The Two Things We All Need
Ok, I know this sounds cheesy, but how many times have you imagined living the life of your dreams?
For some of us, that question equates to: “How many times have you retreated in your mind and envisioned an alternate reality?”
For others, it may simply mean: “How many times have you thought of what simple tweaks here and there you could work on to truly live to your fullest potential?”
So, you're either a Tweaker, or an Alternate Reality-er (oh, please pretend that's a word).
Or, you're somewhere in between...but that's a tangent.
Err, Carrying on:
Think, for just a moment, about all facets of your life.
Seriously, humor me. What would your average day look like from the moment you woke up until the moment you slept if you were actually to live your dream life [parenthetical thought: I double-dog-dare you to share the answer to this in the "comments," below, tiger. You brave enough?/end parenthetical thought]?
How different would it be from what you are experiencing now?
Does it hurt to think about?
Now, think about what it would take for you to get there, and I mean like really think about it. How much of what stands in the way between you and your dream life is externally controlled (meaning, things outside of your doing) and how much of that is intrinsically controlled (meaning, things that you have the power to change)?
Maybe these seem like overwhelmingly broad questions, so if you aren’t Cadet Super-Mapper like me and have trouble with planning something so ambiguous, just think about what your first step may involve in making your life better. Would you wake up or hit the sack at a different time? Would you substitute your morning coffee for some infused water and a quick dog-jog instead? Or would you dig deeper—inside—as a first step, and clean out the cobwebs and search for a healthy outlook from within?
What about if you were to try to implement changes—however small or large—and you failed?
What is the worst that could happen?
For me, the answer to this is simple.
Fun Fact Time? I am a chronic failure when it comes to life goals. If you only knew how often I have fallen and how hard I tend to hit the ground when I do fall [insert tall joke here], you would probably wonder what sorts of crazy makes me pick up and try again each time.
The answer is simple. It's not funny, but we don't always have to laugh, do we?
You see, every time I fall, I see both the ground and the sky from a new perspective.
Just today, in fact, I was curled up in my pajamas in the afternoon on a Sunday, wiping away tears and post-nasal drip (classy, I know) from a difficult day of fasting, heavy caffeine withdrawal symptoms, and self-loathing because I damaged the drywall during my extreme bathroom DIY (LINK COMING SOON). These three small setbacks, coupled with other chronic stress and worries, led me into a huge downward mental spiral that left me wondering what it would really take for me to exist in the ideal way in which I imagine myself capable of.
And then I had it: Two words.
Just two words.
I believe that there are two simple things that we overlook sometimes, but our abilities to pursue the lives that we dream of are actually contingent upon our first harvesting these two tools.
The first? Courage.
And the second? Love.
Sound too abstract for your inner analytical skeptic? Let me explain.
It takes more than just resilience to actually begin making progress towards our goals. Smarty-pants researchers have already shown that envisioning how great we will feel after having completed something is not as powerful a motivating factor as actually enjoying the process of working towards that goal. So, logically, then for those of us who have repeated failures in any aspect of our lives (relationships, careers, education, or all the above?), it makes sense that no matter how resilient we are by nature, at some point multiple setbacks will lead us to feeling negative about the process in which we strive towards our goals. This damages a very powerful motivational tool that God gave us that we should be able to harness in order to achieve the lives that we love.
So, what gives?
Simple. We need to be capable of re-wiring our core beliefs about the process of working towards our goals in order to actually enjoy failure. Ok, stop for one second.
That sounded super generic.
I'm sorry. But I meant every word of it.
Yes, we have to learn to enjoy being stagnant, setback, failed human beings. We have to learn to appreciate and appreciate strife. As Shaikh Abdullah once quoted from classical Islamic scholarship, “I envision the hardships and then imagine that they are very easy to handle. And then I proceed accordingly.”
Learn to enjoy the struggle. And, Dear God, it’s a struggle.
But in order to do this, it takes an immense amount of courage that I personally don’t know if I actually have. Do you?
#Sings "I'm talkin' 'bout love!" Anyone remember the ghost of Ashley Simpson? Yeah, this isn't about her.
It's about you, darling.
See, even if you had all the courage in the world, I just don’t believe it’s enough for you to reach your goals and truly live the existence that you (and we all) deserve. I think that the kind of emotional support that comes when you are beloved to other humans close to you is absolutely vital to help you continue to pick up the pieces after falling apart—courage can never cut it alone. Courage can’t treat emotional wounds; courage can’t heal those painful scars. But love can.
Love is truly inspirational. Although I may be a bit of a hater when it comes to relationship success, I will never underestimate the importance of having the right partner in your life. God created us in pairs; and there is a plethora of studies to support the notion that we achieve infinitely more with a healthy relationship.
For those of us who haven’t been blessed with this kind of love, I think it can definitely be replaced with a different form of self-love. This, however, is even more difficult to harvest than courage. Some of us have been raised in secure, emotionally comfortable environments where we intrinsically understand our own worth….but many of us, unfortunately, have not. And for this reason, I think that finding an aquifer of love from which we can emotionally drink may be the biggest obstacle we ever face in achieving the lives that we dream of.
I know. And I wish I had a fun, quick, and easy solution--but I don't.
For me, the only way that I can even hope to tap into this form of self-love is by first connecting with my own love for my Creator. If you love our Glorious Creator; if you are appreciative of Him, then surely, you wouldn’t hesitate to revel in the magnificence of his decisions and his creations. And He decided to give you you. Isn’t this reason enough to cherish yourself and become your biggest source of support?
If we could have the courage to enjoy a hopelessly ungraceful struggle in the mud, a stagnancy that, at times, doesn’t seem to disappear despite kicking our efforts into over drive, a series of setbacks and reminders surrounding us that we have failed; if we could couple that courage with some form of endless love—the kind that gives us unwavering support, comfort, security, safety, and inspiration—then truly we have the tools that we need to begin living our dream lives. Until we have succeeded at harvesting and harnessing these two precious resources, however, I am afraid we may be putting the cart before the horse in the process of trying to achieve our life goals through any other means.
So file away your worksheets, your bucket lists of dreams, and your own inner critic, and find yourself the courage and love it takes to truly inspire you into leading the life of your fullest potential.
And remember that I'm here for you if you need me.