e all have goals; we call them hopes, wishes, and dreams for our future. We set milestones in our life that quantify “success”. It’s a finish line, a task complete, another box checked on our list of “winning at life”. We’re always looking ahead, reaching, striving and yearning to grasp whatever success or happiness we have defined.
“I want to lose 30 lbs…”
“Someday I’ll retire to…”
“I’ll buy a house …”
“If I owned my own company…”
“I’d like to start a podcast…”
We tell our friends, our spouses, our co-workers. These are our great plans! We dream of better tomorrows. We get up each and every day, and show up in life, hoping, wishing, and talking about what success looks like ahead.
Some of our dreams are more subtle, or unspoken. I think of my daughter, who is now in her early teens, and I dream of the days when we will sit at her kitchen table, huddled over coffee, talking of all her dreams and hopes. I wish so much for a strong bond with her, a closeness, a friendship, one only a mother and daughter can share. I imagine a beautiful sunny day, birds chirping, and the smell of something fabulous she has concocted in her kitchen…
Never mind the fact that this very morning, she huffed and puffed as she realized that we were running late to sailing camp and there was nothing I could do about the traffic on Route 50 and therefore I was ruining her day, her summer, her life and probably the life of all her decedents. True story. Can we cut back to my daydream at her kitchen table?
So all this talk of dreams, hopes, wishes, and goals for our lives, now what? How do the dreams come true? How does this become our reality? We need a plan! Any dream without a plan is just a wish, and unfortunately for most of us, the Fairy Godmother business has seen great cuts in their department so it looks like the planning and working is up to us! So let me share some experiences with you…
Oh goodness…another running analogy
In 2014 I had a dream of running my first marathon. I got together with a group of running friends (only 2 of the 8 of us has actually ever run a marathon) so for most of us it was really our first time taking on this sort of challenge. The funny thing about running a marathon is that in many ways it can be compared to LIFE. “Life is marathon, not a sprint.” That’s kind of catchy, someone should put that on an inspirational poster. It’s true.
Now we didn’t just say, “oh, we think we’ll run a marathon this fall” and then get up one brisk November morning and show up in NYC ready to race. It was MONTHS of planning, weeks of training and hours upon hours of playing out different scenarios and strategizing how we would tackle each and every possibility. It was choosing every single day in the months ahead of the race to create routes, coordinate schedules, log our miles, vary terrain and let’s not even talk about how we worked together and were able to raise over $40k for Leukemia and Lymphoma research through Team in Training (shameless brag to my badass friends, this is still one of my greatest accomplishments and memories!). We lived every day with intention of preparing to complete the NYC Marathon. INTENTIONAL LIVING. Every decision we made revolved around how it would impact our training and get us to our “success” of the marathon.
Ahhhh, plot twist.
So crossing the finish line was the “success”? Yes. Well…and No. Here’s where that catchy phrase comes into play. What I initially believed to be the success (crossing the finish line), while it was a pretty big deal and I was really glad to complete it; that’s not what I think of when I think of being successful regarding running my first marathon.
My success is measured in all the acts of intentional living that led me to that point. Waking up at 4:30am on a SATURDAY, to have a proper cup of coffee and a breakfast that was substantial but not upsetting, before meeting my running crew for a training run, I’m proud of that. Learning how to dress appropriately for rain, extreme heat, extreme cold, extreme wind, and all the other extremes that our great state of Maryland can throw at us, that was a success. Fundraising…enough said. The hours of talking while running the training miles, lead to strengthening friendships that will last lifetimes, that’s a big success. Finding my inner strength to lace up when my head didn’t want to get in the game, my legs felt like concrete blocks, and the many times I wanted to give up but didn’t…win. The success happened in all the steps, one foot in front of the next, that took me inch by inch, mile by mile…the finish line was just another success in the overall very successful experience and journey that I shared with others and found new parts of myself that I didn’t know existed. Crossing the line was just seconds of a very very powerful time of growth and transformation.
I’ll share another anecdote about a successful journey/process. For years, I’ve done online weight loss support groups. These groups offer a friendly weight loss challenge and are supported with weekly nutritional and physical challenges. I’ve always seen HUGE success in the groups. Now, when I speak of success, I’m not talking about the person who loses the most weight. Sure, I’ve seen a lot of people lose weight. I’ve seen a lot of people gain the weight back and I’ve also seen a lot of people not lose any weight at all or even gain during the challenges. So I suppose if you asked how successful are people at “losing the weight”, my answer would vary. However, the real success I’ve seen is in the mindsets that change and the realization that healthy living isn’t about a number on the scale, a clothing size or how fast you can run a mile. The success is in the support, the learning to make conscious choices (whether you make them or not, people learn what they need to be doing to be healthy) and the awareness that success happens and should be celebrated every day.
So get back to the point
When we think of our dreams. It’s not about crossing the finish line, losing the weight, starting the business, or having a friendship with your child or whatever it is that you see off in the distance. Success starts TODAY. Its starts with the intentional choice to do and be what you need to keep moving towards the goal. Weight loss, you aren’t “healthy” once the weight is lost. You have to be intentionally healthy TODAY, by eating healthy foods and getting your body moving in healthy exercise. If you want to start a business, you have to plan TODAY on what steps need to be taken and even if it’s just a baby step, it’s one step closer to starting your business. If I want to have a friendship with my child…TODAY I treat her with love and respect and compassion, in the context of being her mother, so that when we reach those years of her life when she needs a friend and is looking for love, respect and compassion, she knows where to find it.
Intentional Living is choosing to live, breathe, practice and embrace the success of the choices we make TODAY. If you want a successful life, then have a successful life. There’s no destination to success, only by stepping in the direction of the long term goal, consciously putting one foot in front of the next and living as who and what you want to be can you create a successful journey! I don’t want to just remember the finish lines, I want a LIFE speckled with wins, celebrations, joys and lessons. Live well, friends, and live intentionally!