Living Your Dream: Six Spiritual Steps
The Cosmos/God/The Universe wants you to have an amazing life. The longer you do what someone else expects you to while ignoring your own inner knowing, instincts, and visceral reactions, the longer it will take you to start living your dream.
Today, one of my Facebook friends and long-time yoga practitioner at my home studio asked in a thread, if we would consider sharing one or more things about which we were hoping for in the coming year.
My response to her New Year’s Eve request was, “I quit my job and moved onto our boat – a realization of a 15-year dream. I’m looking forward to new adventures, meeting new people, and seeing some of this world!” Her reply: “If you’d be willing to share, I’m sure many of us would be curious about how you managed such a feat.”
After considering how I got to where I currently am, which is living aboard a boat in a new city without a job and a plan to go see this big, blue marble, this is what I’ve come up with. These steps are based on my experience of 40-some-odd-years and a lot of mistakes. Mistake numero uno was not listening to my own instincts and visceral reactions when it came to jobs and people.
Step One to Living Your Dream: Start with a Dream, or Not
Do you even know what “living your dream” looks like yet? It’s possible that your dream may not have hit you yet, or it may have been simmering in the background for years. For example, do you want to run your own business, write a book, sail around the world, go back to school, get a divorce, adopt a kid, run a marathon, start a blog, change careers? Got it? No? Don’t worry. Elizabeth Gilbert says curiosity is as valuable as passion, so read up on what she says about curiosity. You may yet stumble onto your Crazy Dream. (I only say “Crazy Dream” because so often what we would consider living our dream is looked upon as a bit nutty to others.)
Our crazy sailing dream was originally hatched on vacation in 2000 in Key West on a sunset sail. We were watching this guy, only a few years older than we were at the time, kicked back in his flowery shirt, steering the boat with his bare feet, driving a bunch of drunks around the bight for couple hours. We looked at him, we looked at each other and asked, “how do you get THAT job?”
Then, we promptly ignored it. Pushed it away. Decided it was too weird. Cowered back under our bushel. And went back to our daily grind. But, the Crazy Dream seed was planted.
Step Two to Living Your Dream: Act on Your Wake-Up Call(s)
Ring, Ring! “Hello?”
“Hello, Mrs. Tijerina. This is your 2008 wake up call, Graduation Blues. Have a great day!”
“Ummm. Thank you? You too?” Click.
Ring, Ring! “Hello?”
“Hello, Mrs. Tijerina. This is your 2009 wake up call, Depression. Have a great day!”
*Cries hot tears.* “Thank you.” Click.
Ring, Ring! “Hello?”
“Hello, Mr. Tijerina. This is your 2011 wake up call, Migraine, posing as a near-death experience. Have a great day!”
Rolls over in hospital bed. “Thank you.” Click.
Ring, Ring! “Hello?”
“Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Tijerina. This is your 2013 wake up call, Heartache. Have a great day!”
Slams the phone down. “Eff you.” Click.
Ring, Ring! “Hello?”
“Hello, Mrs. Tijerina. This is your 2015 wake up call, Chronic Job Dissatisfaction and Back Pain. Have a great day!”
“I know, I know. I’m going!” Click.
See? You get multiple wake-up calls. But, if you don’t start acting on them and start making changes, don’t be surprised if The Powers That Be stop calling you on the phone and break out the 2x4s.
Now, I ain’t yo’ momma, but I’ll give you this piece of advice: WAKE UP! Your life dissatisfaction IS your wake-up call. Being bored to tears at your job IS your wake-up call. Your depression IS your wake-up call. And, damn it, if you don’t change something about your life when these symptoms are small, you will end up with major health problems due to chronic stress.
Yes, Virginia, heart disease and cancer are real! There are consequences to chronic stress, depression, and self-medication from these problems.
Step Three: Stop Self-Medicating So You Can Light Your Dream’s Fire
You probably know some common self-medication techniques. Some of my personal favorites: I’m bored, so I need a snack; I feel stressed, so I need a cigarette; I’m lonely, so I need a TV program; I am angry, so I need a drink; I’m self-loathing, so I need a fuck (sorry, Dad asked me not to cuss so much); I’m depressed, so I need an illicit drug.
So many options to self-medicate! So little time!
But, here’s the thing. You only get a pass on medication if a doctor prescribed it to you. Apart from that, I am going to challenge you to stop self-medicating and lean into the discomfort.
Yep, you heard that right.
Allow yourself to be uncomfortable. Numbing the discomfort with food, sex, TV, shopping, drugs, alcohol, or whatever your favorite escape button is, is dousing your fire. There’s no growth or change allowed when your comfortable and cushy, so become curious friends with your “quiet desperation.” Ask it what it wants! “What do you want, little disgruntled voice? How can I help? What do you need me to do?” You might be downright shocked at the answer you get!
Every weekend you pour a glass of wine to ward off the Sunday Night Dread is drowning your fuse. Each time you find solace from boredom in food or sex cuts off an opportunity for you to create. Let yourself get itchy. Let yourself want to pull down your cubicle walls in a rage against the machine.
Because that’s what it takes for most of us to stop living the lives we “should” and start living our dream.
Or, it will take a heart attack? Or a cancer scare?
When you do finally buck your second-class life off? Will it be because that’s what you chose, or because that’s what you were forced to do?
Step Four to Living Your Dream: Protect the Fire
On top of stopping the self-medication of the physical symptoms of discomfort, get rid of anything and everything outside yourself that could douse it.
