The Courage to Confront Your Dream

DenaFebruary 24, 2010

“What is a personal calling?  It is God’s blessing, it is the path that God chose for you here on Earth.  Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend.  However, we don’t all have the courage to confront our own dream.”  —The Alchemist

Are You Aware of What You’re Doing?

I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams lately (as if you hadn’t noticed).  One of my most urgent ambitions/dreams is to live an entirely purposeful life.  I see people around me everyday, sleepwalking through life, on autopilot.  Alarm clock, shower, breakfast, commute, zombie work, commute, dinner, television, sleep.  Repeat.  Day in and day out.  It breaks my heart.  What hurts more are the moments (sometimes hours) when I catch myself falling into that terrible haze.  Of course I snap myself out of it as soon as I realize it’s happening.  The way that I snap out of it is simple enough: I ground myself.  I literally take notice of my feet on the Earth, carpet, tile (wherever I am).  I recognize my breathing.  I acknowledge that I am a human being walking the Earth, beneath the sky, on a great big planet, floating in the Universe.  It’s really important to do that, to ground yourself in reality at least once a day, probably more.  If you don’t do it you will get caught up in the trivial — the fight with your spouse; the disappointment over your kid’s report card; the scratch on your new car; the ever-growing pile of papers on your desk; your unappreciative boss — you get the picture.

Proactive vs. Reactive Living

When you ground yourself, you pull yourself from the depths of the trivial, unimportant, little details that tend to take control.  When you ground yourself, you become aware.  The only problem with grounding yourself this way is that it is reactive rather than proactive.  There is actually a much better way to avoid autopilot and that is proactivity. I am going to start talking a lot on this blog about reactive vs. proactive thoughts and actions.  So let me take a moment to define what I mean by each of these terms.

Reactive—Something happens and triggers you to take action.

Example 1: You get on the scale one morning to realize that you’ve gained ten pounds.  Your reaction is to begin a diet and start breaking your back in the gym until you lose the ten pounds.

Example 2: Your marriage has been falling apart for the last two years.  You fight with your spouse daily or more.  You are both unhappy.  You put everything before each other — work, friends, hobbies, etc.  The marriage is your last priority.  As a last resort you decide to attend marriage counseling.

Proactive—You consciously prepare and act in ways that will produce certain desired outcomes in your life.

Example 1: You are aware that you want to be physically healthy.  You continually live a lifestyle that promotes health.  You always take the stairs instead of the elevator.  You run a mile each morning before work.  You feed your body foods that it craves & needs and avoid “junk” whenever possible.

Example 2:  Your marriage is one of your top priorities.  You make “alone” time and set dates with your spouse at least once a week.  You plan vacations together to explore places you’ve never seen.  You participate in each others favourite hobbies.  You fight, as all healthy couples do, but you practice open communication and work through arguments before they become significant problems.

If you analyze all of the actions and thoughts in your life, you will find that each one is either reactive or proactive.  The goal is to make all of your thoughts and actions proactive.  The problem with practicing reactive thinking or action, is that it is usually too late.  And even when you do succeed, it is usually a short-lived success because reactive thoughts and actions do not treat the causes of problems; they only treat the symptoms.

Let’s take the reactive approach to the extra ten pounds for example.  You notice the excess weight, you starve yourself, you go to the gym religiously — within a few months, the pounds are gone.  You feel great for a little while, but soon you go back to your old habits.  A few months later and the pounds are creeping back on.  On the other hand, if you had made a decision to begin taking a permanent proactive approach to maintaining your health, you would have achieved long-lasting, sustainable progress and results.  These same principles would apply to the example of the troubled marriage and any other example that you could think of.

Proactivity is a crucial element to a happy, fulfilling, successful life.

Follow Your Legend, Confront Your Dream

Now, I am going to tie this whole thing together and tell you how you can live a life of constant proactivity and sheer joy.  Ready?  Have another look at the opening lines to this post.  What is a personal calling?  It is God’s blessing, it is the path that God chose for you here on Earth.  Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend.  However, we don’t all have the courage to confront our own dream. (If you are not religious, replace the word God with the word Universe.  What is a personal calling?  It is the Universe’s blessing, it is the path that the Universe chose for you here on Earth.  Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend.  However, we don’t all have the courage to confront our own dream. To me, the words God & Universe mean the same, beautiful, powerful thing.)

That’s it, my friends, if you want to live proactively, if you want to live the life of your dreams, all you have to do is confront your dreams and follow your legend.

Ask yourself these questions: What fills me with enthusiasm?  What is the one thing that I could wake up and do happily every single day for the rest of my life without even being paid? When you have the answer, then you have your personal calling.  It is the path that is meant for you.  When you do this thing, you will follow your legend and you will confront your dreams.

