When Finding Love and Achieving Your Dreams Feel Out of Your Control

Small, focused steps brought me to this place beyond my dreams, in the wilds of southern Patagonia.

Small, focused steps brought me to this place beyond my dreams, in the wilds of southern Patagonia.

This week, I wanted to share a simple reminder about going after your dreams:

If you stay focused, it will all add up.

There are essentially two elements to my work: Vision and practical action.

Over time, I’ve learned that they have a mysterious, and yet totally reliable relationship to each other.

Let me break this down.

1. Your vision is everything that you dream of for your future. It's all your ideas, intentions, wishes and big picture, “pie in the sky” stuff. This what your 90-year-old self wants to make sure that you get a chance to do, so that she or he can look back with no regrets.

2. Practical action is everything that is doable and immediately in front of you that could possibly put you one step closer to your vision.

There is a magical combination in which these two things, added together, actually land you in your dream life, or someplace even better.

IF you follow a few basic principles:

1. You take time out of life regularly to get super clear on your vision. You see it vividly. You live it. You breathe it.

2. You keep taking small steps in the direction of your vision, no matter what obstacles appear.

3. You keep the faith that this is possible.

4. You trust that it’s going to happen, even when you do not know HOW it will happen (and when life makes it clear that the way you thought it was going to happen, isn't going to happen).

5. You continue to enjoy life right now, and how you are already living your dreams, even when it feels like you’re far from where you eventually want to be.

A very personal story of how I saw this unfold in my own life:

When I worked with my first life coach eight years ago, we focused on clarifying my ideal job, living situation, and life partner.

She also helped me to single out some of the most important things I wanted to accomplish in my life which, for me, was to travel, to write a book (or a few), and to spend more time in nature, especially backpacking.

When I started to act on these ideas, I found, as might be expected, that landing the right next job and making improvements to my home life were a lot more straightforward than finding a partner.

Here's how that went: I wrote a specific description of the kind of person I wanted to share my life with – so I knew who I was looking for.

Then, I continued to date. A year later, I thought I’d finally found him.

When that relationship didn’t work out, it was incredibly disappointing.

There was a part of me that said:

“See what happened, and how random this is? Your ‘ideal partner list’ doesn’t matter. You don’t have any control over whether you meet the right person or not, and you shouldn’t pretend that you do.”

Another part of me told me to simply let that experience go, and focus on the parts of my vision that I did have some control over.

And, meanwhile, try not to get jaded about love. To stay open to the right person showing up.

I decided that if I was unattached and free – and also burned out by work – that I should do some of the travel I wanted in my life.

I started taking my sabbatical idea more seriously.

It seems kind of illogical now, but I almost talked myself out of my sabbatical because I was afraid I’d return home no closer to my dream of finding someone to share my life with and to have kids.

My therapist at the time countered this fear with:

“Well, wouldn’t it be worse if you stuck around here doing the same thing and at the end of the year you were still no closer to finding love and having kids?”

I couldn’t argue with that.

So this was the point where, however reluctantly and anxiously, I took my first tentative steps toward the parts of my vision that I could control.

I started checking things off my life accomplishments list: Planning the sabbatical. Starting a wilderness survival course so that I could improve my outdoor skills.

My feeling of discouragement and being lost didn’t go away as soon as I started working on these other things. They still hung around.

I still wondered how everything would work out.

I wondered if I should resign myself to the idea that you just couldn’t have everything you wanted out of life.

Yet as my sabbatical travels got underway, slowly, with the passage of time, I started having fun and opening myself up to the world and its possibilities.

I felt a huge sense of accomplishment when I completed my first solo week-long backpacking trip in the Olympic National Forest in Washington.

Four months into my sabbatical, when I impulsively changed my plans to visit a friend in the south of France, I tapped into a carefree and adventurous side of myself that I’d long missed.

Just as I started to have this fun, I got a message through Couchsurfing from a farmer inviting me to visit his farm north of Barcelona for a few days.

I had wanted to visit a farm in either Italy or Spain, so I went to check it out.

He invited me, he said, because he saw in my profile that I had taken this crazy wilderness survival course. He also enjoyed the outdoors, and thought we could do some hikes.

Work was slow at the moment, and it was nice to have people to go hiking with mid-week, and to practice English.

You probably know how the rest of this story goes.

We fell in love. We got married a year later, and now have a daughter. He fits my description of the ideal partner, as perfectly as humanly possible.

How lucky is that?

Sure, it's lucky. Yet I also refuse to chalk it all up to luck. Because I know how it felt to take those persistent steps toward my vision.

There were moments of painful discouragement and many setbacks. There were tears and terrible fears, solitude and near giving up.

I know how hard it can be to keep faith and take action even when you don’t know how anything is going to turn out.

Now I can look back and see how it did all add up.

If I hadn’t taken steps on my sabbatical, I never would have been in Europe in the first place.

If I hadn’t taken my wilderness survival course, maybe that farmer would have skipped over my profile to invite someone else to go hiking with him that week.

This is how to achieve your dreams in a mysterious, uncertain world: Vision plus practical steps, and it will all start to add up.

If you were to adopt this approach for your own life, what would you need to do next?

Set aside some time for your vision?

Or take a few brave steps in the direction of your dreams?

Keep the faith. Focus on where you want to go, and also stay loose, understanding that how you get there and when, might be a mystery a bit longer.

If you want help with your vision or next steps (or both), I’m here! We can jump on a quick 20-minute call to clarify how.