Life is meant for progress. When we feel we are learning, growing, dreaming and planning, we automatically enter into the natural flow of happiness inherent in life. Unfortunately our experience of life isn’t always like that. It often happens that we feel stuck. We see brick walls around us and instead of a running river life seems like a stagnant pool.
In order to get out of the rut we’ll need to do some serious soul-searching. If we have the courage to scrutinize our life with point-blank sincerity, we’ll have to admit that somewhere we’ve either made some unfortunate choices, or failed to avail ourselves of the opportunities that came our way. The good news is that we can always change the course of our life, so that we are once again sailing in the right direction. As spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy says, “The player is the master of the game, and not vice versa.”
Here is a tried-and-tested 7 step method to reverse your life-car, get out of those dead-end streets and back on the the highway to fulfilling your dreams.
- Re-evaluate your life-goals
If you’re stuck in a rut don’t take it as your final destination. Feel there is plenty of time and opportunities to get out and get moving again. But in order to do so, you need a new sense of direction. That’s why in situations like these it is helpful to go back to the basics and think about what is most important in your life. What do you ultimately want to get out of life?
For this you actually have to zoom out and focus on the big picture. Here’s a great exercise how to (re)focus on your life’s goals:
Try to imagine that you are seated on the highest peak in the Himalaya. You are sitting in meditation, with the moon above you and the river Ganges below you. Try to feel that the mountain is your spiritual height, the moon is your inner beauty, and the river is the flowing of your life-energy.
Now, from the vantage point of the highest mountain on earth, look down on your life. The petty details of daily life fade from view. Try to see your life’s highest goals. Try to feel that your soul came into the world with a vision, with a mission, with a promise. Your soul wanted to grow, to learn, to create, to help the world become a better place in some way. No one knows this but you. Try to look down on your life, from the highest mountain on earth, and reflect on what you want to accomplish in this lifetime.
Once you feel that you’ve come here with a special purpose, you’re bound to feel new inspiration and energy. Never think it’s too late to start realizing your dreams!
- Rank your dreams
Next, take pen and paper and write down the things you want to achieve. These can include very specific goals, like writing a book or starting a new business, or your goals can be more general, like job-satisfaction or healthy relationships. Aside from these outer achievements also list your inner and spiritual goals, such as developing inner peace, patience or courage or becoming a more loving person.
When you’ve written down all your dreams and goals, try to prioritize them. Which ones are most important, which ones can wait? Rank them according to the happiness they’ll give you when you think about achieving them. After you’ve made a ranking, specify each goal as either short-term or long-term. Any goal you wish to realize within a year’s time is short-term, the rest is long-term. To distinguish them write ‘ST’ or ‘LT’ after each entry.
- Believe in the impossible
Congratulations! By formulating and prioritizing your goals, you’re already halfway to a happier and more fulfilling life. But of course we’re not going to stop there.
Before taking any further steps, you have to erase one word from your dictionary: impossibility. Don’t limit yourself by thinking your life’s dreams are unachievable or that you cannot do it. These dreams have come from a very high source, and they’re meant specifically and exclusively for you. Have faith that the universe is there to help and assist you in thousands of hidden ways to make your dreams come true. If your motivation, willingness and enthusiasm are strong, you can accomplish anything.
“If my mind can have an iron determination and my heart can have a will of steel, then there is nothing that I cannot accomplish.” -Sri Chinmoy
- Making it real
The next phase is putting your dreams into action. Keeping in mind that impossibility doesn’t exist, think about the steps you’ll need to take to achieve your goals. Start with your short-term (ST) goals first. Be practical. If your goal is to become more creative, think about the ways in which you want to express your creativity. If it’s music, you may want to take guitar lessons or join a choir. If it’s writing, look for a creative writing class or start your own blog. Don’t make things complicated, but be simple and straightforward. This is not rocket science.
