Our guest writer this week is Stacey Curnow who has a talent for coaching people who want to transition into the life of their dreams. Here she shares how that can be a remarkably practical and do-able process.
I love this quote from W. Somerset Maugham: “It’s a funny thing about life. If you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.”
Now imagine what that “best” means for you and imagine what you really want. What do you really, really, really want? (I think there’s magic in that third really.) Once you’ve determined what you really want, ask yourself why you really want it.
Chances are good that you want a feeling more than a thing. (And, really, I think that what we all really want at heart is a sense of being valued or loved – or of more security, more satisfaction, or more meaning. But that’s my take.)
And so if we’ve determined that our dreams are elusive and unachievable, we should hold our vision – the details of what we want – lightly and focus on our intentions – on the way we want to feel and our desire to feel that way.
When I want to make sure I understand my intention, asking “why” helps me identify the underlying desire or feeling. I start with the perceived goal and ask myself why I want it; when I have an answer, I ask why I want that, and I keep asking why and why and why until I get to the crux of the matter. Identifying the desire or feeling is important because very often we get hung up on the means to the end rather than the end in itself.
What’s worse, often those means have to do with money. And we can get so hung up on them that we don’t see that there are many, many ways to fulfill any intention and satisfy the underlying need.
That’s why I tell my clients to ask themselves, “If I didn’t have to worry about money what would I do with my life?” (In case the question ever gets turned around on me, I already know my answer: “My intention is to live a life that is filled with delight, service to others, satisfaction in life’s simple pleasures and appreciation for the gift of being on this beautiful planet.” It helps that I know that life is providing this for me right now.)
One of my clients recently answered that question with, “I’d buy a house in the country in an arty community and have a large studio on the property. I would have dogs and cats and a horse and maybe a few chickens for eggs. I would get up every morning and work on songs and then go to my studio and make art. I would hire an assistant to help with the business side of my art and music.”
My client is an amazing artist, so I pointed out that her desire did not have to be some lofty goal that could be achieved only after she worked for many more years and saved up many more dollars, but could be fulfilled right now – or at least very soon.
There are artist communities where she could live and teach – for example she could become a resident artist at a place like Penland School of Crafts in the Blue Ridge Mountains – and tend to animals.
More importantly, I helped her see that what she really wanted – the feeling she was after – was more freedom to live a creative life.
Please note that when I encourage folks to look deeper into their lofty goals to find the kernel of their desire, I’m not knocking the goals per se. I myself wouldn’t mind receiving loads of cash, for example.
I see that money will allow me to have more of the things I desire. It’s just that it’s important to acknowledge the extent I already possess what I want in large measure. The only way that money would really change my life, I’m guessing, is that if I had tons of it I would share it with more people.
So, here’s what I’ve found: if your bank balance has not caught up with your intentions to live a “big” or “more secure” or “creative” life, here are some suggestions for what you can do to feel more abundant and satisfied right now:
- List 5 things you appreciate about your life. It can be as simple as your breath, your child’s laugh, or a cup of hot tea. As Melody Beattie wrote, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.” And as you list things to be grateful for, look for the ways in which your life has already fulfilled some of your longstanding desires.
- Be of service. It doesn’t have to be anything grand – it can be small things, like relinquishing a good parking spot to someone at the grocery store, or offering child care to a neighbor who is a single parent. Emerson once said, “It is one of the most beautiful compensations in life… we can never help another without helping ourselves.”Each time you do help someone, savor the satisfaction and think about your desires. Because chances are what you want for yourself you want because it will be of service to others in your life – your children, your parents, your spouse.
- Tithe. Tithing is an ancient spiritual practice of giving 10% of everything you receive back to God. You don’t have to give it to “God” per se – my husband and I give to a variety of organizations and people who feed us spiritually. But whether it’s the giving – or the focus on totaling up all the money we’ve received – it has helped us be more conscious of and grateful for what we have.
I think your dreams are closer than you know. If you can identify what the “best” means to you, you have the ability to feel what it would be like to get it. Once you can do that, you’re solidly on the path to fully achieving it. And you know what? It feels pretty amazing every step of the way.
Stacey is a nurse-midwife and a mentor who helps you give birth to your BIG dreams. You can find out more about Stacey here.