On Getting Bigger Dreams


This essay first appeared in my newsletter, The Weekly Pep Talk. If you'd like to get it in your inbox every Sunday you can sign up here!

A couple of months ago, I had my first career coaching session with the wonderful Bianca Bass. We talked about lots of things - the skills I needed to develop, the work I enjoy, my financial situation. But the stuff that really got me going was talking about dreams.

Bianca has this real knack of getting you to dig deep and think about the things you really want to achieve in life. Not the stuff that looks great on paper - like the fancy job title or the Pinterest-worthy house or the perfect husband or the 2.4 kids - but the important stuff. Like what you want to spend your days doing. Like how you want to make a difference. Like what sets your soul on fire. Like what work flows easily from you, like you were meant to be doing it all along.

In our short 90 minute coaching session, Bianca helped me to separate the dreams that were driven by my ego (nice house, nice car, brilliant salary) and the dreams that came straight from the heart. I was scared to share some of those more heartfelt dreams - we are so conditioned to go after the stuff that looks great on paper that it can feel silly to admit that there are other things we'd rather pursue.

It got me thinking about how often fear gets in the way of us living our best lives. The fear manifests itself in so many different way - perhaps it's fear of not making enough money, or fear of being judged by other people. Perhaps it's a fear of going after those big dreams and failing at them, and worrying about what that might do for your self confidence.

And while all of those fears are valid emotions, all they manage to do us is keep us small. They limit the dreams and ambitions and goals that we dare to have. They tell us that all of that great stuff that other people are achieving is not for us, that they must be special in some way.

For so long, I have listened to fear. I have let it convince me that I must follow the same routine path as everybody else, that I too must collect life achievements like I'm playing some sort of real life game of grown up Monopoly.

But do you know what? I call bullshit. I'm done with scaling back my ambition to fit into some sort of tick box that works for everybody else. I'm done with settling for smaller dreams because I'm scared that I might fail at the bigger stuff. Because honestly, if I don't try, how can I ever know?

I sat with a cup of tea and a notebook the other day and I wrote down every wild dream I've ever had. Anything that popped into my head that gave me a little flutter in the chest went on the list. After about an hour I read back over the pages and felt a giddy excitement building within me. It was full of stuff I wanted to do, rather than the stuff people expected of me. It was a list that filled me with happiness.

This week, I challenge you all to sit and write your own lists. Make the dreams as big and wild as they could possibly be and don't limit yourself in any way. What would you do if you had no fear? What would you dream about if you knew you couldn't fail? Write the list and pin it up somewhere you can see it everyday. Take little steps to achieve those dreams - allow them to be valid goals, instead of pipe dreams you'll never achieve.

And who knows - by the time 2018 rolls around, you could be well on your way to living a life that sets your soul on fire, rather than one that keeps you happy for now.