Next month, it will be one year since I discovered my own personal calling.  I will never forget the moment.  It hit me like lightning — to help people by sharing my journey & the lessons I’ve learned along the way — so simple, but so amazing.  That is what compelled me to start this blog eight months ago.  That is what has kept me going ever since.  And I know what you are thinking now:  Dena, I can’t do it.  You are making it sound so simple, but it’s not.  I can’t afford to quit my job.  I have a mortgage to pay.  My mother is sick.  I am not talented enough.  I’m too old. It’s not practical. And the list of excuses will go on and on and on.  Well, I am sorry, but none of your excuses are good enough!  No matter how stuck you think you are — no matter how dire your circumstance might seem — there is a way out!

Take it from me.  I was depressed and anxious for the first half of my life.  I spent much of that time wanting my life to end.  I was seventy pounds overweight.  I was $40,000 in debt.  How much further down could I have gone?  I could have used a lot of excuses to keep myself in that state; but I didn’t.  I made a decision to change my life.  I lost seventy pounds.  I overcame anxiety and depression.  I’ve cut my debt in half and continue to pay it down every day!  I figured out my personal calling and I am doing it.  I am following my legend, confronting my dreams.  I am making it happen — and you can do it, too.

Before you get started with your excuses again, I’d like you to imagine something.  Imagine being born a young girl in Alabama in 1880.  Imagine then growing up to understand French, German, Greek, and Latin.  Imagine then going to Harvard, at a time when few women from your town did anything other than get married and raise kids.  Imagine then writing a book that was translated into twenty-five languages and inspired two Oscar-winning movies.  Imagine then meeting every President in your lifetime and being awarded the highest civilian honor—the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  That would be some accomplishment, wouldn’t it?  Now imagine doing all of that whilst being blind, deaf, and barely able to talk for your entire life.

It’s not impossible, friends.  In fact, it’s very possible and there is a woman who did all of that, her name was Helen Keller.  She accomplished all of those things, and more, because she believed in herself and she had a good teacher.  (Taken from How to Be Rich & Happy.)

“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.” —John Wayne

Every single day is a new opportunity for us to begin living the lives of our dreams.  Today is called “the present” because it is a gift.  Take it and do something with it!

I would love to hear your thoughts about this post.  What is your personal calling?  What obstacles are standing in your way?  How are you going to overcome them?  What can I do to help you get there?  Let me know in the comments.

Comments (11)

  • JR Moreau

    February 24, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Ya know, even though I had to be slightly reactive when I got laid off recently, I had been proactive in building my network and thinking about my future for a long time, so it wasn’t long before I was back ahead of myself. This post is SO GOOD and so true. Very nice job Dena!

    1. Dena

      February 24, 2010 at 11:08 pm

      Hey JR, you handled/are handling it with a grace that is truly inspiring. Since you broke the news, you’ve attached a positive to every negative — an opportunity for every possible fear. You are a true example of what it means to live a proactive life, to have the courage to confront dreams. Thanks so much for the great comment.

  • Isao

    February 25, 2010 at 4:01 am

    I would say writing is my calling – something that I can use to bootstrap myself (= no need to rely on friends or food or entertainment to lift my mood) and can add some value to others. My current issue is while I am productive in my writing I tend to become sloppy in other areas. You are right, we should live consciously so that we don’t need to think about countering negative issues. Life doesn’t work like debugging a computer program. The bug changes the program (life) itself and vice versa.

    1. Dena

      February 25, 2010 at 12:55 pm

      It is fantastic that you’ve identified your calling, Isao. That is one of the core steps in being able to live the life of your dreams. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

  • uberVU – social comments

    February 26, 2010 at 2:15 am

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

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  • Sophia

    February 28, 2010 at 12:48 am

    Let me just say that ‘The Alchemist’ is such a good book…an easy read but thought-provoking.

    In regards to this post, I absolutely loved this blog post. It completely resonated with me and where I am at in my life. I made a choice at the beginning of 2010 that I would do everything that excites and terrifies me and one of those things is singing in public. And I recently did it and it was awesome.

    Everything you stated about the fear, the excuses, the obstacles…all of it is completely true and I wanted to thank you for sharing and motivating people to move through all of that to realize their calling.

    And as for me? My calling involves singing, writing, dancing, connecting, motivating, finding ways to take action/find solutions and talking.

    And as I was reading your blog, I realized that my calling, that encompasses all of these things, is to be a space (a clear landing strip is my visualization) for others to dream bigger and take steps towards their dreams. And I can do that by completely sharing myself which in turn gives people the space to do the same.

    Thank you for your blog and your sharing – it helped me to see things a bit clearer. 🙂

    1. Dena

      March 2, 2010 at 1:30 pm

      Sophia, thank you so much for this incredible comment. I am so glad that the post touched you in this way. It is wonderful to hear that you have found your calling and that you are pursuing it with fire! Good for you. You are an example to many. Keep up the incredible work and I hope that you will continue to read evolution you.

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