Over the holiday I had the chance to complete one of the dreams on my list - to skate in Rockefeller center at Christmas time. I was in New York visiting friends and meeting my agent and editor for lunch. I brought my skates and went to the rink excited to finally make this dream come true. Over the years I had watched the greatest skaters in the world perform on this rink during morning shows. I'd imagined spinning while staring up at the Christmas tree lights. I had all these romantic notions of what it would be like until reality struck. I stood in line with hundreds of people. The wind whipped around the rink and I burrowed into my coat. The ice surface wasn't smooth and glassy like I'd seen on television. Instead, it was covered in snow from too many people skating at once. There wasn't a place to do spins. I had said I was going to skate and it was the chance to make a dream come true, but after a half hour in line I realized that the reality of this dream just wasn't going to live up to the romance in my mind. I left the rink.
Many times we get an idea in our minds of our perfect life. Maybe it's the idea that once your married you will be happy. Or once you have children your life will be complete. For some it's finding that perfect job or winning the lottery. If only happiness were this easy.
I've learned on this journey that the actual accomplishment of a dream isn't what brings happiness. There's a high that happens with every dream I make come true, but it's not a lasting joy. I have dreams to become a best selling author, grow my company, see more of the world, and continue the life I now get to lead, but I also realize that there's a possibility that my book might not become a best seller, I might not get to go around the world, or my company could fail. Of course I have romantic notions of what it will be like to get everything I want, but at the same time I know that it could be different than what I expect just like skating at Rockefeller center.
I think many people romanticize about the partners they choose. They have an idea of what their life is going to be like and when the other person doesn't live up to this fantasy they feel lied to when many times it was their own ideas not the person who let them down.
Another thing I've heard on a regular basis lately, "I want to write a book. I know exactly what it's going to look like and who's going to buy it. And I want to finish it in the next five to eight months. Tell me how you did it."
Let's start back eleven years ago when I wrote my first novel that wasn't good enough. Fast forward five years when I started the novel that has now been picked up. I wrote, I edited, I wrote another version. I sent it for a critique. I revised again and again and again. I gave it to three people to read and then I edited some more. I got agent representation. I rewrote the book five times to make it what got signed to Simon & Schuster. I learned to be a better writer. I studied, I stared at walls finding inspiration. I worked harder than I thought I could and now I will do one more rewrite before it hits the shelves. It will take fifteen months to hit the shelves.
"Well can I just put it online and not have to do all that work?" is the usual reply.
I believe in visualizing what you want. I'm living proof that you should go after everything your heart desires. But it's important to also be grounded in reality. The truth about happiness is that if you get it from outside sources it can always be taken away. Money can come and go in your life. Partners can change, leave, or get sick and pass away. Material things get worn out. Injuries can happen and you can no longer do the things you love. It may take more work than you imagined.
Many people want one dream so desperately, thinking it's going to complete something in them, that they can't release the romantic idea and realize that it might not be happening because either it's the wrong time, the wrong person, or maybe they still have some growing to do in order for it to be the right time.
I leave you with this one last thought - If your dream comes with the words, "I will be happy when..." or "I just need this to happen...." then it's time to look at what romanticized version you've created. Reality is always going to be better in the end.