If one advances confidently in the direction of his (her) dreams,
and endeavors to live the life which he (she) has imagined,
he (she) will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
-- HENRY DAVID THOREAU
We all have a dream of how we would like our life to unfold and to a greater or lesser extent some ambitions about what we would like to achieve, but all too often we end up disappointed once we achieve them. Why is this?
Our dreams need to reflect who we truly are, and not stem from past conditioning and what our parents wanted for us, or what our teachers or peers influenced us to pursue. We may also find that if our dreams and ambitions mean that we sacrifice some part of ourselves in the achieving, then we end up frustrated.
However, if we procrastinate, never fulfilling any kind of dream, putting the pursuit of it off to some later date because we don’t have time or we doubt our capacity, we may end up regretting that we left it too late and never even tried. Germany’s most famous poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, urges us to get on with realizing our dream:
Are you in earnest? Then seize this very minute.
What you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
Only engage and then the mind grows heated;
begin and then the work will be completed.
For our dreams to be meaningful and lead us to that place where we experience joy, they have to come from the essence of who we are, so that naturally working to achieve them becomes our passion. Only then do we feel complete and fulfilled.
How To Discover What We Truly Want
How do we discover what we truly want? We know in our hearts, not with our heads. As we develop awareness and gain self-knowledge, greater clarity comes and we have an authentic sense of what our ambition is. We feel a sense of destiny, and know that it is we alone who are responsible for making the best choices for ourselves. Courage to take risks and to use our imagination, our intuition, and our creativity begin to take hold.
As we define our goals and plan how to achieve them, we’re inspired and motivated, energized by the Source of life within us—that same force that the poet Dylan Thomas described as, “the force that through the green fuse drives the flower.” Believing in our dream, we focus on it and ardently work at it day after day. Discipline is vital, but so is flexibility, for there are bound to be unexpected delays and developments along the way.
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Undeterred, we stay true to our vision, and we cultivate the feeling of excitement of our dream being realized. All the eighty trillion cells of our bodies cooperate with us, and energy flows through us so that our world expands and the possibilities seem infinite.
1. Knowing what we want/knowing who we are
We don’t always know what we really want. We may think a successful career, wealth, marriage, and children are what we desire, or we may toy with the idea of doing something in the creative field, or perhaps dedicating our life to caring for others. Have we perhaps been influenced or even coerced by our parents or teachers into doing something that is not deep down what we want for ourselves?
We are often clearer about what we don’t want. I was pretty certain that I did not want a life like my mother’s, with the narrow confines of her world. But other than getting myself an education and seeing the world, I had no real idea how I wanted my life to unfold until my early thirties when I discovered my own passion. I had earlier fallen in love with India and its history, art. and music, but also with its philosophies, developing an interest in yoga, meditation, and personal development.
I needed to earn a living, but how could I combine this with following my deepest love? Working in publishing, I imagined publishing books on the kind of subjects I was interested in. Before long I had the most amazing opportunity to found my own imprint for a major publishing house.
As I leapt to take up the opportunity, the momentum built. All kinds of doors began to open for me. My mission statement was that I would be publishing “books that contribute toward our understanding of ourselves and our place in the universe.” I had a dream, I had a clear vision that came from the deepest part of myself, the Universe responded, and it felt like my destiny. As a consequence I was able to put all my passion and energy into making it a reality.
Knowing what we truly want out of life perhaps comes after several false starts, when we have a glimpse of the joy that results from doing what our heart tells us, not what the rational part of our mind tells us we ought to do. When we have a clear sense of our authentic selves and have a dream to pursue that comes from our hearts, then the life force flows through us unimpeded, we feel energized, and our life is imbued with meaning.
I trust that my heart knows what I truly want.
I allow myself to dream.
2. Realizing our passion
Discovering and then realizing our passion is what fulfills us and makes us feel alive. Some people are fortunate in that they have a desire early on in their lives to do something that burns so brightly for them that they can do nothing but follow where their heart takes them.
Many of us find our real passion later in life, but there’s much we can do before then that helps us discover it and then realize it. Above all, we need to be curious about life and open to its rich variety of possibilities. As we balance our careers, our family life, and relationships, we still need to have some space and time for what are our interests alone. It’s amazing how one thing can lead to another if we keep our minds open and follow up on our intuitive hunches and chance encounters. Before long, we find something to be passionate about.
If our passion turns out to be about more than achieving something just for ourselves, some higher purpose that benefits others, we will find out how the Universe helps us. The philosopher and mystic Ralph Waldo Trine, in his inspirational classic, In Tune with the Infinite, wrote, “A thousand unseen hands reach down to help you to their peace-crowned heights, and all the forces of the firmament shall fortify your strength.”
Certainly I know from my own experience that I could never have accomplished achieving my dream had I not received incredible help from all sorts of people, and had not some wonderful opportunities simply just fallen into my lap. I was able to publish hundreds of wonderful books on health and wellbeing, personal development, and spirituality that have had an impact for the better on many women’s lives, and I am convinced that this was because my intentions were not for myself alone.
Patanjali, the Indian philosopher from around the second century BC, wrote in his Yoga Sutras:
When you work only for yourself, or for your own personal gain, your mind will seldom rise above the limitations of an undeveloped personal life. But when you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break your bonds: your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.
I am open to life and all its possibilities.
I am discovering my skills and talents.
I trust that help is available for me.
3. Using imagination to create our vision
Creating a vision of how we want our lives to be is like using a map when we’re traveling. We can actively use our imagination to bring more joy into our lives. As the Sufi master Pir Vilayat Khan wrote: “The future is not there waiting for us. We create it by the power of imagination.”
There’s a well-known story about three men working in a quarry cutting blocks of stone. A passerby asks the first man what he is doing. He replies, “I’m cutting stone.” The second man answers the same question with, “I’m earning a living.” The third man has a different answer to the same question, “I’m building a cathedral.” This man is motivated by a vision that goes way beyond his own personal needs. He is building something of enormous importance and great beauty for his community now and for future generations.
Visualization is widely employed nowadays in many walks of life, from athletes imagining their success on the track, to sales people seeing themselves closing a deal. We can all visualize what we want to create in our lives when we have a vision of what we want to accomplish and stick with it. There are many instances of ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things.
Eileen Caddy, the spiritual teacher, had a vision about starting a community at Findhorn in Scotland. From a caravan park on the shores of the Moray Firth, she and her husband Peter grew some exceptionally large vegetables in soil where no one thought it was possible to grow anything. People began to visit, and over time a community evolved. The Findhorn Foundation now runs an educational program and attracts thousands of visitors each year. It has also become a model for many other spiritual communities.
Martin Luther King had a dream too, which became a shared vision, and that brought about social change in America and was an inspiration for countless people all over the world. Nelson Mandela also had a dream, which he never lost sight of in spite of his long imprisonment. Ultimately, he was able to end apartheid in South Africa and become the first black president of the country. His story of struggle, resilience, and ultimate triumph remains an inspiration to us all.
I use my imagination to create the future I want.
I believe that it is possible for me to accomplish extraordinary things.
©2016 by Eileen Campbell. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of Conari Press,
an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
About the Author
Eileen Campbell is a writer of inspirational books, including a successful series of anthologies described by the media as "treasures of timeless wisdom," which sold collectively around 250,000 copies. She has studied with a variety of teachers from different traditions and brings a wealth of knowledge and life experience to her books. She is known for her pioneering and visionary career as a self-help and spirituality publishers, and has also written and presented for BBC Radio 2 and 4. She currently devotes her energies to yoga, writing, and gardening. Visit her at www.eileencampbellbooks.com.