During Elizabeth Gilbert’s recent appearance on Good Morning America to celebrate the tenth anniversary of her book, “Eat, Pray, Love,” she was asked why her book resonated so deeply for her readers. Her answer was that the book encouraged people to realize that “my life doesn’t have to look like this anymore.”
If you did read the book, or even heard about the premise, you most likely thought, “Sure, that’s cool for her, but I can’t just go off to Italy or India or Bali. I have responsibilities and commitments.”
But to put words into Elizabeth’s mouth, the point of her book wasn’t about the travel or even falling in love in an exotic tropical paradise, but about making choices for our lives because we want something more in the life we see around us.
Her book tells us that we can dream again, we can make choices in our lives that allow us to soar, and that is what hit home for so many readers of her book.
If not now, when?
Self exploration and self discovery can be scary prospects, yet they can also be exciting and life-changing. To allow ourselves to stretch outside of our comfort zone and search for what else may be the most important thing that we can do for ourselves. For example:
- Have you denied yourself experiences because it seemed risky, or because you’re afraid or anxious?
- Are you concerned of what others might think, or feel that it’s just not sensible?
- Do you feel like you’re just too old to do that thing?
- Do you believe that because you’re married or have a family that you can’t leave your responsibilities behind?
- Does following your own path feel selfish or just not seem like you? Does your mind convince you that it’s not okay or maybe even not important, but your heart is screaming “yes, yes, yes”?
- Is there a bucket list that you don’t really believe is possible?
Yet what is stopping you? Who are you allowing to stop you? Are your beliefs stopping you? Are your judgments stopping you? Are you saying to yourself:
- I always wanted to…
- I dreamed about…
- I wish I could…?
Does logic supersede genuine desire and longing?
For so many of us, we have allowed the outside trappings of our lives – the house, the car, the job, the PTA, the schools, the kids, the vacations to the beach, to become the sole extent of our lives:
- But what about the dreams that we left behind, the dreams that we possibly no longer even remember?
- Our dream of writing a book, or taking a painting class, or a wine tour of Italy?
These don’t have to be huge dreams – they don’t have to mean summiting Everest or spending a year in Brazil – but what is it that you have always wanted to do, but haven’t quite done?
We might think that it’s our responsibilities (to our family, to our jobs, etc.) that hold us back, but at the end of the day, we are the only ones holding ourselves back.
- No other person can create the life you want except for you.
- No one else will go out and create that life for you – even our spouses can’t decide what we most need in our lives on a fundamental level.
And so when you look around and see someone else doing something amazing, know that you are allowed to take that part that you love and incorporate it into your own life. We can build small pieces of amazingness into our lives, right now. We can follow the path to our dream jobs and dream lives and dream relationships.
If your dream is to write a novel, or to paint a mural, or to learn Spanish, start with small steps towards that goal or dream:
- Sign up for a class.
- Hire a tutor.
- Check out books from the library.
- Find meet-up groups that are already doing these things.
The internet has allowed us to find virtual friends in any area of interest, and people are always happy and willing to share how they started on their path.
And even if your dream is to summit Everest, start with some smaller steps that allow you to gain a foothold, like joining a local hiking group or reading books about Nepal.
Allow for dream time:
You might not know what those dreams are, so it may be important to set aside some time just for daydreaming:
- What would your life look like if you had everything that you truly wanted?
- What sorts of experiences and places would you allow in to your dream life?
- What would you do, if money was no object?
A great way to do this is to write about your ideal life of the future for ten to fifteen minutes and see what comes up. Most importantly, don’t worry about “how” these experiences will come to you, just focus on the “what”.
Many of us struggle with defining what it is that we really want, and then finding the courage and tools to go after those dreams.
If you feel that way, speaking with a trusted psychotherapist at Long Island’s Nassau Guidance and Counseling can help to open up that space of exploration.
Our licensed therapists have helped many people to explore their dreams and open up to more in their lives, no matter what that may look like!