Dream a Little Dream
Have you been thinking about about New Year’s resolutions? Some of us use this time of year to dust off our old ambitions and make another attempt at wishes unfulfilled. Others swear we NEVER make resolutions because they always fail. Modern psychology has added credibility to this school of thought by “proving” that 90+ percent of all resolutions fail within the first three weeks of the New Year. So, what is the answer? Do we jettison our hope of ever making changes in our lives in favor of cynicism and despair? –or do we try, try again?
We all have gaps in ourselves: that space between who we are now and who we would like to be. In that gap lives an adventure of self-discovery. If we ride the fresh energy of the New Year into a deeper understanding of ourselves, we can make the changes we may have longed for but never achieved. What if we took a different approach to this time of year? What if we let ourselves use that fresh energy to “dream a little dream”?
Here’s how it works:
1. Let yourself imagine what your life would be like if you had already made the change you seek? If you want to lose weight (a popular New Year’s choice), imagine yourself thinner. What does your life look like now that you have lost it all. Is it 10, 20, 50 or 100 pounds? Make a list of all the ways your life would be different if that weight was already gone. What knowledge have you gained? What changes are at work in your life? Do you have new friends? Who are they and what do they do? How do you feel about yourself, now? In your imagination you can do all of this, so “dream a little dream.”
2. Now that you have begun to picture yourself in this changed way, let your imagination extend a bit further. What external changes have you made to create the change in your life? Remember the change has already happened, so look back in your imagination to see how you got here. Don’t fret about all the details, yet. There’s plenty of time for any required planning later. This is the imagination phase of the exercise, so let your imagination show you pictures of your journey towards your goal.
3. Look at your two lists. Place a star beside any of the things on either list you are currently doing. Be honest with yourself—there’s no one looking over your shoulder here and you can’t get in trouble. How many of the things on your lists are currently active practices and routines in your life right now? If you are like most of my clients, you will find very few things on either list that you are actually in the habit of doing. Choose one thing from each list to begin practicing as a new routine. If your desire is to lose weight, you may imagine yourself feeling good about yourself again. Maybe you have been living under the crushing weight of self-hate all these years because your weight has gotten out of control. If your dream is to change jobs, then maybe you imagined waking up being happy and excited to go to work every day.
4. Here’s the tricky part—and by the way—this is the part where most people fail, not because they are weak or undisciplined or unable to change. You must begin to feel that new feeling without yet having achieved your goal. Talk yourself into it. Begin liking yourself right now. Find ways every few minutes to thank yourself and appreciate yourself for all the wonderful things you do. Pretend you are your best friend. How would you encourage her/him? Try using that voice with yourself. Imagine waking up and being happy and excited to go to work, even if the work isn’t your ideal. Use your own imagination to re-invigorate your present situation. It may sound backwards, but there is ample evidence to support this practice. It goes beyond that tired old adage “fake it ‘til you make it,” because you are not faking it. You are energetically projecting yourself into a new vision of yourself. If you have been drowning in a sea of self-hate, then swim to shore and get out! If you hate going to work every day, then wake up happy and excited to try this new practice. Change your mind about your goal, and you can change your life!
The Buddha once said, “What you are now is what you have been, and what you will become is what you do now.” Breathe deeply and bring all of your attention in this moment. The past is gone, the future isn’t here. In this moment you can choose to love yourself. You can choose to feel happiness. Breathe again. Take three deep breaths and give your brain that beautiful oxygen. This is the moment that is real for you. What will you do now? Begin with the dream of your imagination, and then live into that dream with each breath you take. You’ll never need to make another resolution again. You will be living every moment as this moment.
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