(For a girl who grew up near wintery, snow-covered Toronto, and then moved to equally frosty Chicago for the last 15 years, this is kind of a big deal.)
I want to tell you all about moving to paradise — not because I want to brag about it (I have a significant fear of looking like Ms. Braggy Braggerson) — but because I want to inspire you to do the things you’ve kept filed away in your brain as “Downright Dreamy But Not Possible For Me.”
You have those ideas, don’t you? I know you do, because if you are human and you have blood running through your veins, you long for things that might just feel a little (or a lot) out of your realm of possibility. Ideas maybe like these (actual examples from clients I’ve worked with):
“I dream of becoming an interior designer one day.” (She did!)
“I dream of taking a sabbatical from work to travel all around Europe.” (She’s doing it now!)
“I dream of coming out of the closet to my team at work.” (He did!)
“I dream of asking my husband for a divorce and then moving to New Orleans.” (She did!)
“I dream of moving to a little mountain town where I can catch fish in the river and then gut and clean them outside my cabin.” (I can’t make this shit up!)
“I dream of retiring early and taking an 8-week cooking course in Italy to kick it off.” (He did!)
“I dream of quitting my job and taking five months off to visit friends around the country and sail and spend time figuring out what I Really Want Next.” (She’s doing it this summer!)
Dreaming in bite-size chunks
The husband and I have been talking about “getting a place somewhere warm” since 2018, ever since he came home from work that winter and resolutely announced he’d “reached his lifetime limit of cold.” He may or may not have been frostbitten.
We made the decision to “do something about it at some point,” which felt exciting. This was a dream that had a heartbeat! So we travelled to possible locations and researched climate patterns (well, The Husband did because he’s a giant nerd who compares monthly precipitation patterns between cities). We sold our place in Chicago and took out an 11-month apartment lease, which made it feel 350x more legit, because “now we’re really doing this!” we giddily said to one another. But then covid did its thing to the world and put a wrench in our relocation plans. I was getting a little antsy, and not just because we were locked up in a high-rise.
“Are we all talk and no action?” we’d ask ourselves as our dream felt like it too had caught a virus, sick in bed and down for the count.
Fortunately the embers of the dream were kept warm by adhering to a plan (I know, I know — plans sound mind-numbingly boring but most dreams don’t magically come true without a little organization). We jumped back on the “where should we move that isn’t too muggy?” train during our sabbatical in the fall, travelling to the places on our short list and imagining life in a town without Whole Foods right around the corner. The mission was back on! It felt good to be taking pre-action before the big-time action, all because we had gotten intentional with planning the trips, talking to real estate agents, and reading a bizarre amount about how to move a fractious cat 1,983 miles across the country. (The fractious cat answer: drugs.)
The bottom line? We took action, step by step by step. We kept the flame of the dream alive, even when covid tried to leave it in its wake.
How can you chunk your dreams into bits and pieces to make action easier to take? What’s your version of committing to an 11-month lease, with an expiry date that forces you to take action?
The perils of dreaming
If you have a big dream, it comes packaged with fear, like a two-for-one deal.
Most of us let the fear win the arm-wrestling match, which keeps us feeling safe and comfortable in the short run but small and stifled in the long run.
Of all the clients I alluded to in the bullet points above, not a single one embarked upon their big dreams with ease. For most of them it was a rather tortuous process that rightfully swallowed up a hefty amount of our coaching sessions, working through the worst-case scenarios and best-case scenarios and all the other scenarios the gremlins in their minds invented to stop the wheels of dreaming from moving forward.
My fear about getting a second place showed up with anxiety about money. I love money and yet I don’t love managing it, so in the self-induced absence of information about exactly how much we have and don’t have, I naturally assume we’re going broke. The Husband worked fastidiously hard on his financial-model-spreadsheets to prove that we could afford more than a shoebox to live in. I am glad I chose to believe him or I’d have let fear win, and we’d still be wondering what it would be like to have Really Done It.
I just re-read that paragraph and realize I sound like a douchebag. Worrying about not having enough money and then — yay! — having enough money… that’s one heck of a pretentiously fabulous problem to grapple with. This isn’t about being rich or poor, though; this is about having the courage to overcome the fears about things that prevent us from doing the thing we really want to do.
The client I was telling you about who dreamed of moving to the mountains to clean fish innards out on his porch? He did it on a shoestring budget. He was afraid of losing friends and losing work opportunities, but he knew he was going to gain peace of mind and the connection to nature he knew he needed. The client who dreamed of divorce and New Orleans was almost stopped in her tracks with the logistics, let alone the emotional turmoil, but realized the cost of inaction was greater than any DMV admin nonsense. The client who dreamed of taking several months off work to traipse through Europe? She was afraid of job security and personal security while travelling, but she was more afraid of not doing it and regretting it down the road.
You and your inevitable deathbed
Imagine yourself at the end, looking back on the oodles of years you were lucky enough to have eked out of this life. Is there a dream you’d feel heartbroken not to have gone for?
We both know that’s a stupid question, because most of us would be mildly disappointed but not heartbroken to have “not gone for the big dreams,” right? And therein lies the problem. We let dreams die because we’re conditioned to think they’re dreamy and have no real right to come to life anyways. We think it’s a big bonus if we DO make a big dream come true, because who are we to pick up and move to Paris to live, just because we said we wanted to?(OMG — please watch Revolutionary Road if you haven’t yet, for a tale about how Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet plan to move to Paris. It’s enormously melancholic, but worth a watch.)
Here are better questions: is there a dream you’ve been harboring that you’d feel astonishingly alive for breathing life into? Is there a big dream you hold for yourself that you’d feel proud to make come true?
The Husband and I wanted to see what life was like with a place in Palm Springs. We knew our lives would feel incomplete without going on this adventure. (Right now we are 10 days in and the only regrets we can fathom are for not doing it sooner… even without Whole Foods nearby.)
Guys. The Gift of The Plague keeps on giving — because we all know that covid rearranged our priorities and blew up most of the notions of how we live and work. Many of us have been given the green (or even yellow) light to work remotely… many of us have felt bolstered to join The Great Resignation bandwagon and start that new career… many of our priorities have shifted and we’re readier than ever to leave that dead-end relationship, apply for that cool degree program, become the best possible version of ourselves.
You don’t know how many Mondays you have left. If you want to move to Paris, move to Paris (and please have a croissant for me). Go breathe life into a dream you’ve been dreaming about. Make it less of a dream and more of the life you’re actually living. If little old me can pick up and move to California (oh! the taxes! but the palm trees make up for them!), you can absolutely make your dreams come true. What is your dream?
Oh and just in case you missed it… please take 16 minutes out of your life to watch my TEDx talk!