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A few months ago, I had a new client come into my office. We were talking about her life and the changes she wanted to make. And she said to me,
“I want my life to be one of those Pinterest quotes…you know…’live your big dreams’, ‘go BIG or go Home’..etc.” “I feel like life is passing me by and I want to do something BIG.” “I want to chase my BIG dreams, move to Paris and be a fashion designer”.
As we talked, she shared that a big regret was not finishing her degree, she was in a dead-end relationship and that she felt left behind by her friends who were getting married and having kids. She was feeling lost and when she looked on-line for answers the answer was GO BIG. The world of self-help is inundated with messages about Going BIG and Dreaming Big…when did BIG get to be the line which we measured our happiness?
Through our work together, we talked about the definition of the word BIG and what that meant for her and how that would show up in her life. Eventually her BIG dreams got clearer–and it turned out that weren’t so big anymore. She didn’t really want to move she loved being close to her family, she really wanted to do graphic design not fashion design and she didn’t know if she really wanted to have kids or not.. So over time we worked on helping her speak up in her relationship (and eventually leave) and start showing up in small ways in her life (asking for what she needed, saying no and setting boundaries). Now she is finishing her degree in graphic design and working for a small start-up Marketing company doing design work. At least that is what GOING BIG means for her –dreams, gusto and adventure all change over time. She said to me recently, “I feel WAY more adventurous now than if I had moved, because showing up fully in my life is hard… I think if I had moved I would have missed out on this exciting part of my life, now if I want to move I am not moving in search of something I am moving simply to see something different.”
Sometimes when life gets challenging and we don’t know what to do next…the temptation is to Blow it All Up…but that point of thinking maybe blowing it up isn’t the answer, is when the real adventure begins.
I remember in my early 30s; I too wanted to live the Pinterest quotes (although there was no Pinterest at that time). But I wanted to do something big with my life. I traveled to Peru with a group of strangers; I drove solo across the country twice (once to the east coast and once to the west coast). Finally, I decided I wanted to move to Portland, Oregon, I wanted to take a BIG BOLD ADVENTURE.
I took a trip with a friend of mine to visit Portland. As we were driving around Portland, I pointed at the back of a car and said,
“I can’t wait until I have an Oregon license plate on my car because THEN I will be happy. THEN I will know that I have lived my big adventure.”
She simply smiled and nodded.
Over time, like my client I realized that living my big adventure had nothing to with moving to Portland (although it is still one of my favorite cities). The adventure of Portland wasn’t going to ‘fix’ me. The adventure of Portland was just that, an adventure. But another, equally adventurous decision was to stay in Columbus and show up for my life. To learn how to speak my needs to my friends and family, to set healthy boundaries and stop saying yes to everything, to fully show up in my life as me…vulnerable, imperfect me. Because in Portland I would still be me—different city, same baggage.
A few years after I decided not to move to Portland, my friend gave me a present…it was an Oregon license plate.
As I opened it I smiled and she looked at me and said,
“Just wanted to remind you that THIS license plate isn’t what makes you happy, You make you happy.” That license plate sits at the Live Happier Loft to remind me every day that for me GOING BIG means fully SHOWING up for my life. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good adventure. I love big risk taking, adrenaline pumping adventures. But somewhere along the way we were sold a bill of good that adventure and risk is directly correlated to being better people. That a great life is only achieved by living great adventures which means taking big risks and doing great things. But I am here to argue, sometimes doing big means,
Being fully present and empathetic when your child comes home from a bad day
Telling your spouse that you are struggling and need some time to decompress.
Holding the hand of your aging parent, looking them in the eyes and telling them how much you love them.
Admitting to a friend that you can’t do it all anymore.
Giving yourself self-compassion for the hard time you are having at work.
The point is we have a choice. Our lives aren’t necessarily Pinterest quotes. But our lives are uniquely ours. How do you want to show up in yours?