If you ask my daughter what she wants to be when she grows up, she invariable answers, “I’m going to be a ninja cop firefighter.”
Sometimes she adds to the core three and it becomes a ninja-cop-firefighter who is doctor, or a teacher, or a mommy. She’s a girl on a mission to be strong and do good, and I have no doubt that she will. She’s fearless, compassionate, stubborn as hell, and a bit of an adrenaline junkie…perfect qualities for a ninja-cop-firefighter.
Every time I hear her say this, my heart fills with pride. I have succeeded in teaching her the importance of helping others. I’ve created this wonderfully confident little human who wants to take on the world. I’m doing alright! It’s a great feeling, for sure, but that’s not what strikes me the most about her dream and my reaction to it.
What strikes me the most, is that I also find myself full of awe. At 5 years old, nothing seems to be outside the realm of possibility for her. She wants to do a bunch of different things, so she’ll create a position that calls for all of those skills. Why not?
This is something I have been pondering a lot lately. Why do we have this idea that we have to be one thing? From the time we enter high school we are pressured to think about what one thing we want to do, with the expectation that we will then spend four or more years in college studying that thing, and then go on to do it for the rest of our lives. That’s a lot of pressure, and it certainly doesn’t allow for a whole lot of personal growth or development. Instead, it paints you into a corner that becomes increasingly harder to get out of the longer you spend stuck there.
In an effort to make a change, many people find themselves changing careers, sometimes multiple times, as they try to find something that fits. Sometimes this is met with success, sometimes it’s not. Some people just find ways to separate their work selves from their “real” selves and go through the motions each day, accepting that they aren’t going to be fulfilled by their job and filling that space in other ways. A few of them find healthy ways to fill that void, many more do not. What seems to be constant for all of these people is that they all have a pretty strong vision of what their life would look like if circumstances were different. They all know what they would do if they won the lottery. They all dream of where they could be if they’d made different choices.
The problem is, they also have 50 billion reasons why that vision is unattainable.
However, most of those reasons are in no way valid. They are simply a product of thinking that just because you’ve never seen something done, it can never be. They are looking at minor obstacles to overcome as insurmountable challenges. They are also the result of a narrow view of what success in those areas looks like.
We have the capability to create the lives we want. We have the capacity for creative thought and the ability to solve problems in new, innovative ways. And yet, we choose to just follow the beaten path.
This is something I have always found perplexing, even though I have fallen into the same traps. We all know that where there is a will, there’s a way, but somehow we continually undermine our will. We convince ourselves that we’re fine where we are and try to find ways to make ourselves fine if we’re not. We’ll try anything…except going after what we really want.
It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? I mean think about it, every success story begins with somebody dreaming about doing something nobody thought was possible. They know what they want, and they go after it without letting the doubts of others sink in. They find creative solutions to overcome the obstacle thrown at them along the way.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I have no doubt that my daughter can become a ninja-cop-firefighter that’s sometimes a doctor, so it makes no sense to doubt my own dreams.
Aside from being an awesome mom who grows and preserves her own food and creates an amazing family atmosphere, I want to be a writer and a teacher who spends her free time creating works of art and making music. Put in my daughter’s framework, I want to be a writer-teacher-artist-farmer who’s also a mom.
When I think about it that way, it’s fairly simple. In fact, I’m already doing most of those things. I don’t have a farm yet, and I’m not making a solid living off of my creativity, but those things will come. I’m not a “teacher” by the common definition, but I’m constantly teaching my daughter things and I strive to teach and inspire through my work. I also have plans in place to take that further. I know the life I want to create, and from there I’ve set goals to bring it closer and closer to reality.
I want you to try something. Grab a sheet of paper and work through the following:
- What do you want to be? What is your “ninja-cop-firefighter” line-up? Break it down into the simplest of terms. Can you find a common thread that ties them together?
- Does it still seem as intimidating? Are you closer or further away from that reality than you thought?
- If something seems impossible, can you find a way to reframe it? For example, I want to make music but I know I’ll never be a rockstar. However, I can still play for fun at home, put a small bar band together, or jam with friends. I can write and record songs just for the fun of it. Is there another way you can be successful with the part of the equation that seems out of reach? Be creative!
- What skills, experience, credentials, or materials do you already have that can move you closer to your dream?
- What skills, experiences, etc do you need to acquire in order to move closer to your dreams? What steps can you take to get those skills or items?
- How are you going to get there? Start with the small steps. Take the answers from number 5 and create a set of goals. Rank them from easiest to most difficult, Then, take those difficult steps and break them down into smaller tasks. Now, you should have a list of things that you would need to do to achieve our goal in roughly the order they would need to be carried out.
- Look over your list and give yourself some realistic deadlines. How long would each step take? Write the amount of time next to each item. Now, imagine you could start tomorrow and take a look at your time line. When would you be finished? Whatever your answer is, 2 months, 1 year, 5 years, put that time frame into context. Think backwards: what have you done in that time span in the past?
- How can you cram these steps into your current life? Maybe you work on these steps during your lunch breaks. Maybe you give up some TV time. If you are determined enough, you’ll find places to make it fit.
Are you fired up yet?
If so, get after it! Work towards those goals!
If not, go back and reframe those goals. Break them down further or find new ways of coming at them until you hit on something that lights a fire.
Nothing is out of our reach unless we consciously put it there. Pull those dreams off the shelf and allow yourself to go after them. After all, we only have one life, and it’s much too short to spend being miserable.