with Debbie Downer, who always complains she will never make it there. It’s okay to take a moment to catch your breath. We all need to do that. People will help you to the top if you are positive about the journey, and if you are willing to extend your hand as well. People will be reluctant to lead you, walk with you, and assist you if they think you need to be carried. You just slow them down on their way. Your perception directly impacts the resources you find along the way.
I make it sound easy; don’t I? It’s a simple concept that is not so easily mastered. In fact, I’m not sure anyone ever completely masters it. I do know that those people who strive constantly to master it are thousands of times more likely to reach their goals and to perceive their life as FULFILLED. There is no textbook answer to living your dreams. Here are a few things that I have come to believe are KEYS to unlocking a grateful and fulfilled life:
I attended an Awareness seminar a couple of years ago. In many ways, it was the catalyst for all the change in my life. A wise woman instructed me to SLOW DOWN. Did I even know I was breathing? SLOW DOWN. BREATHE. You need to be able to hear the questions in your mind to answer them honestly. Sometimes, we move so fast that we can’t even discern what is holding us back in the jumble of our brain. We feel completely overwhelmed. I call it BEAKER SYNDROME. It reminds me of the constant meeping of the Muppet Beaker. MEEP MEEP MEEP is all you can hear until you slow down and take the time to listen.
Live curiously. Wonder about everything. Ask questions about everything. Ask questions of yourself and commit to answer them honestly. Why does this bother me? What does this mean? What is this all about? What can I do next? What is the worst thing that can happen?
Make an effort to anticipate the YES that inevitably follows a string of NO. Create the YES in your mind.
Banish the word IF and MAYBE. Change them to WHEN and WILL. You will be amazed at how that immediately changes your life.
KEEP MOVING FORWARD. There are forks in the road. Many times we begin down one path only to be led in a different direction. The important thing is to keep moving FORWARD. Don’t turn back. The past is over. You can try to walk back down that road, but you are only destined to get the SAME lessons you already have. Trust me, if you didn’t learn them the FIRST time, you will confront them again somewhere up ahead until you do. If you can move the rock in your path; move it. So often, people go around the rock on the otherwise clear path. They think they can circumvent it and just walk through the trees until they find the path again. That’s how hikers get lost. If you can move it, stop confront it and MOVE it so that you can see clearly. Guaranteed, the trees will slow you down more than the time it would have taken to move the rock.
Look at life as a JOURNEY, not a destination. Life is a series of pit stops. We all have one inevitability at the end of our road. What we DO on that road, how we travel that path is what matters. You can’t change the fact that there is an ending. You can’t go back to the beginning. You are HERE. Just take the journey.
TREAT LIFE AS A GIFT…in all its inevitable upheaval, challenge, and wonderment. TREAT IT AS A GIFT.
VALUE PEOPLE and EMBRACE CHANGE. Do not dwell on those who choose to throw stones in your path. Don’t immerse yourself in sadness when paths diverge or someone decides to go their own way or when their path reaches its end. Endings always lead to beginnings. Earthquakes and volcanoes are incredibly destructive. We often see them as only harbingers of endings. They are agents of change. In their wake, they inevitably CREATE something new. And so, life and death are just a part of each other. If you can begin to embrace that; that change is inevitable; you will stop fearing change so much. Change ultimately frightens us because it signals the unknown. The greatest unknown is what happens at the end of our journey. If we see LIFE as just that, a journey full of change…old giving way to new as it ALWAYS does, fear is diminished.
For all those who have asked me; that is what I have learned. It is how I strive to LIVE. It takes work. LIVING takes work. It offers the potential for immense love and joy. It is never without pain and sadness. You will limit the laughter and the ability to heal if you immerse yourself in the darker moments. We only feel pain and loss because we have the capacity to dream and to love – TO FEEL.
There is no secret. I did not reach this point in my life without help and guidance. Seek mentors. And, seek the friends that inspire, encourage and PUSH you. We all need that. My advice? LIVE. Your limits are of your own making. I learn that more EVERY DAY! Seek partners. Make friends. Live openly. Reach out. You will have disappointments. You won’t dwell on them. You will have too much left that means something to you to want to revel in the sadness. IF YOU WISH TO DO SOMETHING…GIVE IT A GO! What’s the worst that can happen? Nintey-nine percent of the time, the worst thing is just a disappointment. And, those are all about our expectations too. You get up and you go again. Sometimes a success, sometimes a pitfall. That's life. Neither is an end, only another beginning.
As Julia says in my book Falling Trough Shooting Stars, “Even the most difficult things lead us where we need to go. It just isn’t always where we thought we were headed.”
Take the journey, my friends……….LOOK AT ME!
VISIT the page NANCY'S CREATIVE FRIENDS for links to several fabulous coaches and their websites (as well as a HOST of other terrific people, services, and creators)!
If you are interested in the book I mentioned ( The Non-User-Friendly Guide For Aspiring TV Writers: Experience and Advice From the Trenches by Steven L. Sears). CLICK HERE! I highly recommend it for anyone intersted in television writing, writing, or television in general. It is an engaging and insightful read.