Image via McKinley Law for Unsplash
This month, I came face to face with my dreams. The ones that I think about every day, the ones that have faded a bit, and the ones I completely forgot about.
I decided to join Emily Freeman's linkup about what we learned in January, and when I took a look at the month, this was the main topic that I had been wrestling with.
It started with my innocent quest to clean out clutter and have less stuff/more freedom- the great promise of minimalism. I dredged up old sheet music, fancy drawing pastels, bead-making supplies, and even a few dated books on how to flip houses (comical now, considering what has happened in the market).
I found myself surrounded by piles of my old hobbies and dreams, feeling a little deflated.
And even guilty.
The thing about dreams, goals, and ambitions is that when they end up in the back of a drawer or shelf, they tend to fester. They nag at us, reminding us that we aren't doing enough.
"Why haven't you started on me yet?" they demand. "Don't you remember what you envisioned yourself becoming by now? Tick... tick... tock..."
"By the way- don't forget about how you spent money on that class or that supply or that book. Or even worse, think about all the time you've invested so far. Why haven't we amounted to anything?!"
And then they end up in a donation pile, and make us wonder why we even bothered dreaming in the first place.
But minimalism and simplicity are supposed to have the opposite affect, right? They are usually so kind and gentle, with their promises of freedom, space, more time, and more peace. I just can't see them taking the guilt-trip route. "And here's that house-flipping book (insert eye-roll). What a good-for-nothing space/energy/time/money waste that was! Think of trees that went into producing that!" See, it's just not the tone of simplicity.
So what is the point of all this? What is the point of my sad story with my sad little piles?
I did learn something in January, well... realized something.
Here's what I already knew going into January:
Creative pursuits are a healthy, necessary thing for a full life.
I am a middle-aged adult, with a family to care for, and limited time.
Narrowing a focus helps us excel to our maximum potential in limited areas.
Malcolm Gladwell makes the claim in his book Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in a field. And I buy that.
Maybe a hobby doesn't require that level of proficiency, but it still takes some amount of invested time to be rewarding.
Here's what I realized in January:
Sometimes, I get a little carried away with ambitions and dreams, and don't think through the time or effort required to succeed at them. I love the thrill of new beginnings; I'm not so great about getting to the finish line working on it.
I can use the process of minimalism to weed out less important goals, and simply let them go.
I can give myself permission to not feel guilty about that.
I can learn to be more discerning with future ideas that come popping into my head.
As for the goals I want to keep in my life, but don't necessarily have 10,000 hours to become expertly proficient in them, I can work on them in my SPHERE.
I've been thinking a lot about the word "sphere" in January. My sphere of influence, my sphere of capability, my sphere of connections. Spheres are limiting, but in a good way.
Rick Warren points out in his book The Purpose Driven Life,
"The word boundaries refers to the fact that God assigns each of us a field or sphere of service... When we try to overextend our ministry reach beyond what God shaped us for, we experience stress... Just focus on finishing your race."
Before the world of the internet, social media, followers, and YouTube sensations, there were spheres. For the most part, people used their talents and dreams to contribute to the local community, or even just their own families. I think, in most cases, nothing more is expected of us now.
When it came down to it, I gave away my house-flipping books, but I couldn't throw out all that old sheet music. Playing the piano is a dream I've had since kindergarten, and a hobby I have invested thousands of hours in. Instead of letting it go amidst the business of middle-aged life, I've let that pile of music keep its space on my shelf. And I don't worry that it's not giving me loads of money or accolades. I just play in my sphere. I play often at church, and at the family Christmas Eve party. I am now teaching my children, and a few friends on the side. That brings me great happiness, and I'm guessing it enriches the few lives in my sphere.
And that's enough reason to hold onto a dream.
How about you? Any dreams worth keeping, or letting go?