I cracked a big dopey smile while in my almost free Business Class Finnair seat last week. (I've caught myself doing this often in the past 8 months.)
Heading back to my birthplace (Wroclaw, Poland), it hit me again that I'm living my dreams. I wrote down the question "Are you living the dream or chasing it?" in my notebook and reflected on that for an hour while dozing off to sleep.
I don't know if it's because I'm getting older, wiser (ha!), or what it is exactly, but I love my life. Which is interesting, because growing up my only goal in life was to own lots of sweet shit and have lots of money.
So I chased the dream.
When I "chased the dream" and acquired a BMW, a bunch of guitars, a big screen TV, a 2,500 sq foot home (WTF, I'm single!), and all the other trappings of the "good life" I was depressed.
I was 24 and should have been living it up.
But I was horribly depressed.
Hard for anybody to understand unless they've been there depressed. What I mean is, it wasn't just a week or two of feeling sad.
It was years of "just get it over with and end it" darkness.
When I finally started getting down to what I really wanted in life (some time in late 2007/early 2008) I began to see the light. It was a slow, but beautiful, process.
No matter where you are in life, you can make steps towards living your dreams right now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not next year. Today.
First Step: How Stop Chasing The DreamI'm a "do it or don't" type of person. I know almost anything can be broken down into black/white, good/bad, right/wrong, easy/difficult.
If somebody were to ask me how to stop chasing the dream, I would give them the following series of tests. These tests are about getting back to basics.
They seemingly have nothing to do with dreams, but I promise they will force you to focus on what's important.
When you're focused on what's important you're no longer chasing dreams.This test is difficult. If living your dreams instead of chasing them is worth anything to you that won't matter.
But you're free to quit right now. If you read on and don't actually follow through on the test you're just wasting your time.
Test #1: Cancel Cable TV and don't watch free TV
Unless your dream is to be a screenwriter TV is getting in the way of you living your dreams. Why? Too many reasons to list, but the strongest is that watching TV conditions you, in a mostly subtle way, to want.
I'm not referring to the advertising (although that doesn't help matters), but the actual content. It's poison.
That includes the "news." Watching the news seems to make people feel cultured. That's bullshit. The news is a waste of your time and you're getting nothing of value from it. Except maybe fodder for depressing "watercooler" arguments.
Any important news you really need to know you will hear about somehow, someway, while you're living your dreams.
If you need more reasons to stop watching TV check out Joshua Becker's "Ten Reasons to Watch Less Television."
Test #2: Stop eating out
If you're interested in a healthy lifestyle (for yourself, the planet, the future) you'll cut out meat and dairy, but that's not what this is about.
This is about living the dream. And living the dream means you respect yourself.
Eating fast food is disrespectful to your mind and body.
Whatever you want to eat, prepare it yourself.
- No pre-mixed sauces
- No preservative-laden microwaveable shit-boxes
- No frozen dinners
- No store bought soda pop or booze
Eat whatever you want, but prepare it yourself. Want cookies? Bake them. Want potato chips? Fry them. (It's not healthy, but you'll appreciate and savor them more than fast food fries.) Want an extravagant 7 course meal? Make it.
The point of this test is to be mindful of what you're fueling your body with. I'm willing to bet 99% of Western Civilation can't pass this test. Be that 1%.
You'll be thrilled with how good you feel when you fuel your body with nutrients instead of garbage.
Test #3: Read.
Ridiculously Extraordinary People are in a constant search for knowledge.
I have a strong feeling that if you're in the 1% that passes Test #2 you already read books. If you don't, it might be something to consider. :)
It doesn't matter what kind of books. Choose subjects that interest you. And every once in a while choose subjects you know nothing about. New languages. New cultures. New sciences. New people.
Some of my favorite books are autobiographies. Even autobiographies of people I'm not particularly interested in. I love learning other people's life stories, especially when it's directly from their mouths.
Second Step: How To Live The DreamBefore you can ever get to the point of living your dreams you have to stop chasing dreams. Get back to basics as in Step One and don't worry if you're not ready for this step yet.
The Honest Truth About Dreams
I didn't mean to lead you on, but the truth is I can't tell you exactly how to live your dreams. They're yours. And that's an important point. Don't let anybody force their dreams for you onto you. Nobody knows what's best for you. Not your Parents, not your friends, not your teachers, and not me.
If you're unhappy in any way with your life the first thing you have to realize is that nothing will change overnight. It's a process. I don't know how long it will be for you, but just know that progress may be slow. It may take years like it did for me. Accept that. Take action.
No matter how difficult it is, remember this: the dream, your dream, is attainable.
A Great Example of Someone Living The DreamSomebody who I know is living the dream is Benny Lewis. You've probably seen me mention him quite a few times in the past couple months. Benny has been traveling the world for 7 years and learning lots of new languages (7 and counting!). Hence his moniker The Irish Polyglot. I have the utmost respect for what Benny is doing with his goal to help bring language learning to the masses by making it accessible and fun. I spoke to him on Skype for about 30 minutes a couple weeks ago and the passion that comes across in his writing I could also hear in his voice.
Benny is releasing his 7 years-in-the-making Language Hacking Guide today. I had a chance to read a pre-release copy and I'm excited to start using Benny's language hacking methods to help me learn Polish better. If you're at all interested in learning languages, without stuffy high school or University home work assignments, I highly recommend you check out the Language Hacking Guide here.