two and a half kids and a couple of shiny cars parked in the driveway of an over-mortgaged house while keeping up appearances for the neighbors? No, thank you. The concept of one unifying American Dream is as outmoded as a Betty Crocker recipe for tuna casserole. There’s some kitschy nostalgic worth but no nutritional value. Thank goodness we are no longer saddled with that limited programming and stifled perspective. After all, at our best Americans are iconoclasts, explorers, inventors and entrepreneurs. This country was created by people that looked at an existing system and decided we could do better. They didn’t just dream, they dreamed big and then put that plan into action. Questioning prevailing wisdom is one of the most American and patriotic things we can do.
To that point, do you know what your dream is? Not the one that others have handed you and said, “This is what success looks like.” Nah. The other one. The one that is uniquely yours, that speaks to your guts and makes your toes curl. It might even scare you a little bit, but that’s okay. The point is you picked it rather than accepting a storyline that may not even excite let alone fulfill you.
Our dreams are inherently personal but they’re interwoven with imagery borrowed from what we’ve seen, heard and been taught along the way. That archetypal soup is a fine starting point but please dig in deeper, stretch to places of investigation and innovation. Peel away the layers of what we think looks good to others and instead tune into what feels good in your bones.
This process doesn’t require spending thousands of dollars to go on a retreat or multi-country Eat Pray Love-style trip (though if that’s your jam, by all means go for it). The tools for discovery are simple. You don’t need to download them or even create a log in. Just open a notebook, pick up a pen and start writing. It’s that simple and that daunting. There’s no external expert telling you what to do, no guru or healer. It’s intimate and it’s important.
What comes into focus through the act of putting pen to paper is unique and scientifically proven to provide positive results that you can’t get by typing on any kind of device. Maybe the best benefit of all is that through the process of writing a bit each day what emerges is your authentic voice. Unfiltered, unfettered, just you.
By all means, check in periodically and revise. You may achieve a particular dream, love it for a while and then be ready to move on to the next. Some folks are so afraid of being trapped (or failing) that they don’t even try but you can adapt and reinvent along the way. Case in point, I wanted to experience being bi-coastal and for several years I bounced between Montauk, the East Village and Venice, CA. I was living my dream. Then one day while writing in my journal I realized that I was jet lagged more than I wasn’t and it didn’t feel good any more. I wanted to slow my roll and savor calling one spot home. So, I switched up my dream and picked California as my base. I gave some things up in the process but gained far more than I lost and I don’t regret any part of the experience. It worked until it didn’t and then I simply made adjustments.
I’m going to let you in on a secret: your whole life is a creative act. The choices you make each day on how to live, where to invest your time and energies, it’s all an ongoing act of creation. Like any work of art, it’s subjective. The point is that it should speak to you, reflect your tastes and desires. Some folks want the big house and lots of kiddos, others want big waves and the freedom to chase surfing them. Take the time to pick up a pen, tune into your authentic voice and see what emerges so you can name, picture and then live into your American dream.