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The case for risk

We’re afraid of making our desires known. It’s scary to show pieces of ourselves to another, parts that make us vulnerable, the gentle spaces we perceive as fragile. It’s easier to hide behind accomplishment and labels and somebody else’s dreams.

what if I’m alone

what if I can’t make rent

what if it never happens

what if I’m found out

what if I fail

Fear morphs into competitive comparison as we scan the lives of colleagues and peers, anxiously wondering if we measure up. Our minds stop us from living, from allowing ourselves to just be.

Imagine if all that watching and playing it safe on the sidelines turned into focused energy.

Who do you want to be?

What do you want to do?

When I finally pushed doubt to the side, I became a writer. I became generous, forgiving, loving, and daring because I stopped caring about what didn’t matter in the first place and started paying attention to moments that made my heart swell.

I’m scared often.

I’ve had to get comfortable living with little in my bank account and not having a neatly packaged answer when people ask, “What’s next?”

But because of that, I’ve experienced beautiful mysteries I would have otherwise missed.

Life shouldn’t be neatly laid out.

Not the life I want to live.

Modified from this original post.

Dream chasers

Many years ago, a coach gave me an assignment that altered the course of my life. I’d like to share it with you, in hopes it might have a similar impact on the way you choose to live.

Write down a list of 50 – 100 things you’d like to do before you die.

My original list contained 88 items, a list of tasks ranging from intangibles to concrete — simple pleasures of learning how to tie a tie, to the (at the time) seemingly lofty goals of being in a movie, finishing a marathon, and being comfortable in my own skin.

I’ve revisited this list several times throughout the years. It’s acted as a guidepost for finding my passion and sorting out impulse from destiny. Sometimes it’s difficult to decide whether life choices are due to circumstance or something more intentional. One of my biggest fears is missing the boat, never finding true happiness and failing to follow my bliss. This list helps. It’s been an anchor.

Not to mention, it’s difficult to forge ahead if you don’t have a direction. I didn’t always know this and found tremendous challenge in commitment. But believe it or not, if you focus your efforts, you’re much more likely to get it done.

I’ve sat here and debated whether sharing this list is the right thing, but I have chosen to do so with the hope that it inspires at least one person to chase after their dreams. That’s worth a vulnerable moment.

Some items are outdated. Some I consider now and have no desire for it. Others aren’t even realistic. The point is to allow yourself to play, to dream, to explore. If you don’t “go there” in your mind, how could you any way else? Once it’s on paper, you can always return to it and assess if it’s probable or something you’d actually like to direct your energy towards.

First, create a block of time; carve it out on your calendar and set aside one hour to just write. Don’t pause to question. Just go. You might surprise yourself. I’d love to hear how it goes.

The point is, you’re never “too old” to start dreaming again.

What’s getting in the way of your dream chasing?

Note: this list was written in 2004. The “X” indicates completion. Italicized items are in process…

  1. Write/publish/sell a book
  2. Get published in a magazine X
  3. Display work in an art gallery X
  4. Do a triathlon X
  5. Backpack South America X
  6. Inspire/help a “troubled teen” X
  7. Be a counselor X
  8. Get my masters (possible Ph.D.?)
  9. Volunteer again in a different country X
  10. Learn how to cook well X
  11. Go back to New Zealand
  12. Get better at guitar
  13. Play basketball again X
  14. Play soccer again X
  15. Go to Canada X
  16. Go to Seattle X
  17. See Egypt
  18. See Tibet
  19. Fall in love again X
  20. Live in a house with a green garden, beautiful flowers X
  21. Learn to salsa dance X
  22. Be in a movie X
  23. Own a small shop (gift/crafty type? or coffee?) X
  24. Improve 1/2 marathon time
  25. Buy a piano
  26. Study in a Buddhist center (retreat? school? etc.) X
  27. Learn moderation and balance X
  28. Learn a language X
  29. Have a flower garden X
  30. Grown own veggies X
  31. Hike the Grand Canyon
  32. Paragliding X
  33. Windsurf
  34. Surf X
  35. Go to Maine/Boston during fall X
  36. Taj Mahal X
  37. See a penguin in the wild X
  38. Learn how to juggle
  39. Go sailing X
  40. Hot air balloon! X
  41. Swim with dolphins
  42. Scuba dive
  43. Have my own art room/studio
  44. Camp in Yellowstone X
  45. Be a bridesmaid for [name protected]’s wedding X
  46. Own a scooter/motorcycle/moped X
  47. Drive a convertible, windows down, music up
  48. Spain
  49. Scandinavia X
  50. Southern Italy
  51. Be a bartender X
  52. Visit Westminster Abbey
  53. Tour Switzerland on a bike
  54. Learn how to tie a tie X
  55. Live/work abroad X
  56. Cruise to Alaska
  57. Visit Cuba
  58. See Jonny Lang in concert X
  59. Own another husky or dog X
  60. Learn how to ski better X
  61. Become less stubborn, prideful, more patient X
  62. Get rid of “perfectionist” X
  63. Walk through Big Sequoias
  64. Make a candle and give it to someone X
  65. Encourage someone to “be better” X
  66. Take a friend to a Day at the Spa X
  67. Be comfortable in my skin X
  68. Work on set/backstage X
  69. Family – one day
  70. Learn to say “no” X
  71. Become friends with a Tai Chi instructor X
  72. Host a very successful party X
  73. Go on a date in NYC X
  74. Be a travel writer/photographer X
  75. Take care of myself (don’t let self go)
  76. Get faster, fitter, leaner, healthier
  77. Improve diet X
  78. Cliff dive X
  79. Go on a rafting/canoe trip X
  80. Live by the sea
  81. African safari X
  82. Run on the Great Wall
  83. Find my purpose, align with passions X
  84. Marathon X
  85. Participate in a drum circle X
  86. Visit a reservation X
  87. Milk a cow X