I’ve always dreamed in black and white.
The times when my dreams have vividly been in color or when something within the dream is in color, like a brightly-tinted bridal bouquet in a Photoshopped wedding album, are moments that I cling to and remember.
We talk about our dreams.
We analyze them.
We might even pore over everything that we can in order to try making them come true—and there’s a reason for that.
We hold our dreams near and dear to our hearts and, for me, the ones that I hold closest—the ones that I care for and nurture and water so that maybe someday they’ll grow up to be big and strong—are my daydreams.
You know, those little, tiny seeds of infinite possibility that you don’t even realize you’re wanting or craving, or even needing until you snap back out of your waking vision, unable to ignore the longing that has finally been unlocked.
Admittedly, some of us daydream more than others.
Yet all of us have unaccounted ideas—things that we desperately want to see hop out of our childlike imaginations and onto the storybook pages of our real lives. So how do we get there?
How do we figure out what it is that we really want and then go after it once it’s been discovered?
Now, I’m by no means an expert on how to be the perfect, dream-inducing individual, but I do know that I’ve let myself follow my own pathway to success, even when this has meant wandering away from the more practical course that I had originally set sail for. (And I’ve shared many of these meanderings with you).
So, from my daydreaming heart to yours, here are five steps that have, undoubtedly, helped me, and that I now hope will help you live up to your true potential.
1. Be grounded.
In order to realize your full potential, outside of your human requirements, you need to be able to live as a successfully grounded person first.
Dreams or no dreams, we live, hopefully, as people who are capable of having roots that grow into the earth because while we are dreaming, imaginative, wonderfully intangible beings, we are also animals that inhabit this plane of reality, and of daily living.
In order for a tree to grow toward the sky, possibly to ridiculous heights, then this tree has to be nurtured down here on earth, firmly planted in healthy soil.
Additionally and more importantly, if you find yourself always dreaming yet never making anything real, then your fantasies are of no good to anyone, namely not to you.
Get in touch with this more primitive side of yourself by exercising, eating well and placing much needed importance on other basics like shelter and work, so that your dreams have a foundation from which to grow and flourish.
2. (Re)Define success.
I told you earlier that I walked away from another, more practical, future. I left a college-fueled career to work in the typically less stable field of yoga teaching, and now I predominantly write—and this became easy for me to do when I redefined what success means.
To me, success means happiness—on an inner level that’s challenging to verbalize—and I find that I’m, in fact, happiest when I’m helping other people and sharing my deep-seated passions. Aren’t we all?
What are your passions? What makes you tick?
Personally, I want enough money to live and buy good food (see previous step), but money doesn’t define my success. (Most writers aren’t in it for the money—and the same can be said about most yoga teachers as well.)
If your success is defined more by money than mine, then this might be a limiting factor for you as to how far you’re able to pursue some of your more wildly unrealistic goals (although, I do believe in return on investment). That’s not for me to say, because my definition of success isn’t yours, but you do need to figure out what yours is.
My suggestion is that if you’re not satisfied with your current definition of success, that you strongly consider writing a new one. Don’t worry, multiple drafts are more than acceptable, they’re required.
3. The company you keep matters.
Oh, there are so many quotes, sayings and adages on the company that we keep—and the reason is simple and universal.
The people that you choose to spend your life with (and I’m not necessarily talking romantically) are important for two main reasons. One, they reflect who you see when you look into the mirror and, two, they help shape that reflection.
Choose people who support you, who support your definition of success, and better still, choose people who are adaptable enough that they’ll encourage you while you’re figuring out what your definition means, and, if necessary, they’ll carry you and help you back up after you’ve fallen (because you will, if you’re reaching high enough). Which leads me to…
4. Expect failure.
If you want to recreate your options and live up to your highest potential, then you have to expect to crash and burn, at least once and at least from time to time.
Being successful does not mean that you never fail. Rather, I’d argue that in order to be successful in any capacity and through any definition that you are by default welcoming failure.
There’s a reason that there are a billion inspirational stories out there about people who fell—often many,many times—before doing something that the world never forgot.
5. Be tenacious.
We all fail. All of us. It’s how we deal with these failures, though, that matter. (I’m thankful to my yoga practice—specifically my practice of balancing postures—for helping me learn how to get up more gracefully.)
On top of this, sometimes the road to success turns out to be entirely the wrong road, and it takes a lot of courage to turn around and start all over again.
My husband, for example, left a “successful” career because he was not happy. He traveled too much for his taste, he couldn’t easily find jobs in the areas that he really wanted, and still, it took immense inner strength and determination for him to begin again. (Do not pass go! Do not collect $200!)
He obtained a second Master’s degree. His potential failures were many. He risked debt and worse, ultimately winding up in a job that didn’t make him any happier. Luckily, it did. He loves his new field, his new job, and the multiple road blocks that were in his way were all well worth moving beyond.
If you search yourself and you find what it is that could make you happy—a new job, a move, whatever—then you are heading in the right direction, but you will have hurdles and setbacks—and if you don’t have the confidence in yourself that you can overcome them, then who else will?
I’m a big believer in dreams.
I believe that all of us bring a quality of huge value into this world when we arrive, but I also know that life can be hard and frustrating, and that many of us lose sight of who we really are and of what it is that we really want while we’re here.
I’m a writer and a yoga teacher, and yes, I have a degree in geology (that I don’t regret). I’m also a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend and a daydreamer—and you know what? The second that I’ve lost the last thing on this list, for me, the party’s over.
Listen to what your heart is telling you.
Believe in yourself and believe in your dreams—because you might just end up surprising yourself when you try going after them.
“If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” ~ Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
This article was first published by elephant journal.