Do your Dreams have an Expiry Date?

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Dreams are meant to be followed. Have the courage to follow yours. Do things that challenge you, scare you, and make you feel alive.

Liz Pearson

Have you ever found yourself struggling with frustration during these difficult days because your most cherished hopes and dreams seem elusive and outside of your reach? When we are unable to meet our deeply held dreams and goals in our lives, we may feel that our lives have become stagnant, lacking in purpose, or that we have drifted off course.

At times, our life circumstances become the barriers to achieving the dreams that we cherish the most and secretly hold onto. There are a myriad of reasons that could prevent us from reaching our dreams at different points in our lives. Dreams may recede, lose their magnetic pull, be impractical, or simply become replaced by new ones.

Sometimes it appears that we have discarded our dreams and never expect them to play a part in our lives in the future. There are numerous possibilities that alter our life dreams. Self-doubt. Self-criticism. Inertia. Lack of time, resources, a global pandemic, etc.

But, do we need to give them up altogether, when daily living, responsibilities, and obligations may interfere with what we are most passionate about.

We have the ability to place dreams on hold rather than give them up completely. As we age, the internal clock that guides us, begins to tic louder and louder. We may begin to experience the urge to throw caution to the winds and face our challenges and our fears to try to move forward to realizing our dreams. For me, this urge has become stronger as I have become older.

Our time is limited and we should pay attention to those inner voices that prod us to take action. Dreams are meant to be pursued. You really never will know what is possible until you take a risk and move towards the dream that is calling to you. Begin someplace, anyplace, so long as you start to experience a sense of momentum.

Taking small steps towards what inspires passion and purpose within us becomes critical to our creative well-being. Roadblocks in our way simply suggest that it is time to pivot and find new ways to reach our goals, our hopes, and our dreams. This pandemic may have caused some of us to place dreams on hold in order to adapt to this new reality. But it shouldn’t mean that we lose them forever.

I don’t believe that our dreams have expiry dates – do you?

Stay healthy and safe!

Are you a Change Lover or a Change Loather?

We all have those fleeting thoughts of being in a new job, relationship, home, or country, etc. typically in response to life’s frustrations.  For most of us, those thoughts are really just dreams that don’t linger. Our frustrations get resolved and we carry on our lives fully able to weather these types of temporary aberrations.  

But what happens when those thoughts become more frequent, persistent, and occupy much of our day dreaming time.  When our fantasies become charged with what life could look like if only…. it is often an indication that something drastic may be needed or at the very least that we pay serious attention to why we are driven to dreaming about something new.

Exploring these types of thoughts when they become more then just an occasional burble and begin to roar is important.

This usually signals that we need to spend time in reflection about what we need to move on from or to what is calling us?  No one wants to be the person who only thinks about making a change and spends the latter part of our lives mired in regrets about those aspects of our lives we chose not to pursue.

However, resistance to change often begins to rear its head and if we don’t consciously and mindfully examine what we want and what we need, we may stay in a stuck position. Seeking answers through questions may prove helpful. Examples of places to start could be:

Reflect on a past positive change experience and ask yourself:

What was the best aspect of that life change event?

What types of supports did I seek out while making the change?

If you decided not to make a change or feel like you waited far too long to make one:

What was holding you back?

What types of statement were you making to yourself?

If you could have a complete redo and could go back and make the change happen, what steps would you take?

Recognizing that changes in our lives can be positive even when we don’t initiate them can help mitigate emotional upheaval when life changes seem overwhelming to us.  Reflecting on these types of questions may help us to understand and acknowledge whether or not we embrace life changes or fear them.  

What types of questions would help you understand if you are a change lover or a change loather?

Retirement, writing…and the beginner’s mind

Life changes of any kind often leave us in an emotional limbo where we may experience strong sensations of being off balance. Navigating this anxiety provoking tightrope can be challenging indeed.

The old saying, be careful what you wish for, has popped into my mind more than once over the past couple of months. Dreaming for years of having both the time and the freedom to become a writer seemed to be a beacon along the path of a busy life full of family and work obligations. Fantasizing about creating a writer’s den where creative thoughts and activities would abound when I retired was one of my favourite pastimes.

Now that time is here. The part of this new life that never occurred to me was the fact that I would be starting to learn a new set of skills and would have to cultivate a beginner’s mind to appreciate both the learning process as well as the inevitable stumbles along the way.

At a writing workshop I attended not long ago, the instructor spoke of how irritating it could be to hear people state that they intend to write a book in the future as though it would happen with ease. The instructor revealed that most people practically have no concept of how demanding and taxing the work of writing can be. Writing, both art and craft, requires all of the activities you find in learning any new skill. Practice, learning to fail, and developing micro skills one step at a time are all in play on your road to any type of writing success.

When you read a strong piece of writing, it often does little to reveal all of the sweat equity and investment that have to coalesce in order for the writer to arrive with a successful finished product. Learning to have patience, to practice with no end or deliverable required, spending more hours rewriting than actually putting words on the page, are all a part of the beginning writer’s reality.