Go on a 30-day news fast, minimum
- As a former news junkie, I can promise you this is a life-changing piece of the puzzle: Stop watching the news. Stop following political or news organizations on social media. Unsubscribe from those email lists. EVEN IF THEY AGREE WITH YOUR WORLDVIEW. Quit listening to talk radio that only serves to raise your blood pressure. Commit to a news fast to protect your fire for your dream. All you’re doing is giving them your energy and attention (and ad revenue) at the expense of working toward your own goals.
Erect strong boundaries against any and all energy vampires
- Stop hanging around with naysayers, worriers, and people that would sabotage your dream with their good intentions and doubtful eyebrows. Not only will they pour water on your fire, but they’ll also grind it out with their heel, kick it with sharp insults and make you feel like you are powerless to relight it. Stay away from these energy vampires!
Any “gut punch” feeling you get from any corner of your social circle needs a firm boundary between you and them. People that try and cut you down are not looking out for your best interest. Period. Full. Stop. Yes, including family. Learn to say, “your approval is not required.” And, mean it!
- Meditate. Yeah, yeah. You think it’s too woo-woo, but just you wait until that monkey mind of yours wastes 30 years of your life in a cubicle when you could’ve been sailing around the world. It will spin you around and make you doubt yourself, make you afraid, and “what-if” you to death! You must learn how to put a bridle on that bucking horse if it’s going to take you anywhere. Meditate. Daily.
Look, you only get two modes of being in this life: fear or growth. Physiologically, both processes cannot exist in the mind and body at the same time. You must pick one or the other when you have that luxury, for example, when you are not being chased by a lion.
I have learned enough to know that if your brain sees the world as a fearful place, it will collude with your ego to trap you at home, in your “safe” place. You’ll have to convince the brain and the ego you won’t DIIIIIEEEE!!! if you do your Crazy Dream. (Egos are so over-dramatic about everything, aren’t they?)
Step Five to Living Your Dream: Reprogram Your Brain to Accept the Risk
Do you know why so many of us aren’t living our dreams? Because we are brainwashed into following the well-worn path to “success” set up for us by people that benefit from it. It’s time to figure out a different path; one more aligned with our values.
In that vein, if you need a new hobby to replace your news, social media, or radio addiction, here ya go: Research.
Read the stories of those that have come before you. I like to read anything and everything – not just the happy ending stories, but the survival stories and the things-didn’t-go-as-planned stories. The fun stories are great but I thought they might give me an unrealistic view of the lifestyle I was about to create for myself. I purposefully sought out survival stories so I could see how people coped when the worst-case scenario happened.
I also did a lot of reading about positive psychology. Reframing the scary stories we tell ourselves is the key to the kingdom, as far as I can tell.
Collect the Stories and Experiences of Those You Wish to Emulate
- I found blogs and read (and listened to) books written by people that are doing what I wanted to do. In the last 18 months leading up to our move to the boat, you could always find me listening to books on Audible at my desk (I had a very isolated job). Even though I was only using part of my brain to absorb the information, it was doing its work to reprogram my brain. It helped my brain get over the, “it’s too hard,” or “it’s impossible”. I slowly learned that if other people can do it, so can I! See, ego? They didn’t die when they quit their jobs! No need to be so fearful!
Teach Yourself How to Reframe
- I also read or listened to audiobooks about positive psychology. This helped me unlearn the “learned helplessness” that fueled my participation in the rat race. Positive psychology put words to the gut feeling that no, my life was not going the way I wanted, but that I also didn’t have to accept it that way. Learned helplessness is our default so often because we tend to do what we “should” do and just accept the despondency. Here’s what I have to say about that now: “thhfffppffftttt.”
Set An Intention so Your Subconscious Can Be On Your Crazy Dream Team
- Intention is everything. Get a mantra. Make a dream board. Plan your escape. Journal. Use your words. They are powerful. Set your intention to do this Crazy Dream every night before you go to sleep, and program your subconscious mind to help you. Each night, just think to yourself: I am a sailor. I am a cruiser. I love my life as a world ocean traveler (entrepreneur, blogger, divorcee, chef, etc.). You can even use your smartphone to record a guided meditation you can listen to each night about your intention before you go to sleep! Setting an intention and reinforcing it frequently is a powerful way to get your subconscious mind to start looking for pathways and solutions that will get you closer to living your dream.
A little side hack: change your passwords to reinforce your goal so every time you log in to an account, your brain is picking up that visual.
Get a Shrink
- Okay, I also went to therapy. Twice.
Step Six: Pay Attention to What is Offered and Let Go of What is Removed
You thought meditation was too woo-woo? Well, I’m about to lay another one on you.
Dude, you are not The Madonna. Angels are not going to sit you down for a chat about your purpose in life. The only way The Divine/God/The Universe/ Primordial Wisdom has to communicate with you is with synchronicity. Serendipity. Providence. Unexpected Luck. You have to pay attention.
It’s weird and it takes a huge amount of courage, I am not going to lie. But, if you have someone offer you a work-from-home job that makes you excited. Guess what you should do? That’s right! Take it! Even if it’s setting off your imposter syndrome. Even if you don’t feel qualified! You take it!
If you get offered a sales job that has the tiniest chance to introduce you to the field you are interested in and it makes you feel excited, you take it!
The big key is: it needs to make you feel excited. If you feel excited, you’re on the right path. Keep going! And, then take the next offer, and the next one.
And, for all that is holy…
Let go of friends, jobs, and relationships that either walk out of your life or kick you out of theirs. Stop letting these people drag you further and further away from your dreams, curiosity, and passion projects. Yes, it hurts. But there is healing in deciding you’re not going to chase people that don’t want you.
Man, this was a long post. Next week, I’ll visit the steps we took to procure the boat we currently have! Happy New Year, everyone!