An imagination can be a formidable tool. Is it powerful enough to lure dreamers to unrealistic destinations or to a fantasy world they will never reach?
I don’t believe so.
A long time ago there was a time in my life, I dreamed I would someday visit Scotland. I pictured beautiful towns steeped in history, survival, honor, peace and friendship. My anticipated visit would be full of experiences with small towns, castles, rolling hills, majestic landscapes, simple but good fresh food and joy. My dream went as far as to imagine the stories a bed and breakfast owner or a local fisherman might tell a tourist. Nothing was left out of my fantasy.
The opportunity finally came for me to go to Scotland and I took it. I planned every detail from the ferry rides to the length of time I would have to watch a sunrise. I wanted to be sure I didn’t waste a single moment.
However, when I got there I didn’t realize the power the unexpected would have on my vacation. I missed sunrises I intended to see, ate some food I would prefer not to eat again, made right turns when I planned to go left, and ended up in locations not in my GPS. This was not the dream vacation I planned.
So what went wrong?
I knew why I wanted to go. Every detail was mapped out. I visualized my journey from beginning to end. My friends and family supported me. It was everything I needed for success but I missed the mark I set.
As I assess my journey through Scotland, I recall one particular day. I planned to hike north along the eastern shores weaving through one quaint town after another. Everything was going according to my plan as I reached the trail entrance and pulled on my backpack. Before I headed out, I caught a glimpse of the horizon and saw dark skies rolling over the stark green hills ahead.
I knew it could have been a long day hiking in the pouring rain and sloshing through the Scottish mud. A little water mixed with soil wasn’t going to deter me from reaching every place I mapped out.
I don’t know why curiosity caused me to pivot to the South before I began my adventure, but it did. My eyes immediately filled with beautiful sunny skies as my boots began gathering dirt and stones moving again and again as they chased the sun.
All day, I quickly forged ahead to put additional ground between me and the ominous skies behind me. Every additional step my boots remained dry, brought encouragement to take one more. What I might encounter beyond the next hill was unknown. I expected to come across little towns, gorgeous scenery, and even flocks of sheep but the moment I observed a massive flock of swans gracefully waddling through the tall grass like a beautiful choreographed ballet, I was stunned.
I must have stood watching them for fifteen minutes before I spotted at the perfect place for lunch down the trail. It was a north facing bench at the top on a knoll, overlooking the water. As I approached, I took off my backpack. I turned around and sat down to a breath-taking view of a full vivid rainbow over the fields I originally planned to hike and ditched hours earlier. It blew me away.
This unexpected rainbow I observed during my lunch stop is just one reason why I fell in love with Scotland and why it remains one of my favorite places in the world.
I believe this trip was a huge success but it could have been declared a failure because I did not reach the destination I originally planned to see.
I wonder if a similar revelation could be made if this story was about someone’s life long dreams? Would the answer be different? Could pivots people make in life be seen as a failures?
Let me explain what I mean by these questions. Health issues, natural disasters, babies, and unexpected opportunities can change the course of life and cause a well-defined dream to be abandoned. So often people believe this means they failed, when they are actually creating the life they want.
My ideal day in Scotland was not defined by a specific path and destination but by a desire to follow sunshine, go a general direction and experience life. I believe the sunshine I followed on my hike was essentially my North Star.
The concept of using the North Star as a guide to get people from one place to another has been a reliable method for centuries. Yet, it is almost never used as a standard to escort people through life.
The regularly practiced and preferred recipe for success starts with children. At a young age, children are asked to dream about what they want to be when they grow-up. Most of them can give you an answer with substantial clarification. Application of the recipe continues by grooming teenagers for a life they chose years ago and pushing young adults to reach their potential.
More and more individuals and families use this recipe for success as a guidebook for their decisions and activities. For example, parents choose to cart kids from one event to the next and invest in the latest technology because they believe it is a good for their children. They urge their teenagers to take on heavy class loads in school to gain the competitive edge and earn an entrance invitation into college or another program of their choice. Young adults, too, will go out of their way to gain experience to build a curriculum vitae for their ideal career.
The pressure to succeed can be seen in every stage of life and it is often a series of relentless applications of trial and error. People chase and chase the next best thing hoping to reach their aspirations. Most of them never give up the quest but often feel defeated, exhausted and unsatisfied.
This is a sample of a chapter taken from the book Creating Your Life: Mindfulness and Meditation. The chapter is written by Virginia Phillips . Click here to pick up your copy.