What’s your dream life?
When is the last time you thought about it?
What do you look like in this life? What do you see? What do you smell? Who is with you? What are you doing? What are you grateful for?
So may people are living on auto-pilot. They’re focused on achieving the “American Dream,” but is that what you really want? In 1931, James Truslow Adams coined this phrase “American Dream,” but I’m willing to bet that what most Americans think this is is quite different than what Mr. Adams talked about.
This is what I’m here to say: we’re doing it wrong. We have fallen into a trap. We’re like that proverbial rat in a maze; a maze that ultimately leads to nowhere. We don’t know what our destination is, and we’re not enjoying the trip.
The new American way is to work exorbitant hours at jobs that don’t truly fulfill us. We are up early, we load up on caffeine and convenient foods, we sit in our cars in traffic with everyone else in the same maze. We sit behind desks in windowless offices looking at screens for hours upon hours. We fuel up with more caffeine and convenience foods. We sit in more traffic, more time in the car.
We do this 5 days a week, living for the weekends. That is when we catch up on sleep. Maybe. That is when we exercise. Maybe. We numb ourselves with alcohol and mindless television. We work hard and we play hard, and our adrenals are shot.
And that’s just the weekly rhythm. Throughout the year we are working and racing–it’s like we spend Monday through Friday climbing a steep mountain, then we’re so burnt out our feet come out from under us and we slide on our asses down the mountain on the weekends, crashing at the bottom, just to put on our expensive yet uncomfortable climbing shoes to do the same thing all over again. Until vacation time. That time when we take a whole week to restore ourselves. We travel to a place where we can lay in a chair and relax. It takes us 2 days to let go of the stress of our regular American life…but a few days later we start thinking about all we have to go back to and how much catch-up we’ll need to do to make up for sitting in a chair for a week. But if you’ve been at your job for long enough, you get to do this two, maybe three times a year.
And what are we teaching our kids? Up at dawn and to school to sit in windowless classrooms for six hours, fueled on sugar and processed foods. Come on home and play outside for 30 minutes, but you’ve got a couple hours of homework and piano lessons and tutoring. We’ll grab some fast food in between activities and hopefully get you in bed in time to get a proper amount of sleep for a growing mind and body. But don’t let your grades slip. You’ve got a rehearsal or a big game or anticipated performance coming up so you’d better cram and practice more and hunker down. Carry ten pounds of books on your back five days a week. All so you can get in to a “good college,” so you can get a “good job,” paying you a “good salary”…so you can start running in the maze to pursue your American Dream.
This isn’t my dream.
Take away the expectations of society, the cultural rules we are living with, the boundaries we have set up based on what we’ve seen happening around us. Take all that away for a few minutes, close your eyes, and get quiet. Be still for a couple of minutes. If your to-do list starts running through your brain, simply blow it aside like it’s a feather and focus on the stillness again.
What do you want? What is YOUR dream life?
Look at nature. Nature practices a gentle flow of growth and restoration, of big action and of quiet stillness. What if we didn’t work so hard, and therefor we wouldn’t “play” so hard. What if we were a little gentler with ourselves. What would happen? What are you doing in your dream life? Who are you with? What do you see? What do you smell? How do you feel?
Start living your dream life now. Don’t wait for retirement (what is that anymore anyway?). If you’re staying in the maze so you can buy the big house or pay for that fancy college or maintain the lifestyle that you have, make sure that’s what your ideal experience is. Spend time with the people you care about most. Fill your home with the scents and the the art that lift your spirits. Be present in the moments you are engaged in activities you love. If you’re in a job that doesn’t ignite your passions right now, be grateful that it affords you the beautiful things in your life that do. Then begin thinking about what your true life work might be and imagine yourself doing THAT every day.
Are you loving your life as you move toward your goals? Or are you struggling along until the day you can sit in that chair and relax? Make a better choice for yourself! If you don’t even know what it is that you really, truly want–you’re not alone! But you deserve that vision. You deserve something better. You deserve to get out of that maze and chart a new course. You do. You so do.