As a former attorney turned writer and unconventional career coach, I listen to creative minds, visionaries, and entrepreneurs every day in my coaching practice. I am moved by the grand spirit that moves them. They climb walls with passion, ambition, and frustration. They secretly dream big, because they are big. “I don’t even know if I’ll ever have what I want,” they say. But I do. I know we are relentlessly drawn to where we belong.
We don’t choose our wildest dreams. They choose us.
When we’re not using our deepest gifts, we can feel like trout thrashing about on a dock desperate to find water. It’s that necessary to live our calling. We’ve said “yes” to some sacred arrangement in the ethers, and here on earth—until we live our most meaningful dreams--we ache with the pangs of blessings unfulfilled. We can golf if we want to, but it will never fill that hole. We can shop, but we can’t buy our freedom.
“You’re just so restless,” my mother, a torch-bearing worshipper of security, would say to me. I thought wanting to “be all you can be” in life was a good thing, not a personality disorder to cover up with a TV Guide. But, like many inspired souls, I’ve often felt lonely in my consistent desire for true expression. I’d envy those who could kick back in “normal” lives, enjoy burgers at a backyard barbecue, and some nice, conventional success. They’d fix a garage door, buy a house at the lake, or take a cruise to Alaska, and that would be enough. They didn’t wrestle with some unnamable gravitational pull, a colony of inner voices, or the secret claustrophobia of their own trapped potential. They didn’t need to change the world, chant some mantra, become a brand, or win a Pulitzer or a Grammy. In other words, they could just turn on the news. They didn’t need to be the news.
But a former therapist said she believed my “restlessness” was an essential pre-requisite for development. “You want more,” she said “because there’s more in this lifetime for you to become.”
I felt suspicious of my creative ambitions, thinking that maybe I was just a “big dreamer.” I wondered if I’d watched one too many Oprah shows.
“I wish I could say I wanted to help the world, like Mother Teresa,” I said. I did want to help, but that wasn’t the fuel in my engine.
“Well, why are you doing this?” she asked with love. I cringed as I pinpointed a lurking feeling.
“I want to win,” I said to her and it felt so ugly and unenlightened, competitive and calculating. Goodbye, Dalai Lama, enter the beast with beady eyes.
“It’s not that I want tons of money, I said, though of course I’d welcome a padded bank account. “What is it?” she said gently. “It’s not that I want fame, though I wouldn’t mind it,” I admitted. “Then what is it?’ she repeated. Finally, I felt an encrusted door swing open inside me. I looked at her and said, “I want to win because I think I have a home run in me.” Everything within me relaxed in that moment. “It’s just the note I came to sing,” I said. Then my words and tears just flowed.
“I want to be big. I want to be known. It’s the level of expression that I feel like my talent was made for. It’s my note,” I said looking into her soft brown eyes. “I think it’s the only note that will feel real to me.” Then she repeated back to me, “It’s just the note you came to sing.”
Suddenly my desire didn’t seem so evil or garish anymore, suddenly it wasn’t narcissistic, slimy or base. It was just the truth. I realized then that we don’t get to choose our calling. We get to choose whether or not we will listen to each nudge or flare, whether or not we will believe, and whether or not we will dedicate ourselves to this territory of homecoming within us; but we don’t get to choose which doorway has our name on it, which one swings open for us, into the wild country of heightened capacities, love, and awe.
Suddenly this need for boundless expression and a sweeping life was no longer about my ego. It was about my integrity. It was about staying true to the evolving, amazing life force within. It was simple. I needed to breathe fire so that I could breathe.
I urge you to listen to what only you know inside. You dream big because you’re called. It’s not about knowing how to make it happen or being “worthy.” You didn’t choose this dream. It chose you. Follow your golden thread. Become your truth.
(This piece is adapted/excerpted from Inspired & Unstoppable: Wildly Succeeding in Your Life’s Work! (Tarcher/Penguin))
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