Oversimplifying Your Dream Life
Because it really is that simple. Seven points of awareness that will move you closer to living a life you love.
Whether or not you are living your dream life depends on how brave and clever you are. Dream lives are not bestowed as a gift or a favor upon a chosen lucky few. Dream lives are achieved when individuals wake up, define what it is they want and need, and then live by intention to go get those things. Dream lives are not that hard to achieve. But they are hard to initiate and they are hard to maintain.
The primary obstacle to initiating your dream life is overcomplicating it until it seems impossible. We use so much energy to convince ourselves that we can’t do something (“Oh, if only I had the time and money!” or “I wish I could do that, but we can’t because…” for example), we’re left with very little brainpower to realize how and why we are able do that very thing.
The difficulty in maintaining a dream life is that our bravery in initiating it can surprise, scare and sometimes even paralyze us, stopping our progress and taking us back to step one: trying to convince ourselves that we cannot or should not act.
But there is an alternate possibility: keep going. Use the time that we normally spend telling ourselves, ‘no,’ to instead tell ourselves, ‘yes.’ Use our will to find a way to work out solutions to change any remaining ‘no’s’ into ‘yes’s.’
I have wasted far too many moments of my life living on autopilot without intention, telling myself no, and not knowing what I want, need and deserve. Or sometimes, not being brave enough to turn around, face and acknowledge what I want, need and deserve, and/or not being clever enough to overcome the obstacles blocking my way.
Only twice now in my 35 years have I faced, acknowledged and best of all, embodied my dream life. These two high points — the first of which catapulted me into the most exciting and wonderful chapter of my life, and the second of which I am living now — were sandwiched around a very low low.
But since I’ve experienced this twice now, I’ve learned a lesson. And that lesson is that if you compromise and sacrifice too many parts of yourself, you will crumble. Your dream life is the architecture of your soul. Neglect to acknowledge what you are meant to do with this life, and the structure of your being will begin to break.
My lowest low came because I tried to compromise and sacrifice too much. I tried to live outside my ideal environment and force myself into a schedule counter to my natural clock. I muted my voice one (or many) too many times and gave precedence to what others needed ahead of myself. By the skin of my mental health, I slowly began to make a change. Then another. Then another, and another until I was standing up again on my own two feet and designing a life I love.
Still not sure you are capable of manifesting your dream life? You may not be able to define your dream life right now, at this very precise moment. But if you work through these steps below, you will be well on your way to designing a life you love.
De-clutter and Remove the Obstacles
Clear your physical and mental environment of things and people that take up important space they don’t deserve. Whether through stress, drama, demotivation or literal clutter, these obstacles will distract you at best and keep you rooted in the same spot (i.e. not moving toward your dream life) at worst. You don’t need them, and you won’t make any true progress as long as they are weighing you down. So, Marie Kondo your heart, mind and physical environment and make room for your dream life.
Find your ideal Location
Where does your spirit and energy come alive? The place where you can feel the very cells of your body saying, “YES!” Near the ocean? By a lake? In the mountains? In the frenetic chaos of a city? You should live there. We can survive in nearly any situation, but we will only truly live our best, most inspired lives in our ideal environment. Don’t wait to find and live in your ideal location until <fill in your personal excuse here: Retirement? A financial marker? The achievement of another person’s dream life goal? A life-threatening illness or event?>. Be there now.
Identify your "sacred time"
What is your best time of day: do you wake up singing like the birds on Cinderella’s windowsill, or do you only begin to get into your groove as the sun is going down? Do your best ideas come flooding out late, or in the middle of the night? Build your day around your best time. Capitalize on your body’s natural rhythm and consider your best time of day your sacred time. Use your sacred time exclusively to create or to experience (i.e. to write, or build robots, or take a hike, or do yoga or go on a spontaneous adventure with your kids); sacred time is energy intake time. It might coincide with energy output time, if you are creating. But use this time to tap into and feed your soul. Save your non-sacred time to run errands, organize that junk drawer, wash dishes, do laundry or other mindless-but-requisite tasks. There is time for everything that needs to get done when we work with our natural rhythm. Wasting sacred time on activities that don’t fulfill us stunts our growth.