However, some goals may be more difficult to reach and take a longer time. If you’re not happy in your current job and you short-term goal is more job-satisfaction, there’s probably a number of steps involved, and some of them may be life-changing. First you’ll have to decide whether you want to stay in your job or change careers. Ask yourself what you would like to do most if money wasn’t an issue. What kind of work would give you both joy and add purpose to your life? Then think about the steps you would need to take to get that new job, like following an educational program or writing application letters.
At this stage we’re still in the dreaming stage, so don’t limit yourself by projecting possible hurdles onto your path. Just think clearly about what you would have to do to make your dreams come true, but just consider it still a thought-experiment.
Sometimes you don’t know all the steps involved. Especially when dealing with long-term goals (which you can address once you’ve finished mapping out the short-term goals), the road to reach them is not always clear right from the start. Often the steps reveal themselves once you’ve started the journey. Have faith that fulfilling dreams just works like that, and don’t be discouraged that you don’t have the entire map in front of you. What you probably will know are the first few steps, and right now that’s more than enough.
On a new sheet of paper list the short-goals you want to tackle first and write the necessary steps underneath. Again, you’re not making any final decisions; you’re just creating an inventory of what you’ll need to do if you would decide to really go for it.
- Separating the wheat from the chaff
Don’t feel you have to fulfil all your goals. While going through this process of writing down your goals and dreams and the ways to get there, you may actually discover that some of them are not really that important or crucial. You’re probably just as well-off – or even better-off – without them. Perhaps you had a rose-coloured image in your mind about being the head of your company, but now that you’ve given it some serious and focused consideration you may find out that the extra stress levels and lack of free time will not really make you happier and are not worth the effort. No harm. On the contrary, letting go of unrealistic goals or unproductive desires only makes you wiser. Just cross it off from your list. You’re like a gardener separating the thistles and thorns from the beautiful flowers and plants you have in your life’s garden. The more weeds you can pull out, the simpler your life will become and the clearer your true goals will shine forth.
- Cutting the knot
If you followed the previous steps faithfully, you’ll have one or several sheets of paper full of notes and scribblings in front of you, listing your most important dreams and goals and also the ways to get there, or at least to get started. Don’t think of it as just a bunch of scrap paper. No, this is the treasure map of your life, showing you the journey to the fulfilment of your dreams. Treat it with reverence!
Now that you’ve identified your destination and mapped out the journey, it’s time to make some decisions. Are you willing to make real, perhaps even radical changes? Are you brave enough to take the plunge and dive into the unknown? You’re like Frodo in The Lord of the Rings: the road stretches out in front of you, you know there will be trials and tribulations along the way, but freedom and happiness lie at the end of it. Are you going to be the ringbearer or not? This next step is by far the most important one and it’s yours alone to take. Don’t rush into it, but take the time to make a decision. You want it to be the right one.
When making important life-decisions the best advice to give is to listen to your heart. There is a still, small voice inside of you that knows what is best for you and your ultimate happiness. Sometimes that voice speaks to you when you least expect it, and usually it speaks in whispers. It’s ever so subtle and very easy to discard, but it is the inner voice, the voice of your soul, and it resides in us all.
Sometimes you just get a very strong, intuitive feeling about a certain decision. Rest assured it’s also the inner voice, trying to inspiring you. Often you’ll receive signs and messages from the outer world as well. A book you read, a poster you see in the street, a piece of a conversation you overhear, a song on the radio – all part of the channels the universe uses to communicate with you and show you the right path.
- Taking the plunge
So here we are. You’ve done all your preparatory work, filled out the forms, ticked all the boxes and you’ve also made a wise and well-balanced decision which one(s) you are going to pursue. You’re standing at the edge of the cliff, peering longingly at the wide open space in front of you, while at the same time frightened by the chasm below.
At this stage, there is only one thing to do: jump! To your wide surprise you’ll discover that your enthusiasm and will have provided you with a set of powerful wings. If you take the first steps with confidence and determination, you’ll soon find yourself soaring in the skies of new and unlimited possibilities. And that’s exactly where happiness is to be found.