As a tween, I had vivid dreams. I’d listen to music as I fell asleep — at that time, most often it was Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, or Joan Osborne — and would imagine myself singing their songs and playing the guitar at the local coffee shop. (I didn’t own a guitar at the time; I now own one and still haven’t learned to play it.)
I was in the school band and played the flute, but didn’t really enjoy it, maybe because I didn’t feel it was “cool enough.” My friend Natalie played the trumpet and was learning guitar, and me and my sad flute always seemed lame in comparison.
Alas, my dreams of being a musician died, save for my one-time karaoke performance at the VFW in 2006 and the handful of times I begged to cover Radiohead’s “Creep” when my friends and I would play Rock Band a few years back. Bless their hearts for remaining my friends — I’m pretty sure the mellifluous voice I heard was all in my head.
So why did I let go of that dream?
Sure, I had other interests I wanted to pursue, such as a career in writing, but I still could’ve kept music as a hobby. I could’ve learned the guitar, improved the little piano skills I have, or taken singing lessons. I could’ve translated my love of writing into songwriting, and maybe would’ve become awesome enough that Tori or Sarah or Joan would’ve been singing my songs. Just maybe! And those songs could’ve become No. 1 hits! Oooh, and maybe win a Grammy! (Dare to dream. Sigh.)
- We are afraid to dream because we might just get what we want. Then what? We have to deal with life.
- Or we are afraid to dream because we might not get it. We’ll disappoint ourselves, or we may let others down. (And, I don’t know about you, but that disappointment always makes me less inclined to try again, save for more letdowns and regret.)
When it pays off, it feels oh so good. A few years back, we were sharing goals at an Experience Life team dinner and end-of-year celebration. I decided to share a big one: I was going to keep losing weight, getting healthy, and write my weight-loss story for the magazine. Once I did it, I felt proud, but I was also a bit terrified: What if no one read it? What if people thought I was boastful or a jerk? How would my family react? What if it’s not impressive enough, or I didn’t lose enough weight — was my “success story” really a success in other people’s eyes? And, did that matter to me — and if so, why?
And the big question after you dream and reach your goal: What next?
Maybe my challenge in dreaming, and why I lost my musical affinity, revolves around a lack of specificity. I was seeing myself singing in a coffee shop without owning a guitar, learning and practicing the instrument, or understanding how to read music written for the guitar. For a long time, I always dreamed of a slimmer, healthier body as just that: I want to be skinny! Or, I want to be healthy! But there wasn’t a big why as in why was “health” important to me? What did it really look like, feel like, every day to be healthy? What steps would I take every day, every week, and every month to get me closer to that dream?
So Laurie advised us to follow the Handel Group’s Rules of Dreaming, which includes:
- Give yourself goosebumps when you write your dream. It should be exciting for you to read. If it gives others goosebumps, too, terrific.
- Use the present tense, saying “I am feeling energized,” instead of “I will feel energized.” Write it as if you are already experiencing this dream right now. The active, present tense engages your brain into action mode.
- Make it juicy, and avoid clichés (“I feel like a million bucks!”). It should be specific to you. Include emotions and actions, be descriptive, and paint a picture.
- Avoid extremes like “I always” or “I never,” or “all the time” or “perfect.” It’ll make it seem too unrealistic.
- Use positive language and write from a place of love. Focus on what you do want and avoid listing what you don’t want.
What do you think? Can you dream big? If it’s not like my former singer-songwriter self, or for your career, can you do it for your health and your body? What would that look like to you?
All you have to do is write it. You can always change it, and you most likely will over the years. If you want to share it with a friend or family member, wonderful! But it can be yours alone.
I’m working up the courage to share my dream with you later this week. And if you tell me you’re writing yours, well then, I will harness my bravery and share! Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter @clewisopdahl.