Almost every client I see, almost every person I know, wants to have an exciting job, and great home, 2 ½ kids, a successful marriage, manageable expenses, lots of savings, and regular holidays to exotic places. I know a few people and clients who don’t buy into this dream, but honestly, they are countable on maybe 2 hands.
What I just described is sometimes called the “American Dream”; and that dream, while it might have been attainable for most people long ago, isn’t any longer. The truth is that my parents were closer to realizing that dream than I ever was, and I’m closer than generations following me. What my parents discovered was that the dream was empty – because there was a hidden cost. I was about the same age as the daughter in Mad Men, and just as in the series, many of my mother’s friends were drinking too much or in psych wards. That was the cost – society restricted the role of women in order to make jobs available for men. It’s when Women’s Liberation began, and for good reason.
Having said all this, while “having it all” may be a pipe dream, creating a life that makes you feel satisfied and happy is absolutely possible. The first thing to ask yourself, if you really want happiness, is what kind of person are you? Do you have the ambition needed to even attempt the BIG dream? Or, is that something you’ve talked yourself into, or heard so many times you simply don’t question its application to your own life. For instance, those few people I mentioned in the first paragraph? None of them want fame or fortune. They have deliberately chosen a style of life that suits them, and that lifestyle doesn’t include a lot of high-octane risk. It does include risk, but not that kind of risk. In general, they’re happy, and tend to experience joy every day.
If you’re the kind of person who does want something bigger, then it’s important that you understand the risks, and also understand clearly how equipped you are in dealing with all possible consequences. You might fail; you might go broke; you might lose it all; you may have to revamp all your thoughts and plans over and over again. Do you have the stamina to ride through those possibilities? Are you the kind of person who can deal easily with uncertainty, without stress – without driving yourself (and everyone around you) crazy in the process?
If you are, then you know the thrill of riding that wave of chaos. For many of us who’ve experienced this thrill, like most really good and worthwhile things in life, it happens infrequently. The rest of the time is getting there – preparing, planning, creating, executing those plans, then experiencing the result … tweaking or revamping and trying again. Then moving to the next level and doing it all over.
That’s one thing to understand. The other thing to understand is that none of us get there on our own. Mostly, we rely on those steady others – those steady hearts who work well with less risk and less excitement.
Steady heart or wave rider – we need both. Which are you?
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Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist. To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co