Living the Dream Should Feel Good

Last year, I attended a goal-setting workshop. At one point, we were prompted to write down our answers to big questions such as: What do I really want more of in my life? And what might be possible for my life? 

They poured us glasses of wine, and with newfound liquid encouragement, we put our pens to paper.

My “I want" list was free flowing. I wrote that I wanted more Jesus, wonderment, thankfulness, discernement, simplicity, confidence to follow gut feelings, balance, rest, truth, growth, and grace for myself and others (lots of grace). I also wrote down more tangible desires, such as local food, culture, yoga, cooking, unplugged retreats, safe spaces, safe people, exploration, and to invest in healthy relationships.

We moved on to prompts about values, goals, bucket lists, where we find importance, what matters most to us, and then... the doozy hit. After answering all the other prompts with relative ease, I froze at the sight of what felt like an overwhelming and terrifying question: 

What does your life look and feel like in 10 years?

I briefly considered excusing myself to the restroom, never to return. Instead, I stayed and poured another glass of wine. 

Likely sensing my nerves, the coach moved us into a meditative state, asking us to close our eyes and picture what our life looked like on that morning, ten years in the future. She asked us to imagine ourselves waking up. What wakes you up? Does someone wake you up? Is it light coming through a window? Or is it the smell of coffee brewing? She continued, You stretch, crawl out of bed, and walk to the bathroom to brush your teeth. Who is looking back at you in the mirror? Do you look tired? Do you look energized? Do you look in the mirror and believe there’s someone beautiful staring back at you?

This helped. From there, I was able to use her visualizing technique to vividly write down my dream day, ten years in the future. I wrote down how I felt, how I spent my time, who was around me and how intentional I was with each aspect of my day.

When we finished, we each shared our dream day. 

And just like that, I went from feeling free and focused to completely discouraged.

Here's why: my last year of business was exhausting and quite the opposite of my future fantasy. So much of my future dream day was spent savoring moments and doing life with intention. Reveling in quiet time. Creating with gladness. Choosing local food deliberately and then preparing it slowly for a whole slew of messy people. Keeping my doors open. Unconditional love for anyone who needed a welcoming place. I welcomed the evening at a big outdoor table with wine and laughter and dirty dishes. 

I was present in my dream life 10 years from now, and I was absent and drowning in the business I’d created in real life. 

You know that quote “create a life you don't need a vacation from”? Before this exercise, I really thought I’d done that. But I had been living under other people's expectations instead. I was suddenly made aware of the stark juxtaposition between my reality and what I truly desired. 

Remember that “want” list? 

Well, the things on my “don’t want” list would have summed up my self-employed reality a little better. When I looked at my present life, I saw regret, selfishness, burnout, fear, and exhaustion, just to name a few. 

I didn't get there overnight. Many of the destructive feelings and behaviors in my life were actually the result of saying yes to seemingly good things. But in the process of saying yes, I denied my own self-care. I had taken on way too much, and I didn't know how or when to stop. I was resentful of the busy-ness and simultaneously consumed by it. I told myself it was probably this way for everyone and I should just be grateful. Because after all, I had my dream job, right? 

Wrong. It didn't have to be this way. 

So, here’s the question...

How do you own a business, carry the weight of its various responsibilities, be creative, make a decent living and live the life you dream of? Is it even possible?

Absolutely. I'm going to share what I've learned and help you get there, and I'd love to hear your wisdom as we progress. We're going to dive deeper into what it looks like to maintain your sanity as a creative business owner, but this first step of dreaming about how you want to feel in 10 years is a great place to start.

Sometime this month, find a pen, a piece of paper or a blinking cursor, a glass of wine, and write down what you envision your life to look like 10 years from now. Close your eyes, and really envision it. Then hold onto what you write down. Next month, I'll walk you through some practical steps to help you move toward that dream of yours. You can trust me when I tell you it's closer than you think. 

lauren ledbetter