Six Steps to Optimism: Day 6

“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality: and then there are those who turn one into the other.”—Douglas Everett

Optimism and living one’s dream is like planting tiger lilies in your garden. Once they take hold, they grow and spread, and pretty soon, the whole place is filled with the brilliance of their blossoms.

When you make the choice to be an optimist, and then follow that with a series of actions that will further your dream, opening yourself to the experiences and wisdom of others so that they become captivated and energized by your enthusiasm and begin to put their strength behind you, and when you consistently take the opportunities that come to you, optimism will become an integral part of you. Even in moments of doubt, indecision or hesitation, it won’t be suppressed.

Take a minute and think about someone you have known who always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Perhaps she was a colleague in business whose passion for her work was infectious, and no matter who she was working with or what project she was assigned, she got bigger and better results than anyone could imagine.

Or maybe it was a doctor who spent years pursuing research that everyone else passed over because it was too tedious, too unglamorous, or just too damn hard. Yet he persevered and ended up discovering a breakthrough that no one expected.

It could be the kid next door who was terrible at every sport. Everyone made fun of him, and he always got picked last for teams at school. Yet he kept practicing, kept trying, kept asking coaches how he could improve and then went back and actually tried to put their suggestions into practice. He might never have gotten onto a pro team, competed beyond his small town, but he became a coach and led another group of kids just as unlikely and unassuming as him to victory.

Over the years, all these people probably heard, countless times, “Why don’t you just give up?” They were told, “That’s foolish, you’ll never make it.” People whispered about what a waste of time and talent these people’s lives were.

Still, every one of them heard those words and chose to ignore them. They followed their hearts and were rewarded by seeing their dreams materialize into their reality.

Living a dream isn’t walking through life in La-La Land, completely oblivious to anything outside yourself. Living a dream also isn’t fighting so fiercely for chances and then guarding them so jealously that you jeopardize other people’s dreams just to get yours.

There are enough dreams in the universe for every one of us. The universe is limitless in its abundance. So while we’re striving for our own personal crown, we can take moments along the way to help another person get theirs, too.

Dreams unfold and fill our lives. Just as some people see tiger lilies as a nuisance or an undesirable weed, plenty of folks will just shake their heads in befuddlement when you tell them what your dream is.

A few years ago, I had a thriving goat herd. I was passionate about it, and I was good at taking care of it. I loved trying to make each generation better, stronger, more beautiful, more productive than the last.

At the same time, I had a very busy and successful piano teaching studio and was beginning to do a lot more traveling for performances.

When I was away at concerts, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. And when I was surrounded by the goats, I could think of no better thing to be doing.

But while I was able to reach a certain level of excellence in both areas, I had to choose between them. Goats need care every day. There are no vacations, no paid leave, no sabbaticals, no sick days. And the piano demanded time every day, and not always at home.

I loved my goats, and I still love goats. But I chose to follow the path the piano was leading me on, and for that, the goats could not go with me.

It took me months of internal struggle to reach my decision, and the first day I actually spoke it aloud, I cried. My heart felt as if it was being broken beyond repair. I had nurtured countless does and their kids from birth to their last days on earth, and wen the world seemed too crazy or confusing, the pasture and the barn was always a place of peace and reassurance. I could curl up in the hay and feel the warmth of whichever doe was herd queen at that moment, or I could channel anger and frustration into the hard, clarifying rhythm of stacking hay or cleaning stalls. Even the bucks accepted me with respect and without judgment, whether they were well-mannered about it or not. And for pure nurturing and expression of unconditional love, there is no replacement for carrying a newborn kid around nestled in my arms, or under my jacket if the day was cold, and feeling it nibble my chinn or nuzzle against my cheek with the milky velvet of its nose, feeling the fast, strong beating of its heart beneath my hands.

I still spend blissful moments among the goats at my mother’s farm, savoring the chances to milk or play with new babies or hear them bleat to one another from across the pasture.

But once the choice was made, the actions followed. Things began falling into place and carrying me toward much higher achievement at the keyboard. Now, aside from my old dog, there isn’t a whole bunch of critters who need me to feed them or, when I have to be away, find someone else who will.

I said that I wanted to be doing something musical every day of my life. I am living that dream now. There is no telling where my reality ends and my dream begins because they are one and the same.

My goats were invaluable companions on my journey. I learned countless lessons from them about compassion, integrity, perseverance, and any number of other attributes. I learned what unconditional love was so that, when I encountered it in another human being, I would recognize and appreciate it.

At some point, each person has the potential to have a life so filled with their dream that, to them, reality is not in a different sphere. There are many forks in the road to this dream, and each one can raise painful choices.

As I have often said, we make the best decisions we can with the information we have and the tools we possess in each moment. Hindsight has a way of making many people second-guess themselves or regret what they’ve done. But we have no way of knowing that, with a different choice, we would have unlocked a different outcome. People often get stuck in hard or unpleasant situations and react emotionally by saying, “I should have chosen differently—then I’d be happy”. Or they blame others, when in fact, we are the only ones who can choose or act for ourselves, and the consequences of our choices and actions must be completely owned by us.

Once the choice is made, the action begins, and the dream takes flight.

What choices have you been faced with in pursuit of your own dream? Looking back, how did the decisions you made shape the journey you experienced?

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