Lost Dreams

Regardless of where we are in life, it is never too late to pursue the American dream.

The smell of a brand new baseball always set me off.  It was heavenly.  The peacefulness of a baseball diamond could overtake me at times, allowing my mind to wander dangerously in the middle of a pitcher’s wind up.  The aroma of dirt, fresh cut grass, popcorn and sweat complemented the perfect swing; when I couldn’t even feel the ball hit the bat.  I loved baseball.

My dream as a young child was of course to hit the winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded to win the World Series.  I wanted to play professional baseball.  Unfortunately for me, this was also the dream for millions of other kids growing up in the 1980s.

I didn’t make it.  In fact, I didn’t even come close.  In all actuality, I didn’t really start to try.  Growing up I assumed I was good enough to go to the big leagues, and the rest would take care of itself.  I had big dreams; but I didn’t have the proper goals.  I approached my final summers of high school as a time of freedom; a time to goof off with my buddies and enjoy the beauty of western North Carolina.  At the same time, some other seventeen year old was running steps and spending hours in the batting cage.  I didn’t attempt my dream because I didn’t want it; it was because I was afraid to fail.  Failure does hurt, but as I get a little older I realize how important failure can be for future success.

Nothing in this world will ever be given to you, and if it is there’s a possibility that it will cripple you instead of help you to grow.  Dreams can become realities, but only with goal setting, discipline, and consistency.  These things are vital for progress to occur.  I think a lot of us are aware of that.  I think a lot of us still think about what could have been.  However, it has become tougher.  The decades have passed us by and with the addition of a spouse and perhaps multiple children the idea of “living the dream” seems a little out of reach.

The two main excuses we have for not chasing our dreams as we get older are lack of time and lack of money.  There is truth attached to both of these excuses.  If you have children you understand how time consuming the daily grind can be.  The evening routine of dinner, bath time, play time, getting dressed, brushing teeth, reading books, and night time prayers is enough to put anyone into the loony bin.  Have you ever tried concentrating on sending just one e-mail with your children around?  It’s not straightforward.

I do not like talking about financials with my wife.  I wish she would just handle it all and let me know when we can retire.  Of course, that wouldn’t make me much of a team player.  Dealing with the reality of your financial situation can be uncomfortable and depressing.  However, you will never find the discipline to follow your dreams if you cannot conjure up some discipline to get your financial house in order.  The unforeseen makes it incredibly difficult to do this sometimes: the car breaks down, taxes go up, tax returns go down, a trip to the emergency room, the interest on a credit card goes up, you have to attend a birthday party with gifts, you have to attend another birthday party the next week with gifts, utilities increase, the commute to work just got longer, and thirty dollars spent at the grocery store gets you a small bag of groceries.

I’m married to an amazing woman with three young boys.  Trust me.  I get it.  A busy life can definitely be overwhelming, but it still doesn’t mean we have to be miserable and give up on what makes us happy.  So what do you do?  I am by no means an expert, but these are just a few ideas that my wife and I have started to execute to simplify and better our lives.

Get out of debt.  The stress of debt will strangle you with each breathe and thought that you have.  Communicate to your spouse or yourself a plan to get this done.  Put it on a spreadsheet and keep track of every dollar you spend.  When my wife and I started this, we discovered we spent almost $80 a month on ice cream.  Yep.  That’s right.  Ice cream.  I was spending almost $100 a month on cigarettes and another $100 a month on snacks and lunches.  Unbelievable!  We used the snowball plan (and still do) as laid out by David Ramsey.  Check him out; he knows what he is talking about because he went through some horrendous debt issues.  If you have to get a second job, then do it.  However, don’t let the overall picture discourage you.  Start small and take on your debt in increments.  It is not going to disappear overnight and you are NOT going to win the lottery.  If you don’t deal with it the boogey man will bring you a whole new set of nightmares.  They are not fun.

Manage your time.  Whether you always wanted to be a writer or a violinist, you laugh at the idea of having time to pursue such notions.  Track your time for a few days.  What are you doing in the evenings?  Watching television?  Surfing social media sites?  I bet you can find an hour a day to write, study, practice, or research.  It won’t be easy.  The idea of replacing down time with more work sounds daunting, but remember there’s no rest for the weary.  It will pay off.

