Do you remember when you were younger and had big dreams about what you wanted to do with your life?
As a child maybe you had exciting plans for the job you would have, where you’d travel to, who you’d meet – and all the amazing adventures you’d have.
If you’re like me, those things will have felt exhilarating. Maybe you’ve achieved some of those things. Maybe you haven’t. It’s not unusual for some of your dreams to have got ‘lost’ along the way in the relentless routine of work and day-to-day life. But how do you rediscover what you love?
Sometimes our daily routine can feel like our own personal Groundhog Day.
What’s more, work can creep into our evenings and weekends, especially if we run our own business. It means the boundaries that separate work from our personal lives can start to blur.
I remember one day many years ago sitting at my desk and realising – with dismay – that I’d actually forgotten many of the things I used to love doing. I couldn’t remember what I used to enjoy for fun before I got so ‘busy’ and before life ‘happened’.
I also remember a business coach telling me at the time that I might not have such difficulty separating work from life if I actually had a life to leave work for!
That was a wake-up call, to put it mildly.
Sometimes we see our dreams fading before our very eyes, and it can be a terrifying thing to wonder if that’s just how it’s going to be from now on.
After that moment of realisation, I decided to do an ‘audit’ of all the plans and dreams I used to have – and still had – for my life. I wanted to rebuild a picture of the things I love, so that the choices and decisions I made from that point on would allow at least some of them back into my life.
So, in my mind, I took myself back to my what-do-I-want-to-do-when-I-grow-up years. I also went back to my school days. And I went back to my 20s.
It can take a while, but the process to rediscover what you love is powerful.
I got a piece of paper and, over a number of days, I wrote down everything I could think of that I used to love and that used to excite me about life. I remembered I wanted to travel everywhere, speak obscure languages, be an international journalist, write lots of books – and also be a super-cyclist with super-human cycling powers to get me right across the world. I wanted to be a musical theatre star, and I wanted to run an animal sanctuary.
I used to imagine myself living in different countries, exploring more of the world off the beaten track, taking on tough physical challenges and meeting intriguing people. I also had dreams of living in a big rustic house in the mountains somewhere hot – but not too far from a deep blue ocean where I could snorkel and dive for hours every day.
I also looked at the things I used to do but no longer did: I used to love making things with my hands, I used to do pottery, I used to play badminton every week, I used to see friends more often – and we used to go away for fun weekends in different cities.
It was a shock to realise just how much I’d forgotten.
When you rediscover what you love, it can also bring into sharp focus the number of years that have flown by.
Regrets are some of the worst things to own, and I didn’t want any more time to go by without doing something about it.
Do you ever have moments where you see something on TV or online – or you hear someone talking about something – and you suddenly remember how much you used to love that ‘something’ too? It can be like a voice trying to reconnect with your heart. It can trigger the longing to explore that thing again. The process I went through was a bit like that – and it also made me more conscious of additional things to add to the piece of paper.
When I look back, there were three main things that had previously stopped me achieving these goals and dreams. I think they’re probably true for most of us:
a) forgetting our dreams in the whirlwind of life
b) the treadmill of work
c) the compromises we make and the left-turns and difficult times that life throws at us.
So here are 5 questions for you – to help you start to rediscover what you love:
1. What dreams did you used to have that you may have forgotten? Think back to when you were growing up, at school, at college/university, when you first started work…
2. What do you really love to do that you hardly ever do now?
3. What’s disappeared from the picture of your life that used to be in the frame? And what do you miss most about that picture?
4. What would you be doing if you weren’t doing what you’re currently doing?
5. How would that make you feel?
Once I’d been through this kind of thought process, I set myself the intention of ‘making it happen’ – at least the things I still wanted to do. We change over time, and some things just might not appeal any more.
Now I speak four languages and I’m learning a fifth. (They’re not exactly obscure ones, as I had planned, but never mind!) I’ve travelled a lot and met the most incredible people. I’ve written books, I do the occasional acrylic painting, I’ve taken on a few tough and wonderful physical challenges, I’ve spent some time in deep blue oceans, and I was the singer in a band for a while. The super-cycling and and additional tough physical challenges are still in my sights, and there’s still time. And maybe I don’t actually need super-human cycling powers; ordinary human ones will do.
It’s very easy for our previous vision of the future to get lost in the current routine we’re living, and for it to get trampled on when ‘life happens’. So maybe we each need a new vision of our future, based on at least some of the things we longed for in the past.
It will give us that ‘nudge’ in our heart – that hint of joy and magic – and then we’ll be more inclined to take steps towards it. In this wonderful 7-minute TED talk, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about “finding our way back home” – rediscovering what we originally loved by looking at our early lives.
So dream it, write it down, feel it, craft it – and rediscover what you love.
If you feel inspired to rediscover some of the things you love – or you already have – let us know in the comments.
Photo: Deep blue ocean: whalesharks in Western Australia