When I was five, I loved to warm my hands by a fire. Roast marshmallows. Twirl sparklers. As I got older, I looked to other people to tell me who I was and what I wanted because I wanted their approval.
As adults, moments of clarity come when we are forced to make a decision. Motivated by the proverbial “fire under our tails.”
Shortly after I defended my dissertation, I received an envelope from the school district where I worked as an instructional coach. The envelope burned in my hands like fire. I was intuitively aware of its contents. The district where I worked was closing schools and downsizing. My contract was not renewed.
My decision to pursue a doctoral degree was a leap of faith I hoped would launch me out of traditional classrooms and into a career I loved. I knew the envelope held the push I needed to pursue a new career path – even though I could not see the path ahead of me. I felt blind. And angry. And resentful. And lost.
I wanted to do something different. I wanted to do something exciting. I wanted to breathe good into the world. I wanted something to breathe life into me. I was scared and lonely and terrified of the things I wanted most of all: an adventure.
I spent years creating materials and designing programs for those in higher positions who would take credit for my work. I did it to ensure job security. And I never had it. I thought by giving myself away one piece at a time I might somehow some way find opportunities to do what I wanted to do. I worked so hard to please other people that I lost myself.
A friend asked, “What do you want to do?” I didn’t know. He asked, “What do you like to do?” I had no idea.
I was only sure of one thing: I was standing on holy ground.
I retreated to a red chair in a corner of my home. I churned out masterfully-crafted job applications, prepared for interviews, and scoured online listings for positions I did not want. And I withdrew from the world.
One night, I dreamt about a tiger.
The next morning, I found a picture of a beautiful tiger leaping through the air. In the kingdom of spirit animal guides, a tiger represents personal power and courage. The paper tiger in my hand was formidable and strong. It reminded me that there was a roar inside of me, too. And I felt strong.
I found more pictures and meaningful quotations. I purchased a foam poster board and attached my collection of pictures and words to its surface. My paper tiger found a new home at the center of the white board. It became my vision board.
I attended lectures by motivational experts and read their books about how to pursue success. Their books outlined how they found success, but didn’t explain what I needed to do to create new goals.
I couldn’t find the book I wanted, so I wrote it.
Dreams to Action Trailblazer’s Guide is a personal goal-setting book that empowers others with tools to transform a dream or goal into reality. It was designed to be used by others who wanted to rediscover their own roar.
I developed a daily practice of writing all of my blessings in a gratitude journal. I volunteered to facilitate workshops at local colleges, urban high schools, and support groups that desperately wanted someone to remind them they still had dreams.
I slowly rediscovered what made my heart sing one step, one prayer, one goal, one habit, one picture, one word, one journal entry, one conversation, one article, one speech, one risk at a time.
Throughout the months that followed, my vision board evolved. My dreams hadn’t gone anywhere. Years ago, I was too frightened to nurture my own aspirations because I didn’t trust any of them could come true. So, my dreams took a nap until I woke up.
Challenges in life can either block us from moving forward – or, if we’re paying attention – guide us towards our purpose. In my work as a youth and family mental health consultant and trainer, I help teens and adults talk about tough topics such as mental illness, substance abuse, and suicide prevention. I could not help others find their own voice until I found my own.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,” insists Marianne Williamson, author of A Return to Love. “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
I wrote her words on parchment paper and attached them to my vision board. Next to the tiger.
The process of rediscovering your passion can be excruciatingly difficult. You must trust that intense brilliant voice within that knows – that’s always known – what you enjoy, where your talents lie, what you believe, and the work you know you are created to do.
Vocare, in Latin, means “to call.” The root of the word, vocation. When we find the courage and wisdom to respond to the Voice, we stand on holy ground.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French priest and philosopher, said, “The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”
I put his words on my vision board. Next to the tiger.
What new memories do you want to include in your life story?
Chart your course towards success with these tips from How to Write SMART Personal Goals.
Enjoy a creative experience and Create An Awesome Vision Board.
Start a conversation with a child or teen with tips from Why We Must Talk to Young People About Their Dreams.