One year ago I asked myself, "What have you always wanted to do but never given yourself permission for?" My inner voice came roaring through and said, "To live and work overseas for an extended period of time.
Then I asked myself. "Why haven’t you done it?" I realized all the excuses—"It’s not the right time," "It will cost a lot of money," "I don’t have anyone to travel with"—were all just fear-based reactions keeping me from what I really wanted.
I had a choice to go forth and do what was in my heart—to leave it all behind in search of more. I was looking for more joy, more wonder, more awe.
So I packed all the belongings that could fit into two slightly worn suitcases and headed out to the world with a one-way ticket to Morocco.
A trip like that is almost guaranteed to transform you, but fulfilling the dream of traveling the world wasn’t my true reward, although I didn’t know that at the time. My true reward was the person I discovered within myself through the unabashed pursuit of more.
Most of us have dreams tucked deep inside our hearts: to find our soul mate, get our dream job, travel the world. There’s nothing wrong with having dreams. In fact, it’s a very good thing. We get into trouble when we start believing our happiness is contingent upon these dreams.
Once you begin to move boldly in the direction of your dreams, you will recognize that the happiness you thought would result from achieving certain dreams actually bubbles up from the optimism, self-assurance, and curiosity we experience when we seek things of value. We honor ourselves by pursuing our dreams, and it turns out, that’s the point.
Here are a few of the most transformative discoveries I made over six months across nine countries:
1. You get what you focus on.
Most of us spend a lot of time daydreaming about what we want—the soul mate, to get out of debt, a dream job—but we spend even more time bemoaning the fact that we don’t have these things. We immerse ourselves in beliefs of fear and scarcity. Instead of focusing on what isn’t working, focus all your energy and attention on what you want.
2. In order to reach your highest and best self, you have to let go of what no longer serves you.
Elizabeth Gilbert speaks openly about how getting what you want always requires sacrifice. We have to be willing to let go of things that might be familiar, comfortable, or easy if they’re holding us back from something greater.
When she decided she wanted to be taken seriously as a writer, she stopped binge-watching The Sopranos. When I traveled the world last year I had to let go of normalcy, my daily comforts, and part ways with certain friends and family. But in the end, your dream is worth it. Ask yourself, "What am I willing to give up in order to get what I want?"
3. Life gets better by change, not chance.
Most of us resist change even though we know it will help us grow. We get comfortable in the routine and familiarity, but that is where we stagnate. In order to radically improve your life, you must embrace uncertainty. Take one step at a time, with a clear awareness that with every intentional shift you make, you get closer to the life you have always wanted.
4. Life is an experiment—embrace the explorations.
Most of us put a lot of pressure on ourselves to have it all figured out—or at least to make it look like we do. Replace judgment with curiosity. See everything, including the risks you take, as experiments in living. When you give yourself permission to try new things, you stave off complacency.
5. We learn the way on the way.
Most people come to my life-coaching practice because they want to know which steps to take to get to where they want to go. Most of us are paralyzed by fear of the unknown, but one of the most valuable lessons I learned while traveling is that you learn the way on the way. You don’t need to know the entire route before you take the first step. You just need to see the very next one and trust that when it’s time, the one after that will become clear.
6. The purpose of life is to live with purpose.
We don’t really get to choose our dreams; they choose us. The inspiration you feel in your heart is so important to your happiness. Listen to your inner guide and trust the dreams that come to you. True happiness is a direct result of living authentically. So, the purpose of your life is to live each moment, each day, with an ever-greater sense of purpose.