The good thing about journaling over a long period of time is that you can look back and see how much you have changed and grown.
Today I was reading some journals I wrote around the time I was finishing high school. I had just been overseas to the USA and France for the first time and I was inspired about the possibilities for the future. I mentioned how much I would love to study film at the Tisch School of Arts.
And then, a line or so later I declared I couldn’t afford it, and would have to stay and study in New Zealand, even though that wasn’t what I wanted.
In truth, I probably couldn’t afford it. But what if I had found a way? What if I had wanted it enough and dreamed so big that I made it happen? I could have borrowed money, worked for a year to save – done any number of things to make it happen.
But I just didn’t believe it was possible.
I can’t help but wonder what my life would look like right now if I had done it. Don’t get me wrong – I’m ok with where I am in my life, but I am acutely aware that the dissatisfaction I do feel is the result of short-changing myself – of censoring my dreams to make them more ‘acceptable’ and ‘realistic’.
When I look back on past journals I see big dreams – of becoming a scriptwriter and director, an author and a singer. I wrote about how much I wanted to move to New York to pursue my dreams.
Sure, I was a teenager, full of optimism and hope. It was ok to dream big back then because ‘the future’ was still far-off and existed only in my head.
The reality is that I didn’t have the courage to pursue these things. I didn’t believe, at my core, that I could really have them – so I settled.
I’ve mentioned before that I am currently planning a business with a friend. As part of the Right Brain Business Plan, we had to imagine our business as wildly successful, and describe what that would look like. We were both hesitant to say anything too ‘unrealistic’ – so we stated ‘realistic’ salaries, working hours, locations, etc.
Why did we do that? We are starting from scratch. We can have anything, build anything. Surely if we dream small we will only make something small?
Perhaps it is to do with disappointment – if we dream small then we can’t be disappointed. And if others hear of our plans, they won’t scoff or laugh or warn us that we aren’t being ‘realistic’. Nelson Mandela famously said:
There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.
Once I realised we were holding ourselves back, I said to my friend: let’s dream big. This is our business, our passion, our one chance to leave our mark on the world. Who cares what people will say, or if we end up disappointed. We have to risk it to achieve big. I am sick of playing small, of censoring my dreams. She agreed.
A part of me wishes I could go back to the young me and say: Be bold! Dream big!
But I needed to go down the path I have to learn what I know now. The only thing I can do now is to move forward boldly. To dream big.
What were your biggest dreams as a child/teenager? You may like to look back through old journals/yearbooks etc to remind yourself.
Have you achieved those dreams, or are you in the process of doing that? If not, why not?
Can you think of what may have stopped you from moving towards them – perhaps a parent’s wishes, the words of a teacher, worrying about what your friends were doing, etc?
What is it that you really really really want now? Get really quiet and listen. Try free writing about this for a few minutes and see what comes up.
Do you feel any sort of resistance or words of warning about dreaming too big from your inner critic? If so, you could try writing a letter to your inner critic in your journal – thank them for their concern about you, but declare that you don’t need them to worry and state boldly and clearly what it is you want.
How can you start to move towards what it is that you really want?