How to Get the Life You WantYou've been putting it off forever — that secret dream to start a business, write a book, run a marathon.... Whatever your desire, ignoring it means denying who you really are. And don't you deserve better? Here, your no-excuses, no-regrets guide to answering the voice in your head that says, "I want more."
You're many things - maybe a wife and mom, prized employee, baker extraordinaire, or president of your block association. But perhaps there's another side of you that's itching to show itself, a yearning you're desperate to follow - to, say, bring out your artistic side or get a psychology degree. Or maybe you don't know what you want, because a dream you once had isn't in sync with who you are now, or because you're overwhelmed with all the choices out there.
Wherever you are on the dream spectrum, your aspiration may be slipping away. "We let our dreams lag because our overcommitted lives make them seem impractical," says life coach Laura Berman Fortgang, author of Now What? 90 Days to a New Life Direction. "We're spread so thin that it's hard to be 'selfish' and put your efforts toward something just for you." Plus, going after a goal may be scary: The fear of failure - or of how your life will change if you succeed - can be paralyzing.
Well, it's time to get moving! Here's why: When your day-to-day existence gets packed with too many "have-to's" and not enough "want-to's," you can end up with a constant, low-grade "Is this all there is?" kind of fever. And that's no way to live.
So use this workbook to help you achieve your wildest fantasies in whatever way they might fit into your life today. Over the past year, three women have been featured in REDBOOK magazine's Live Your Dream series. These women, Denise Mabilog, Cate Colburn-Smith, and Deb Busser, have accomplished amazing things - from publishing a book to singing in a rock band! Now, we're bringing their success secrets to you, with the help of Fortgang, who coached them. Ask yourself the following questions, and then read on to pinpoint your dream - and what it says about you. Then learn how to make it happen.
Ask yourself: Is there a passion you've abandoned because there's no room for it in your "real life"?
Photography or tennis or painting or sewing or...?
The mountain of responsibilities we take on as adults often leads us to abandon activities that once brought us joy. Maybe as a child you lived for tennis camp, but haven't picked up a racket since you had your own kids. For 42-year-old Denise Mabilog of Swedesboro, NJ, the fantasy of becoming a photographer - a dream she clung to through the time she graduated college - gave way to a challenging law career.
Why do we let go of pastimes we love? According to Fortgang, adulthood - and all that comes with it - makes us feel like we're not allowed to pursue activities just for sheer pleasure. Hobbies become indulgences that we get to enjoy after all the "important stuff" is done (and what a joke that is - how often does your to-do list get shorter?!)
Fortunately, passions are persistent - as much as you try to push 'em away, they're always there, itching to be let back into your life. As Mabilog can attest, reigniting a dream is well worth it: "I used to tell myself that photography would be a waste of time," she says. "Now I take pictures every day. I even set up a portrait studio in my basement! My life is busier than ever, but it's richer than ever, too!" Here's how to rekindle your passion.
Step 1: Give yourself permission.
When you think, I should use my time for more productive things, tell yourself that your dream activity does have a purpose - namely, to give you happiness, which will buoy you as you tackle everyday tasks, from preparing dinner to leading a meeting at work.
To make your commitment stick, get "permission" from your family, too, by explaining why you want the time. Mabilog's husband and son worried that her photography hobby would steal her away from them, but once she emphasized how passionate she was about her dream and that they wouldn't be neglected, their anxieties vanished. "When I told my 8-year-old how much my hobby meant to me, he really got it," she says. "Now, when new equipment for my studio comes in the mail, he's the first to say, 'Mom! Let's go set this stuff up!'"
Step 2: Make room for your dream - literally.
The writer Virginia Woolf famously said that one of the keys to a woman's freedom is having a room of one's own. Claiming a space where you can indulge in your passion is like saying, "X marks the spot." It's an expression of your decision to take your dream seriously.
So designate a writing area in your living room. Place an easel in a corner of the bedroom. Don't need a specific spot to practice your passion? Make an altar to your effort: Display items that move you (photographs, a row of vintage fountain pens) or create an "inspiration board" by pinning motivating clippings to a bulletin board (a poem you love, an ad for an exhibit you want to attend). When Mabilog set up her basement studio and hung her photographs around her home, she started to feel like the real deal.
Step 3: Set a date.
Every type of goal needs structure, says Fortgang. Otherwise, real life just washes over it like a tidal wave and sweeps it away. To build a solid foundation for this or any dream, construct a schedule: Decide how much time you'll devote to your hobby, whether it's an hour each night or twice a week for two hours, and block it off on a calendar - this "makes a promise" to that time and, by extension, to yourself.
Then, commit to that schedule for 90 days - that's just long enough to create a habit; face the challenges of making room for your dream in your busy life; and decide if you're going to keep at your goal for good, says Fortgang. "As you move along, don't judge the time you're using or try to measure whether it's productive," she adds. "Just get absorbed in the activity, and follow the joy as it develops."
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