Make a "Living List"
This general idea first entered my consciousness through Tim Ferriss’ “The 4-Hour Workweek.” It’s not a bucket list. It’s a living list, as in a list of things that makes you happiest, feeling most inspired and alive. Don’t think too hard about it. Definitely don’t think about what anyone else will or would think of it. Just sit down alone with a pen and paper (not at a keyboard, these ideas need to come out of your mind, through your hand and onto the paper) and write down what makes you feel happy, inspired or, alive. It can be anything, from chocolate, to travel, to writing, to dogs, to accounting. Once your list is complete, start drawing lines between its items. The lines can be straight, round, squiggly or zig-zagged. Simply allow your brain to play around with how the items on your list are — or could be — connected. The way you should make your living exists somewhere in one (or more) of these connections.
Make Peace with the Worst(s)
We all have a worst case scenario. Whether it’s comprised of one thing or many, our worst case scenario is what holds us back. It’s what fuels the fear that keeps us from initiating our dream life, and the fear that scares us when we go after our dream life, sometimes to the point of ceasing its pursuit. So how about this? Imagine your worst case scenario. Now imagine it’s real now, today. How would you: Live with it? Overcome it? Become better because of it? That’s it, make peace with it. Now dismiss it from blocking the middle of the road and move on.
Create the Details
Now that you have your living list, created in step four, and are aware of your sacred time (from step three), prioritize your responsibilities. What do you need to get done? Does it need to get done at a certain time, or is the timing malleable to the natural rhythm of your day? How can you multitask or combine non-experiential, non-creative parts of your day to accomplish during your non-sacred time? How can you reserve and best use your sacred time hours to manifest your dream life? Again, do this with a pen and paper (at least, begin on paper). Make a map of your days, weeks, months, and for imagination’s sake, a year or two. Cross out, rearrange, erase and replace until you have a general framework for your dream life. It should be massive; big enough that the annoying little tedious pieces are just details, means to an end that means something to you. Most importantly, your dream life should be so in tune with you, that you cannot wait to get started on it. You cannot wait to get out of bed each day and experience more of it. You will gladly hop over any ‘no’ that stands in your way, because there’s always a way to turn it into a ‘yes.’ Because you’ve stepped into the energy flow of your dream life.
Be intentional, Grateful and Humble
Every day we change, and so do the people in our lives, so don’t expect the manifestation of your dream life to be a one-and-done game. We cannot live on autopilot in the pursuit of a dream life. We must move with intention and maintain curiosity about what’s working, what’s not and what could work better. Did you get your ideal location wrong (hey, learning what we don't want can be just as productive as identifying what we do want!), or has your sacred time of day changed (it happens, probably many times throughout our lives). Try not to stress. Just adjust. Give yourself more time to move through these points of awareness with keep your head up and your eyes forward. Lastly, be grateful: for the lessons and for your progress.
This is not stuff I’ve mastered. This is a formula I am working on, working out and working toward, to try to live the best life I possibly can. I’ve done it before, I’ve seen it work, and it was the most incredible experience but it has only happened when I was really ready and open to it. And I know that when I’m finally brave and clever enough to fully open myself to the energy flow of my dream life again, the universe will align to support me. I'm working on it and stumbling through it hour-by-hour, day-by-day. But I authentically believe in and work on the above.
These days, after years of inner work (with as many more years as needed ahead of me), my clutter is nearly all gone; both the material "stuff" clutter and the mental and emotional clutter. I know that my ideal location is near the ocean and post-baby, my magical sacred time is in the morning, after I’ve woken up with coffee, exercise and a shower. That’s when I’m ready to jam. I know there’s more to the picture ahead and I’m working on sorting out the rest. I have responsibilities right now that I'm still working through, and many details that are not yet aligned with my dream life. I have a lot yet to learn about my present and past selves, that are paving the path for my future self.
I’m still drawing lines between the points of my living list and manipulating the map of my details. I am definitely able to outline my present intentions (read them here), and I’m getting better at defaulting to gratitude and hope, over defeat.
So, I’m getting there. It’s a fascinating experience and it really is that simple to begin to manifest once you're ready to open yourself the process. Are you ready?
Society reinforces that we should follow the herd, not our hearts. It’s safer, we're told. We’re taught to live our lives in pieces or stages (i.e. work hard when you are young, play when you are older and have earned it).
But who’s to say what piece goes where and what stage should start when? You. Only you.
Post originally drafted in November 2015. Not published because a voice said, "Who are you to assert this?" Published in April 2018 when another voice responded, "Who am I to not?"
*Note: why am I so explicit about doing — or at least beginning — these steps with a pen and paper, rather than on a screen? Because the act of writing, of transmitting thoughts and ideas from your brain onto paper via your own handwriting connects you to yourself. Some days, our handwriting may be the only thing we create, but it is creation.