Even though I live in Canada, there is a very common phrase or thought in this part of the world called, “the American Dream.” It’s also referred to as “living the dream.” For as long as I can remember, it has just been an accepted way of thinking and measuring your progress in your life versus this imaginary barometer. And at some point in your life, you may look around and realize that you are living “the dream.” But the question is, whose dream are you living?
Writing “The Script” ...
Just the other day, my oldest son completed grade 7. He’s a straight-A student in a very challenging school. It will be another full year before he completes elementary school and graduates. And yet, for at least the last 6 months, he has come to me at various times to tell me that he feels a lot of stress in considering what high school he is going to go to. He feels anxious about the fact that he “doesn’t yet know what he wants to do.” And he seems to feel as if he should know already how the rest of his life is going to unfold and that it is wrong if he does not.
I’m glad that he would bring this to my attention. But my honest first reaction to it was … Really!?! Are we still stuck on that same old script? Do we still instill in our children the idea of trying to make a decision about the rest of their life at a time when they have basically no life experience and almost no context of who they are going to be and what they may find fulfilling? And then, we expect them to follow the path of:
The Blueprint of a Dream?
1. Go to school
2. Get a job
3. Get married
4. Buy a house
5. Have a couple of kids
6. Work until you’re 65
7. Retire and live happily ever after.
How’s that script been working out for us in recent generations?
Do you know who you really are?
I am much less interested in my son learning algorithms and textbook facts then I am in him understanding emotional maturity, awareness, mindfulness, compassion and empathy. I’d like him to know how following the same old script that we seem to have set out for ourselves for generations has landed so many people into despair, depression, addiction and unhappiness in general.
There is great value in traditional education, of course! One must know how to read and write and sharpen certain areas of interest as they go forward. It’s beneficial to acquire the habit of learning, study and application. But in my opinion, it’s just as necessary – perhaps more so – to start trying to understand who you really are, and how to honour and nurture that. It’s not as obvious a task as it would seem.
Most people I know in their middle ages and beyond are either still trying to figure it out, or have not even had it occur to them to try. So they keep buying and acquiring, or praying for a lottery win, or anything that will make this “dream” they’ve already achieved more enjoyable. Or tolerable.
So I invite you, have a look around. And tell me, in your opinion … how are we doing?
Perhaps you are among those who have followed those earlier steps exactly and are perfectly happy and content with your life. If so, terrific!! I’m happy for you and wish you further health and contentment. But if you are like me, and you spent a good part of your life doing all of the things that you thought you were supposed to do, or that you should do and found you are not only unhappy, but on the verge of despair that you were never going to live the life that you imagined for yourself when you were younger, then this is an exercise for you.
Ask the question. Stay open to answers …
Have you ever considered what you would really most like to do and be? This is a much deeper question than asking for a sudden accomplishment or windfall. It involves quieting all of the noise that goes on with life and really hearing yourself and tapping into what’s important to you. These things are often much different than the memories that we have or the programs that we associate with how we think things are supposed to be.
What really matters to you? If you are interested and exploring that, my advice is to start by getting willing and inviting the answers. Start by asking the universe (or God, or whomever or whatever you believe in) those questions. I know, that may sound odd at first. But what you are looking to do is to tap into an intelligence and energy larger than yourself. The answers will come, but you may need to give it time. And you won’t get an answer to a question that has not yet been asked. So ask it. Be open to receiving the answers, because when they start to come, they may be different than you thought they’d be. That’s most certainly what has happened to me.
Another thing you can do is take the time to recognize and appreciate the dreams you’ve already lived, for proof that dreams do become true. Take a look at the video above for examples of that.
Getting Quiet …
I strongly suggest looking into and applying meditation of any form. For me, I found that a guided meditation was very helpful to get me started with the practice. I found it easier to follow along with sounds or someone’s voice than to just sit with all of the dizziness in my head. YouTube is an incredible resource in this regard.
One particular meditation that I can recommend personally is the Ideal Life by Jason Stephenson. The idea of meeting up with and talking to your future self is very powerful. You can enjoy it for free on his YouTube channel here and if you find it helpful, you can purchase the mp3 download directly ($4.99) at this link to easily put it on your iPod or mp3 player to have it handy.
I also find this meditation by Jennifer Farmer to be entirely calming and helpful. If you look around and try some out, you’ll find what’s right for you. But you have to start looking.
It took me about 40 years to figure out that the “dream” I was chasing (and achieved) felt a lot more like a nightmare to me. I was not happy, and didn’t even realize it. And because I’d followed “the script,” I felt that there must be something wrong with me. Perhaps there was (or is), but I can tell you without hesitation that I am much happier and healthier now than I have ever been.
Dreaming Big? Great! Please Let Me Know
What are your dreams? What are some of the things that you do to stay in touch with yourself and stay on track with pursuing what’s important to you? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel welcome to comment below.
By all means, go ahead and live the dream of your choosing. Just make sure that it’s your dream you’re living, and not one that was set out for you.