So how do you cultivate what is often referred to as the beginner’s mind?

Reflecting on past new beginnings in our lives can be helpful. What were my emotional and psychological experiences when I entered high school, university, got married, started my career, had a family? Using a journaling approach to answer questions about these previous life transitions, taught me that I have forgotten how hard life changes can actually be. They are scary, feel threatening, place you on very steep learning curves, and require you to reach out for support at times.

They also mean that you have to become kind and compassionate with yourself as you are learning new skills and going through the trial and error process that is all part and parcel of the beginner’s state of mind. Most importantly, I think I am beginning to accept that it is okay to experience many different emotions as I navigate this new stage of life and struggle to develop new skills as a writer. And that this is okay.

How the concept of “Mattering” Matters

Approximately thirty years ago, Dr. Nancy Schlossberg, counselling psychologist at the University of Maryland, wrote a seminal paper outlining the impact of the concepts of “mattering” and “marginalization” on the lives of people during life transitions. Specifically her research looked at the impact of significant life change on students transitioning from high school to college or university and retirees who had left full time work. Dr. Schlossberg developed a theory of transition that suggested the importance of mattering to ourselves and others and illuminated the possible challenges that many of us may face during any life changing experience through marginalization.

Drawing on a concept that was originally developed by sociologist, Dr. Morris Rosenberg, “Mattering” could be described as being dependent on several aspects being in place:

1. Attention – Whether or not we feel that we matter to and are noticed by others;

2. Importance – A belief that one is cared about and that what we are doing is considered to be of some importance to others or ourselves;

3. Dependence – Feeling that we matter if we are needed by others;

4. Ego-Extension – The feeling that if we succeed or if we fail that others will notice and will support us;

5. Appreciation – That we are in fact, appreciated for what we do, whatever that may be.

The concept of “marginalization” results when some of these factors are not met and we may become marginalized when we transition from one stage of our lives to another. Schlossberg’s theory of transition and her research suggested that retirement could be a time when we feel like we continue to matter to others or ourselves or it could be a time when we begin to feel like we are resting on the margins of our lives. Any time we make or experience a significant change in our lives, we often feel somewhat off balance and need to devote time and energy to become grounded again.

Strategies that I have found helpful as I move through this time of transition have been to take advantage of having more time for friends, family, and making new acquaintances. I have been pleasantly surprised by a whole world of people who no longer work full time but take lifelong learning courses, exercise classes, and are available during the daytime. Continuing to work part time allows me to use skills that I have in new ways and with new people and allows me to continue to feel like what I do is important, meaningful, and matters.

Finally, learning what it means to experience being a beginner all over again as I learn new skills and pursue new interests. Being able to appreciate what others have done or are doing has enriched my experience as well. Perhaps most importantly, I have learned to be kind and patient with myself as I work to avoid feeling marginalized while I am building this new stage of my life. How about you? What strategies might you have used when experiencing life changes to continue to feel as if you “matter”??

The Tyranny of Transitions

There’s nothing harder in life than transitions. For most of us, being in-between is just plain uncomfortable

Sage Cohen

All major life changes have challenges for us. This past weekend, I was out walking and met a young man trying to coax a very tired and very old dog to keep moving. His dog was refusing to go any further so I stopped to talk with him. As we began chatting, I learned that this young man was experiencing what he called the tyranny of transition. He volunteered that he had just completed a university degree, his summer employment had ended, and that there were no immediate employment prospects on the horizon. He said that he now felt like he was adrift and we then shifted our conversation to talking about the emotional experience of life transitions.

One of the initial surprises I had in retirement was the sensation of being emotionally off balance. Although this is a typical response to many types of life change, it seemed particularly unsettling as it was unexpected and I thought I had done a sufficient amount of pre-planning prior to leaving full time work. By the time your career has reached a three decade milestone, you have achieved a degree of mastery over many tasks and skills so beginning anew in this next stage of life can create some cognitive dissonance.

To complicate matters, many people in your life may assume that this is a wonderful time for you so to express the emotional manifestation of loss and uncertainty seems somewhat taboo. After all, how do you share with someone who is taxed and stressed by the many demands of a full time work life, that you may be struggling as well. Needing to develop a sense of equilibrium along with the dawning recognition that you are starting all over again, can seem daunting.

Beginnings can be difficult in and of themselves, but there is also the emotional work of acknowledging the ending of this chapter in your life. Saying goodbye to wherever you retired from is not a one shot deal that culminates with a final celebration. There are a number of things that we must let go of which may include relationships with former colleagues; the identity and roles you may have held, and learning that the manner in which you may have viewed the world may shift. To move forward, there is a need to recognize and let go of what you are leaving behind.

Being able to acknowledge and have some type of plan for any transitional period can be helpful. I learned that creating a routine, structure for my days as well as writing about my experience was helpful to integrate this new and at times, unsettling way forward. Developing a network of supportive connections and learning as much as I could about the psychology of transitions became anchors that helped me feel grounded during this time. I am interested in learning what others have found helpful during any type of life change or transition. Please leave a comment below about what may have worked for you?