Once you find your hour or so a day, write down a schedule.  I think this is mandatory in helping you stay consistent.  Stick to your schedule, but do not try to multi-task too much.  If you’re spending time with your spouse or kids or friends, give those interactions and that time 100 percent of your effort.  Don’t try to build Lego cities while simultaneously updating your Twitter feed.  It’s not fulfilling and everyone involved feels a little cut short.  When it’s time to study or practice, give that 100 percent of your time.  Work into your schedule a time to be alone in order to produce quality work in a short period of time.  It is possible!

Set goals.  I am not the best at this.  I’m really good at knowing what to do and not always the best at following through myself.  Set goals!  Write them down!  It doesn’t matter where:  sticky notes, bathroom mirrors, your spouse’s forehead, or whatever.  Write them down and accomplish them.  A goal could be as simple as “I’m going to research the education needed to become a lawyer” or “Today I will write in my journal.”  I once heard someone say “If you are not trying to accomplish a goal or a set of goals then you are literally committing spiritual suicide.”  I believe it.  If you fail to meet a goal, don’t give up.  Try again.  The most successful people in the world ran into many obstacles during their journey.  Don’t get discouraged.  Set very easy goals at first if you have to.  Once you start to accomplish a few of them, it almost becomes addictive.

Stop smoking on a regular basis and work out.  I don’t want to do either.  Just do it.  It’s not necessarily fun but it will make you feel better and increase your motivational levels.  Of course, there are a few freaks out there that actually enjoy getting up at six in the morning during the middle of January to go for a run.  I don’t think that encapsulates most of us.  Start small and let it grow over time.  You’ll thank yourself eventually.  I promise.  And remember, you do not have to get a gym membership.  The living room and the garage will work perfectly fine.  Just start.  Three times a week.  Go.

Take action.  This is the biggest one of all.  I understand we have all heard this before, but it is really important to accept; the biggest enemy you have is yourself.  I spent years walking around the kitchen island thinking about how good I would be at certain things; planning what I would say and do in certain situations.  It means nothing if you don’t take that first step.  It’s tough at first because you honestly might not be that good at what you want to do.  I assure you, there are millions of other people thinking the same thing.  Just do it.  Pick up that shovel and just dig a hole; grab a saw and cut a plank of wood in half.  Do something!  Heaven forbid you might not only start to enjoy it, but you might also discover an array of talents and skills you didn’t even know you had.  And that, my friends, is when it starts to become fun.

Pray.  The beautiful thing about prayer is that it gives you direction.  Asking God for guidance in your life is not a sign of weakness or misdirection; but rather a display of courage and enlightenment.  Allow God into your life and I think you will immediately start to feel differently about the world and people around you.  Do your best to make time in your daily routine to form a relationship with God.  That relationship can open many doors and relieve a lot of worldly stress that a lot of us have.   If you don’t believe in God; that’s perfectly fine.  He believes in you.

Please take into consideration that I have not fully accomplished my major goals.  I am not an expert on living your dreams.  I simply want to better my life and I’m willing to share some pieces of that with you.  If you like it, come back again.  If not, best of luck to you.  A great source for guidance to simplifying your life and achieving your goals is Leo Babauta’s blog “Zen Habits.”  Check him out.  I read him religiously.

I recently left a very good career to follow my dreams and to do what I believe God put me on this Earth for.  I may fail miserably.  However, for the first time in my life I am traveling into the great unknown; the excitement of the possibilities and the avenues I may get access to arouses my soul and spirit.  I am tired of complaining about my work.  I am tired of complaining about my financial situation.  I am tired of being out of shape.  I am tired of always dreaming about a better life.  In short; I’m tired.  I don’t know what is going to happen, but I know I will become better because of this adventure.  We as humans can never know success until we have taken the proper risks to obtain it.  Think about it. Pray about it.  Then just do it.  May God be with you on your travels, and may you unearth the proper road to your own personal pursuit of happiness.