Recently I’ve been thinking about dreams, big and small.
But what if you don’t know what your dreams are? What if you are still in the trenches with small children, or just realizing you children don’t need you quite as much as they used to and you have room for yourself again. Except you can’t remember what you dreamed about before you had the kids.
Here are 7 things you can do to help you uncover those old dreams, or recognize some new ones.
Make A List
For several years I had a long list taped into the back of my journal. I called it my 100-things list, though it didn’t always have 100 items on it.
It is easy to come up with 10 or 20 things you want to do with your life, but 100? That’s a challenge. When you really push yourself to write down 100 things you want to do, big or small, you will push past the comfortable, easy stuff, the things you think you should do, and finally uncover the things your heart is really longing for.
When you make a list like this write without editing. Write down the things that make you a little uncomfortable.
If you want some guidance in this process, I love the Amazing Biz and Life Workbook and Planner. It is designed as a new year planner, but you can use it just as well wherever you are in the year.
Heed The Green Eyed Monster
Pay attention to the situations and people in your life that make you feel jealous. If you step back from the intensity of the emotion, what do you notice about why you were triggered?
A friend’s new job announcement may help you realize you are craving more of a professional challenge. An article about a world-traveling homeschooling family may uncover a desire to be more directly involved in your children’s education. A new pregnancy announcement may make you realize you really aren’t done having babies.
How you feel about what other people are doing can be a powerful indicator about what you want for yourself.
Write It Out
Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way, recommends a practice she calls Morning Pages. The idea is to write longhand for three pages without stopping, first thing in the morning. The three components – writing by hand, writing first thing in the morning, and writing without stopping – are designed to help you get past your internal censor and uncover your internal wisdom.
I practiced morning pages for a little over a year about 10 years ago and it was amazing what creative ideas and insights spilled out of me into those scribbled sheets of paper. It was both healing and enlightening.
The first few times you write this way you may find yourself repeating the same things or writing, “I don’t know what to write next,” just to keep your pen moving. Trust the process. Keep writing. Try starting with the phrase “What I really want to say is,” and then finish the sentence with whatever comes to mind.
Take A Class
Maybe you have an idea of what you want to do but don’t know how to do it or even if you will like it. Look around your community or online for classes on that topic. Spending time with other students learning a skill will quickly tell you if this is something you want to spend more time doing, and can really fuel your enthusiasm to take your skills to the next level.
Just be careful not to get stuck in learning mode. If your dream is to start a business using the skills you are learning, don’t wait until you feel like an expert before you take the leap to selling. You can always convince yourself you aren’t an expert yet but there’s really no better way to learn than to jump in.
Trying new things is scary. It is easy to maintain the status quo by simply doing nothing. If you have a dream, or an inkling of a dream, be open to invitations or activities that will help you explore that dream.
Last year I thought I wanted to do freelance writing for local businesses. When someone I knew online invited me to a local networking meeting, I accepted. I was terrified, but I showed up, met a bunch of interesting local entrepreneurs, and spoke about the business I was imagining as if I was already doing it.
What I discovered from that experience was that I really didn’t want to focus my time on writing for businesses after all. If I hadn’t said yes to that invitation, however, I would have probably spent a lot of time pitching businesses and failing and being frustrated. Instead I got clear really fast that this wasn’t how I wanted to shape my business.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Dreams are scary.
“I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison
In the world of software development, where I used to work, we followed an adage: Fail fast, fail often. The idea is to try things, lots of things, to see what works. It looks like chaos, but it is actually very effective.
The secret to this method (and there is a secret that is often overlooked) is to review your failures and learn from them. Some failures are flat out bad. Don’t try that again. Some failures are near misses. Make an adjustment and try those again.
I’ve used the idea of failing fast in my parenting, in my relationship, and in my business. “This isn’t working,” I’ll think. “Let me try something.” So I try something new. I respond differently to a tantrum. I open a sensitive conversation in a new way. I launch a new method of marketing. And then I review. How did that feel for me? What was the response? What that what I was trying to achieve? Is it worth trying again?
Iterate, iterate, iterate.
Trying new things will help you hone in on what it is you really want. Some trys, like my visit to the Leads meeting, will clearly be a miss, and that information is valuable. Use that information to decide what to try next.
This is so important I probably should have listed it first. But I’m putting it last because if there’s only one thing you remember from this article, it should be this.
If you are nurturing a dream, or uncovering a dream, make room for it.
Make room by dedicating a space, even if it is a closet or a tiny desk in a corner of a common room.
Make room by identifying time for it on your calendar and committing yourself. Sign up for that class, join that group, commit blocks of time and focus.
If you really want to uncover your dreams, if you really want to work toward a goal, you need a foundation. Making room for it in your life is that foundation.
If you want more hands-on coaching to uncover your dreams, check out my friend Meagan’s Dream Seekers class, which starts February 24.