On Manifesting Your Dream Life
I'm writing this article at 9am on a Wednesday morning from a small pine cabin my wife and I built last summer. I'm wearing sweatpants and a warm flannel shirt and my dog is curled up next to the wood stove. Out the front window is a too-open view of the Rocky Mountains of southern Alberta. We'll drop some trees in this summer that should, over time, provide us with some privacy and protection from the chinook winds.
If you stuck with me through that, please understand the reason I have gone into such detail was not to brag (although if you rolled your eyes through part of that description, I get that. It could definitely come off like a brag) but to explain that it was not always this way. Less than two years ago, my wife and I were living in a modest townhouse in a city where I didn't work. This unfortunately meant a half hour commute in clear traffic that usually ended up pushing an hour. We had a spare bedroom that was never used but that we kept nicely furnished “just in case”. We drank just a little too often and would regularly grumble about “Sunday night brain”; that unsettled state of mind you get just before you go to bed on a Sunday while thinking about all the things you have to fit into the coming week.
Our lives were not miserable. Our jobs were not miserable. We were both respected, valued and paid well enough to afford necessities with a smattering of luxury when we felt we deserved it. It was all very good... but it wasn't our dream. Our dream was to build a tiny house and free ourselves from financial burdens that were unquestioningly shouldered for a staggeringly long period of time by our peers and – at the time – ourselves. We longed to be more intimately involved in our food production and processing and so the idea of farming and homesteading held great appeal.
There were just a few issues. For one, we knew absolutely nothing about building our own home. In fact at one point in our lives together, we actually moved out of a perfectly nice older house because the fence was falling down and there were some minor repairs to be done inside. That said, we believed that if it could be done by someone, it could probably be done by us. Which leads me to my first point:
Change the narrative in your own life. Sit down and watch a kids' movie. Literally any kids' movie: Kung Fu Panda, The Lego Movie, The Lion King, Shrek... Seriously, pick any of them! What's the overarching theme? You can do whatever the hell you want. Sky's the limit. Whatever you put your mind to. All that jazz. So why is it that at some point in our lives, that narrative goes from “I want to be a rock star!” to “Well, I can't be a rock star... maybe I can sell guitars.”? From “Some day I want to have a painting hanging in the Louvre” to “Wow, art does NOT pay well... maybe I can go see the Louvre if I save up my vacation days.”? Honestly, it's probably because someone you respected at some point in your life told you you couldn't and you believed them. We all did. Why do you think the world isn't filled with rock stars and painters?
The good news is that voice that thought it was unstoppable is still there. Maybe the direction's changed and your life experience has it pointing you towards something different than it was when you were a kid (in fact if it is, that's a GOOD thing.) but it still has an opinion and it's probably right. The first step in listening to it though, is bringing your personal narrative away from one filled with doubt and responsibility to the one you had as a kid. The one that will pick a direction, start moving, and figure out the details along the way.
On that note, it's very hard to decide every morning to walk your own way if there is an external voice in your life providing you with an unnecessary supply of doubt or negativity so it is important to:
Surround yourself with like-minded people. This one's not rocket surgery. Once you have found your heading, if anyone in your life is interrupting your forward momentum by telling you what you're doing can't or shouldn't be done, it is important to phase them out. At the very least, steer conversations with them to lower impact territory like sports, movies, or if it's absolutely necessary – the weather. Dreams are a fickle business and if negativity starts to creep in, it's a slippery slope back to the grind.
That isn't to say don't talk to people about what you're doing. Just be smart about it. Use services like meetup.com to search for other people interested in what you're after and get out there. There is no better motivation to get after it than by talking to people further along in the process. This can be an intimidating endeavour at first. You may worry about coming off inexperienced or naive but keep in mind that if it's something you're passionate about, that will show through in your conversation and others who are passionate about the same thing will respond in kind.
By now, hopefully this is making sense. Maybe even cracking the rust off some gears that haven't been turning in a while. So it's all well and good to say “follow your passion”, but what if you aren't sure what that is? There are some strategies that can help you to:
Pick a path. Believe it or not, most people have an inherent understanding of their own destiny. Given enough distraction-free time, everyone has a calling to be followed. A really great example of this is the idea of “vacation brain”; that unfocused, disinterested feeling you get when you return to work after a great couple of weeks off. Unwinding. Decompressing. Really taking it in. The fact is, this is mankind's natural state of mind, we've just packed our day-to-day with so many stresses and distractions that we no longer have access to it. We are the only animal that exists in a more or less constant state of stress, which makes our natural instincts – those being the ones that will guide us toward our dreams – hard to identify.
So what can be done? First and foremost is simplification and streamlining. If you can distill your existence and financial requirements down to only what is necessary to you (this is an important distinction which we'll get back to), then the pressure to find time and money to keep the ship afloat becomes much less, freeing up your mental and spiritual faculties to be focused on more fulfilling fare. That isn't to suggest living an ascetic lifestyle, just that it's important to take stock of what you actually do and do not use. Only been out on the quad twice in as many years? Sell it and cancel the insurance. You may not save a ton of money, but removing the guilt caused by the idea that “I should be doing this more. It cost money and I never get out there anymore.” is a step in the right direction. On the flipside, if you enjoy watching movies, or playing video games and you use it as a regular outlet for relaxation, then obviously don't get rid of your TV!
My last piece of advice (and then I promise I'm done here) is:
Don't be afraid to change direction. So what if you roll the dice, pick the dream and go for it and... it doesn't work? Nothing. Seriously nothing happens at all. You just found one of 10,000 ways to not do something. The nice thing is it also costs you nothing to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try something new. Don't be someone who is married to the plan. Recognize when it isn't working and do something else.
So that's about it. I wish you all nothing but the best and I truly hope you take that first (scariest) step outside the norm. I'm pulling for ya.