I was taking a walk with my good friend Tricia about six months ago and we were talking about our dreams. (Not nighttime dreams, but the this-is-what-I-would-love-my-life-to-look-like dreams.)
At one point in the conversation, we realized that whenever we talked about our dreams, they were always “over there” or “far away.” They were places in our lives we hadn’t gotten to yet. They were accomplishments or goals we hadn’t yet reached.
Our dreams were outside of our lives.
I remember us literally stopping, looking at one another, and saying, “This is not right. What if right now, right here, we began to look at everything about who we are and what we are doing as part of our dream lives?”
What if we are living the dream now, but perhaps it is the tiniest seed of the dream? Still, it is the dream and we can recognize it as such. Like if we were growing lettuce and we just planted a small lettuce pod. It wouldn’t look like lettuce and we couldn’t yet eat it for dinner, but we’d know for certain it was lettuce.
We would love our little lettuce pod by tending to it. We’d learn about the best ways to nurture it— how much sunshine, nutrients, and water it needs— and then we’d do whatever it takes to help our lettuce thrive. We wouldn’t whine or cry about not having lettuce for dinner. We’d know that it’s growing in our own backyard. Right here. Right now. Our dreams are just like that.
That one conversation changed my life.
Living my dream life is a practice, not a goal
When I got home that day, I started a practice I call, “Livin’ the Dream,” which is an intentional daily practice of noticing and noting the myriad ways in which everything I want in my life already exists.
Here’s an example: My work in the world is about helping people celebrate themselves and the people they love. I created something called a Love List, which is a no-cost, all-love gift that someone can give which details all the reasons they love and appreciate someone.
Before I die, I want 1,000,000 people to give Love Lists as gifts because of my writings/teachings. Every day that someone writes to tell me that created a Love List for someone, I take a screen shot of that letter and I pin it on a secret Pinterest board called “Livin’ the Dream.” I write a little note about how happy I am that one more person created a Love List and one more person received a gift of love they will certainly cherish forever.
That one Love List does not make me someone who has yet inspired 1,000,000 lists. But it is a part of that larger goal, isn’t it? And we’re on the way.
I also pin things that underscore my good health, happy relationships, and creativity because each of these things plays a role in having exactly the kind of life I’d always imagined.
We live in a culture that is focused on what’s wrong and what’s missing. Advertising and news encourages us to look for the negative. What if, instead we took charge of our own happiness and started scanning all the time for what is right, what is working, how love is showing up in our lives, and the ways we are living exactly the life we’d always dreamed about?
Don’t tether your happiness to something outside yourself
Right now I’ve got myself on an “advanced course” of learning for the Livin’ the Dream practice. I’m awaiting news on something that is deeply important to me. I spent about six months last year focused on writing a book proposal to submit to a contest for Hay House, a publishing company that I absolutely love.
This is a BIG dream of mine to be an author for Hay House. I truly did my best on the book proposal and spent a lot of time imagining myself as one of their authors. Even as I write this, I feel the adrenaline pulsing through my body. I want it so bad! But what if I don’t get it? I want it. But what if…?
As you can imagine, my monkey mind wants to have a field day with this. It wants me to believe that winning the book publishing contract IS the dream. And if I get it, I’m living the dream. And if I don’t, I’ve lost the dream.
My practice is this: I am livin’ the dream, no matter what.
I refuse to let my happiness be tethered to something I have absolutely no control over.
Here’s what I do instead: I am spending every moment of every waking hour living as if I am already a Hay House author. What would a Hay House author wear to lunch with a girlfriend? What would a Hay House author write in her newsletter? What would a Hay House author have for lunch?
Do you see?
I get to have the experience of being a Hay House author by inviting in all of the feelings and experiences NOW. Because it’s not about achieving “the thing.” It’s about having the feeling of getting the thing. And not just for one moment — but sustained, over moments, hours, days that then turn into a lifetime.
Truth be told, why is it a dream to be a Hay House author? Because I want to have a wider reach. I want to be more engaged. I want to have an audience of people who respond to my work. I want to have a community of writers with whom I share ideas and support.
When I keep the “why” in mind, it allows me the room to step into that vision right now. I simply ask, “How can I have a wider reach today? How can I touch more people?” And I listen to the response that life gives. Then I go do what it says.
Suddenly I am engaged and participating in exactly the way I dreamed. But it isn’t outside of myself. It isn’t over there. It isn’t “I’ll do that when…” It doesn’t rely on someone outside of myself to choose me.
I choose to live my dream now.
Take one small intentional step today
The author, Wallace Wattles, writes about this in his book, “How to Get What You Want.”
He tells the story of a man who wants to own a department store, but right now all he has is a newsstand.
Wallace says, “Do not get the idea that there is some magical method by which you can successfully operate a department store on a newsstand capital.”
This isn’t about thinking that if we want something badly enough, it will come to us.
But the point is, if you are dreaming about a department store and you have a newsstand right now, you can choose to show up completely and wholeheartedly to your newsstand every day. You choose to do everything you can to make this newsstand as successful as possible. If you don’t hang your head low and think, “all I have is a newsstand,” if you go to work whistling, serving everyone with a big smile and great service, chances are your newsstand will grow bigger. And more successful.
Chances are the way you tend to that newsstand (like the lettuce pods!) will yield the growth you desire. Wallace says, “make every act and thought constructive.” He believes that if we stay positive in our acts and thoughts, if we always speak from the place of our dreams and visions, people will be drawn to us. He calls this a “place of increase.”
“Consider that your newsstand is one department of the store you are going to have; fix your mind on the department store, and begin to assimilate the rest of it. You will get it if you make every act and thought constructive.”
One day, it will be a department store.
What if it doesn’t grow and thrive the way you had imagined?
Think about it. You are still living in the seed of your dream. You still have a beautiful newsstand that attracts customers because you show up every day with a smile and kind word. You still have the essence of your dream — which is having work that enables you to serve people and impact their lives on a daily basis. You are happy. You love your days.
Whether your newsstand grows into a department store or not, or whether it takes twenty years longer than you had imagined is not the point.
The point is: can you love the process of showing up each day to tend to the dream of who you are and the life you want to live — no matter what?
Can you train yourself to scan for what is, instead of what is missing?
My son taught me one of the most beautiful lessons about all of this.
When he was three years old, it was his birthday and we had a chocolate cake for him. I lit the candles and whispered to my son to make a wish before he blew them out.
I watched him close his eyes, and blow out the candles.
His dad and I clapped and then I leaned in and whispered, “What did you wish for?”
My son whispered back: “a birthday cake.”
Talk about instantly stepping into a place of having what we want. We need to see that it is right here, in front of us.
When we are livin’ the dream, we learn to focus on what is on the plate in front of us. We see it, taste it, appreciate it.
One small step
Today, can you practice with this? Can you wish for something you already have and watch how good it feels to “get” it?
Can you take one small action step that is in service of a bigger dream and feel in your bones that this small step is a part of the dream? You are not outside of it.
You are livin’ the dream. You’re in it. It’s already yours.
In the midst of everyday life, it is easy to forget how extraordinary — and fleeting— our lives are. Thus, Sherry believes in a simple philosophy: make moments into gifts. She helps people appreciate who they are and the people they love through customized tribute books and other one-of-a-kind gifts that inspire us to celebrate, share, and build beautiful relationships. Don’t wait; say it now. Find Sherry here.