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Posts Tagged ‘goals and dreams’

This image is currently on my desktop and that little kid puts a smile on my face and makes me think.

When I look at her, I see she is doing exactly what she – a mountain goat kid – is supposed to be doing and what comes naturally. Leaping. She’s not thinking about it or getting all nervous about it or wondering will she twist her ankle if she leaps really high. She just leaps.

Were it that easy for us humans. Okay, I’ll speak for myself. Over the course of my life I have taken numerous leaps of faith, and often without any tangible safety net. Each time, I truly amazed myself because clearly, I didn’t think I had it in me.

I was musing earlier about the time when I got on a plane to Portugal at 21 years old to visit my cousin who lived in a tiny fishing village in the farthest point north of the country. I’d only been on a plane once, and never abroad. What was funny in retrospect is that I was too young and naive to even know what a leap of faith I was actually taking. My flight was delayed at JFK by 6 hours and was going to get me into Lisbon far later than my cousin and I had planned and I had critical train connections to make. There were no cell phones, no means of communication like that and I was alone. In my utter panic, because of course I had not thought to learn any Portuguese other than “Bom Dia”, I began asking about for help using my high school French and entreated a bi-lingual Portuguese gentleman to help me. He wrote notes for each of the two train masters and one for, hopefully, a cab at the other end. I arrived after midnight in the pitch black of the countryside, but got delivered safe and sound to my cousin’s house. How did I do it?

Over 10 years ago, I took a very conscious leap of faith to leave a secure job and go freelance so I could pursue my dream of writing and illustrating children’s books. My income was not even covered, but I believed that somehow, despite my many apprehensions, I would be okay. I’d be lying if I said that the time in between hasn’t had its stress, crises and challenges, yet I made it. Except for one thing. I haven’t made nearly the progress I had hoped towards my dream. The next leap is before me.

And that’s where that little mountain goat comes in. Sometimes we can feel like we are suspended in mid-air. We know we jumped; in fact it may have been necessary to jump, or we sorely need to, but how we land depends on us. I want with every fiber of my being to be as sure-footed as that little kid, who knows in her heart of hearts, in the deepest recesses of her mountain goat soul, that she will land safely and securely, most likely on all fours.

Søren Kierkegaard once said, “To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.”

I stand at the edge, breathe in my inner mountain goat, and leap.

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If you are pursuing a dream of any kind, then this post is for you. As mentioned in a previous post regarding the NJ SCBWI June Conference, it can be daunting for those of us who have full time work and/or family commitments to hang tight to the magic that occurs at events such as this or at any other inspiring event. I’m thinking of spiritual retreats, internships, especially away from home, intense volunteering experiences, educational conferences, etc. Want to keep your dream going? Here are some things that I put in motion so my dream is always an important part of my life:

* Upon return, review all notes, literature, etc to refresh your memory.

* Make lists – I’m big on lists – of what you will want to do. Make a list of things that need to be done now or in the next day or so, and one of what will need to be done in the near future and going forward.

* Make a plan for the second list – how will you accomplish it, what’s your time frame for completing what you want to do?

* Decide on how much time you can spend every day pursuing your dream. Then decide when you will do that. Early, before you need to tackle your daily work and obligations? Or late, when you can put all that aside? Decide and try to stick to it. In her talk with SCBWI Conference attendees, Kate DiCamillo said she writes 2 pages, single-spaced, every single day first thing in the morning. She does this before her critic gets up which is some time later in the morning when she attends to editing, a very different task.

* Give yourself a constant visual reminder of your goal – not an accusation, just a reminder. Mine is on my Mac where I work.

* Limit unnecessary time in e-mail and on the web, social media, etc. The web can be a huge drain on your time; do your best to do what’s important and then get off, even if it means shutting down those programs or your computer.

* Keep what you’re working on in plain sight, rather than neatly tucking it away. If you have animals or children with access to these places, figure something out. It’s important that you be able to “jump right back in” when you’re able rather than slow yourself down in set-up.

* Keep in touch with fellow travelers on your path and find time to connect with those who share and support your dream.

* Keep up with what’s going on in your “field of dreams” without spending unnecessary time on it. (‘Unnecessary’ always a key word here!) Be inspired – go to art galleries, read books, take yoga, a gardening class – whatever it is that will feed you.

* Journal daily. I have found this especially useful, and it’s recommended by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, and many others as a way of freeing up your energy. First thing in the morning is best.

* Find some time to daydream, to envision your future as having already achieved the goals you set out to accomplish. Be there.

* Be kind to yourself. Keep track of procrastination and try to chuck that, but don’t be overly hard on yourself, either.

Hopefully, these will help you in pursuing your dream and not seem too obvious. When I stick with them, they all work for me.

If one advances confidently in the direction of one’s dreams, and endeavors to live the life which one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”   – Henry David Thoreau

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I believe it was the Christmas before last that a dear friend gave me The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo. Nepo is a poet who writes a daily (prose) offering of guidance for the reader, drawn from his own experiences, from others who struggle with their own humanness as well as the wisdom of the great traditions and teachers. Every day is a different subject and a beautifully written piece.

When I first got the book, I diligently followed along every day, enjoying the wisdom offered for the entire year. Now I dip in when I feel the call to do so which almost always assures me of a nugget of truth which is exactly what I need to hear at that time. I opened the book this morning to where my bookmark sat, May 25th, Through the Wall of Flame. The first paragraph reads:

Living long enough, we each find ourselves surrounded by an old way of being, thinking, or loving that is going up in flames. In that unexpected moment, we usually find ourselves full of fear, feeling trapped by an old way of life coming in on us. But this is the passage of rebirth that we must move through if our lives are to unfold. It is the momentary and painful crossing from what is old into what is new.

Nepo goes on to say how understandable it is to stall at this wall of flame, not wanting to go through, but that old ways can burn forever, and we can waste years in the waiting for the flames to go out. And they often never do.

I find there are times in life where things seem to be going smoothly, where we are moving easily forward in positive ways, where our goals and dreams are clearly in view. And then there are other times when they are obscured by Nepo’s described wall of flames … time to learn another lesson to help us grow. Oftentimes, the lessons are the same ones we have been learning and struggling with all along, but now at a new level, a new depth, with a greater challenge and … with a greater reward for pushing through. Even though we may occasionally lose sight of it in the trying.

Over the years, I have been told to be thankful for these challenges as they are opportunities to grow and to grow closer to my dreams. It’s not always easy to cross through the flames, and, while our hands are burning hot, to be grateful as well. The choice, however, is to stay safe at a far greater cost. What I have learned to do when it seems there are flames all about me is to just put one foot in front of the other and believe. Believe that I am always loved, believe that I will always survive the jump through, and believe that what is on the other side is richer than what I ever imagined.

In front of a wall of flames? Let’s all of us take a breath. Ready? Jump!

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