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Where Did Our Dreams Go?

Creative Commons LicensePhoto credit: mollypop

Originally published on May 11th, 2010.

Happiness is an attitude. We either make ourselves miserable, or happy and strong. The amount of work is the same.

— Francesca Reigler

When do we get old? I think we get old when we think that there’s no more possibility of success, that one day’s struggle leads nowhere but to tomorrow’s struggle. And life can do that to you. We all hit rough patches that wear us out. And sometimes we get so worn out that we forget to see the beauty and possibility around us.

Last week I met a young woman with so much energy and hope and promise and possibility that she floored me. Her name is June and she is a:

  • Day trader
  • Disney character (one of the chipmunks – no, I didn’t ask which one)
  • College student
  • Ebay vendor
  • iPhone application programmer
  • Wife

Her goal is to get a college degree and be debt free. She has cobbled together all these ways to earn money to make that dream come true. She is truly inspiring because she has so much belief in herself and her future.

A Talent for Adapting

Now, I’d like to say that the reason that she is so successful is that she is talented and there is no doubt that she is a very talented person. But, more than that, she sees possibility everywhere. AND she believes that she can pick and choose from the possibilities that she sees to build a life… to write her own story her own way.

This is so different from the vision that most of us had for our lives. In my last post, I wrote about the stories that we tell ourselves. I don’t know what story you grew up with but the story that I was told was that I should strive to be safe and secure. I was raised to be the exact opposite of the young woman I met last week. I was raised to believe that there was only one path to happiness – a job in a good company, not multiple streams of income.

Rewriting the Story

Have you hit some rough times? Have you rewritten your story so that instead of hope your story now reflects hopelessness? Does it look like it’s all downhill from here? Maybe, it’s time to examine your current story and see if, over time, your possibilities-story has faded from view. String enough tough times together and you lose confidence. You begin to believe that you just can’t make it. It’s easy to take temporary tough times as a judgment of your capabilities. It’s easy to go from confident to unsure; from eager-to- learn to afraid of new things.

When I first left Corporate America I had lots of time on my hands. There were lots of us who left at the same time. We’d get together for coffee or lunch. The problem was that most of us had no vision of the future, just complaints about the past. We could tell you all the reasons that our former employer shouldn’t change. Why it would fail without us.

After a while, I decided that if I was going to create a second career I needed friends who were focused on the future. I was glad to have a new opportunity – even if I wasn’t sure what it would be. So, I took a class on networking and I set out to meet new people.

I didn’t really have a plan, or to be brutally honest, my first plan had been blown apart. I had planned to open a bookstore – one where I could specialize in helping people to improve their lives, and serve coffee and offer free classes. Unfortunately, I knew nothing about retail and as a friend of mine pointed out, I really didn’t want to spend 12 hour days in a small store in an industry under attack by big box stores.

So, I used the Braille method. I felt my way into a new career. I joined the National Association of Women Business Owners and became a member of the local board. I met lots of new people and I learned that there was value in being able to speak in front of large groups. (A skill I knew how to do quite well, if I do say so myself.)

Then I joined the American Society for Training and Development. I tried a lot of things. Along the way, I met Ellie. We built a business that designed and delivered “soft skills” training (sales, customer service, presentation skills, coaching). We kept getting closer and closer to our ultimate vision – helping people to thrive thru good times and bad.

When I left Corporate America there was no internet. There were no blogs. Ellie and I couldn’t have foreseen where we are today.

Building a New Vision

None of us can see where we’ll be in a year, or 5 years or longer. Whether we like it or not, the world continues to change. No doubt there are things that are confusing or uncomfortable about the world as it is now, but there is no faster way to get old than to decide that you want to go back to “the good ol’ days.” You can’t go back. But, what you can do is find the goodness in today. Take a class. Make a new friend or two… or more. There are some things you will never like. Other things will open your eyes to possibilities that you never imagined.

You can choose to be “with it.” You can choose to bring energy and hope to whatever you’re engaged in. You can choose to step forward into the future. Your story is changing with the world. You decide if it’s a change for the worse or for the better. You can choose, like June, to write your own story your own way:

Choose possibility.

Choose hope.

Choose appreciation.

And you’ll never want to go back to “the good ol’ days.”

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