This weekend I set out, with 3 team members, to achieve a massive life challenge – walking 60 miles in a day, up and down massive hills. Months of commitment and investment – physical and emotional – went into the challenge. I didn’t make it to the end. Some would say I failed. But I’m glad. Really happy about it.
Find out why not making it to your dream can be better than achieving it.
But before I start – an amazingly big, proud congratulations to everyone who completed the Oxfam Trailwalker 2010 this weekend. And equally amazing congratulations to everyone who got their boots on, but didn’t make it past the finish line. You’re all amazing. Huge respect! 🙂
Most of us never get round to getting off their backsides, to work towards our dreams. No offence, but for most of us, life gets “in the way”. So when we tell others we’re going to “do something”, it’s like sticking our neck out and taking a risk.
The problem is that we judge each other more for failing than for not trying in the first place.
When we feel called to set ourselves a major life challenge – whatever form that may take – it’s easy to become obsessed with achieving this incredible feat.
The problem is that our constant focus on the goal means we often miss out on the journey.
For the last 6 months, we have been training, planning, re-planning, trying not to panic and generally getting stressed about our epic “walk-60-miles-in-a-day” challenge. Without intending it, our weekends were eaten up by practice walks, our evenings were taken up by discussing strategy and planning for contingencies and we don’t remember the last time we just had fun, without feeling guilty about not training… Life was passing us by.
It’s so easy to become obsessed.
It means that if we miss our goal by even the tiniest of margins, we feel like a total failure. We lose our sense of perspective. What we achieve might be incredible and life-changing, but because we didn’t do all we set out to do, we think we failed. We judge ourselves. We beat ourselves up. We assume others will judge us. That’s a pretty icky place to hang out.
Because we think we failed, we can’t see that what we achieved was still amazing.
We give ourselves a hard time and add the experience to our “I’m rubbish” justification file!
But that’s not what life is about.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have goals and dreams. Just the opposite! Goals and dreams can drive our motivation and act as a sign-post, to guide us on life’s path. Without dreams, we would most likely stagnate and never achieve our full potential. Having a clear goal and putting all your efforts towards achieving it can be an amazing experience, especially if that goal is a real stretch.
The problem is when the goal or dream takes over – or when you feel obliged to continue persuing the goal, even if it no longer fits with who you are. Then we’re at risk of getting attached to the end result being exactly as we have imagined.
Anything else then feels like disappointment and failure. That’s where the pain lies.
Only my condemnation injures me. Only my own forgiveness sets me free.
A Course In Miracles
When I dropped out of our group challenge after “only” 50km (30 miles) with a knee injury, I felt devastated. I felt I was letting the team down. I felt like a failure. I felt like I had achieved nothing. The fact I had repeatedly pushed myself through pain and exhaustion barriers towards the end of the previous 50km counted for nothing.
I had failed.
Waving them off to continue their challenge is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I felt like months of preparation and training had been wasted.
But deep down I knew that continuing would only make the knee injury worse, potentially repeating the cycle that led to me needing knee surgery, 10 years ago. Back then I injured my knee, but kept going on a mixture of pure determination and pain killers. I wasn’t going to repeat that experience.
Plus, given the challenge’s time constraints, we had all agreed that anyone seriously slowing the team down would withdraw, to allow the rest of the team to finish within the time limit. So that’s what I did.
But I still felt terrible.
Reaching For Your Dreams
Try not so hard;
Instead, allow life to flow through you,
As you let go and trust.
If it hurts, you’re out of flow;
Resisting, forcing your will.
The journey is not without detour,
But the flow is beauty.
When we are 100% focused on a certain outcome, we are also at risk of blinkered repetition of past mistakes or staying stuck in old behaviours.
Heading down a chosen path is often about giving ourselves the chance to learn and grow, integrating life lessons, rather than about reaching the intended destination.
The joy of life is in celebrating the beauty of every moment; not waiting to celebrate until we have done something “worth it”.
And every breath can become a cause for celebration, if we are using our life for the greater good of all Beings, making the most of our gifts and living life to the full.
For some, that will mean pushing themselves beyond their limits. For others it will mean knowing when to stop.
Only you can ever know which is the right choice for you.
You are a wonderful person, with your own set of unique gifts with which to serve the world.
You are capable of achieving your dreams and making a difference to the lives you touch.
But by focussing entirely on that dream, we’re at risk of the magical moments of everyday life passing us by.
It is only by celebrating every step of our journey – including difficult choices – even when life takes us on a detour – that we are really alive in each moment. That is the true path to happiness.
Sometimes we create expectations around our goal that mean we end up forcing ourselves towards it, missing the signs for a path that might have been more fulfilling.
Sometimes, as time passes, our goal or dream no longer fits with who we have become. But our dogged attachment to the outcome blinds us to this and leads to inner conflict. Our deeper wisdom is trying to tell us we’re heading in the wrong direction, whilst we stoicly insist on maintaining the previous course.
Sometimes, particularly with a large, publicly declared goal, it is our projected fears about others’ expectations that keep us going, long past the point of realising we’re off-course. We’re too worried about what other people might say.
As a society, we criticise people for changing their minds or admitting they were wrong.
And we want to do everything we can, to avoid that criticism.
Knowing when to stop, even when that’s letting go of your dream, is a very brave act.
Sometimes we reach our dreams, just as we planned. And that’s an incredible achievement.
Sometimes we have to reach into our hearts and have the wisdom to change our direction, making difficult choices.
I felt so proud of everyone else in our team – they all did their 100km. Incredible. But I needed to get to the point where I could feel proud of myself for not making it.
It took me a while to be able to let go of my feeling of “failure”. And, since I was beating myself up, I unsurprisingly attracted people around me to pass judgement and reinforce my feelings of self-loathing!
Then, when my perspective widened, I was able to see that I hadn’t failed – I had succeeded – albeit in a slightly different dream.
As a team, we had walked 350km between us. We had raised nearly £3,000 to help save and change lives. We had all pushed ourselves to our respective limits. We had all supported each other to the best of our ability.
Only when I was able to feel at peace with changing the parameters of my goal was I able to return to any sense of inner peace about the outcome!
Sometimes the gift is in not reaching our dreams, though this often takes time to show.
Maybe more of us would feel brave enough to reach for our dreams
if we were less scared of how “society” might react if we don’t reach them.
I find it so sad how many of us don’t dare to dream, for fear of failure.
Failure lies not in falling down.
Failure lies in not getting back up.
Sometimes we learn – and can teach – more by stopping than continuing.
And my learning from all this?
That my dream (yes I still have them!) is to dedicate my life to inspiring others to reach for their dreams and to help them figure out how to feel happy, wherever that journey takes them.
If you have a dream that’s burning in your soul, what support could you ask for today, to help you reach for it?
And which baby step might you take, right now, to move you forwards on that journey?
Want some moral support? Join our Soul-Sized Living forum and connect with others who are taking daily baby steps towards their dreams 🙂 www.ClareJosa.com/join-soulsizedliving