Do you have a dream? Most of us do. Here’s another question. Is this really your dream, or someone’s else’s for you? Does it excite you? Does it scare you? Or is it a dream you’ve held onto so long you forget why you had it to begin with?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to do something meaningful with my life (note: I still do). Countless dreams and scenarios have danced across my mind: Starting an orphanage in a developing country. Building homes for those less fortunate. Becoming a teacher in an impoverished area of the country or world.
I’ve been so focused on what I had believed I ‘should’ be doing that I nearly missed the point of it all. For being alive more than 23 years, I’ve had to deal with way less than average hardships. It’s not my fault; I didn’t rig the system, but I’ve felt guilty about it. At one point in my life I was actually ignorant enough to say “I want to be poor.” For years I’ve beaten myself up about being born into a comfortable life—not wealthy, but well off compared to many, many others. This was the main reason I decided to study abroad in Ghana, where I volunteered as a teacher, instead of going to London to pursue my writing career.
Living in Ghana absolutely changed me, and I’m glad I did it. But I’m not there anymore, nor do I have the chance right now to live a life similar to that one. I still want to help people. I make it a point to donate time and money, and examine my daily decisions and how they affect others. But what I’ve been doing all this time was forcing something that wasn’t meant to be—at least, not yet.
Instead of seeking out the best in my situations, I wished I was doing something more ‘meaningful.’ Instead spreading joy to those I came in contact with every day, like co-workers, family, friends, strangers — all of whom are living fairly comfortable lives on the outside — I ached to help those who ‘needed it more.’
We all need joy.
We all need help.
We all need each other.
The best way to give back to others is to first find peace, joy and contentment in your own life. Stop living your life in a box. Stop thinking about what you ‘should’ be doing, and instead, do what lights you up. Do what sparks that contagious excitement within. What we really need is more people who have come alive living out their passions.
Last night I stumbled onto a live-streaming goal setting seminar with Lululemon. I caught the last 20 minutes, and it was the last missing piece to my puzzle. The wonderful Jacki Carr talked about acknowledging and chasing down all those exciting, scary dreams that we may not have a plan of attack for yet.
It was just so wonderful, and I want to share some of what I learned with you. But before I do, just consider this. Chances are, if you’re reading this blog you have a strong conscience and lots of love for something other than yourself, whether it’s the environment, people, animals, etc. While your current or future career may well be in non-profit work involving those issues, do not limit yourself. Just because you feel passionately about something does not mean you have to make it your full-time job. There are always options to help others by volunteering time, money and just being a happy, caring person in general.
Keep an open mind. Look deep inside and figure out what you love. What makes you happy? What would you love to wake up and do every day? And with that, I challenge you to set some goals for yourself and envision your ideal life.
1. Create a ‘mind map.’ Section off three areas on a sheet of paper, one for health, personal and career. For each section, answer the following questions: What is ideal in this area of your life? What does this mean to me? What words come up when I think of each area?
Here’s an example of one of mine. Health: 1. Always improving and moving forward—stronger, more flexible, happier, more emotionally available to others. 2. Health means being at ease in life, having a balanced body, mind and soul. It means harmony, strength and feeling good. 3. Yoga, positivity, running, spirit, happiness, flexible, veggies, food, clean.
2. Create the first draft of your 10-year vision statement. This may be daunting at first. Begin by listing some general ‘things’ you want and do not want in your life. With these, begin to notice some similar or repetitive phrases or categories. Next, take your interests to the next level. Dig deep to find that one thing. Your greatest ambition. This is not permanent. You can change it anytime. It’s your life. Things happen. Things change. No pressure here.
3. Rewrite your vision statement. It doesn’t have to be identical to your first draft. Get creative. Get flexible. You can either write it out in paragraph form or create a chart with your 10, 5 and 1 year goals in the ‘personal,’ ‘health,’ and ‘career’ categories.
Keep in mind:
Your vision statement will adapt with you. Embrace that. Stay flexible. Post your vision and goals in places you’ll see them—on your fridge, on a bulletin board at work, etc. Share your goals with your friends and family. Begin focusing on your one-year goals. This is what you are working on now. Enjoy the present moment and don’t get too wrapped up in the future. It’s all about the journey.
If you want to learn more about Lululemon and their goal setting program, check out this entire, glorious section of their website dedicated to goal setting.
P.S. You know what my first thought was when I had the idea to write a post about goal setting? I shouldn’t. It doesn’t ‘go’ with my blog theme. The more I learn and love and explore, the less I worry about living in the lines. Life does not do in the lines. It’s messy and ever-changing. Let’s embrace that. It’s time—time to stop limiting ourselves. Free your mind. Free your plans. Look inside and find what makes you come alive, and do it. Ready? Go.