We all have limited time and money. We all have unique circumstances we're dealing with. Whether or not you're living the dream comes down to the negotiations you take to align with what you want.

Are You Living the Dream?

Since the first of January, I’ve been living in one of two mental places. The first, head down, bloodshot eyes staring at pages: moving letters, words, whole sentences from here to there, making sense of the 100,000 words becoming my non-fiction treatise on self-love, honor and respect. Or head laid back on a folding chair, eyes closed, soaking up the tender rays of winter sun on a beach in the Florida panhandle–my life is either this, or that, and not much else.

Recently, after posting a selfie at the beach, someone messaged me: I see you’re living the dream!

Their comment gave me pause. I wasn’t exactly sure what they meant. I had to temper the sudden urge to make whatever I was doing seem more interesting, closer to what I imagined they expected. Why did I suddenly feel the need to live up to another person’s expectations of what I was doing?

Was I living the dream, or not?

Dealing with other people’s perceptions of how we’re living can sometimes make us scramble to prove ourselves. But truthfully, I don’t even know what my friend thinks “living the dream” is. I’m aware of media’s definition of it: rich people living in beautiful warm places, spending a lot of money on fancy food, fine wine and good times, never working, and instead, doing whatever they want, whenever they want. If that’s the case, I know this person wasn’t thinking of me! 

So, what does “Living the Dream” really mean? How do we know if we are, or not? 

I wanted perspective, so I asked one of my good friends, Wendy, who’s also single, and travels a lot. I personally admire how she creates interesting adventures, meets others easily and appears to enjoy herself immensely. She, of all people, would have an opinion! “Living the dream,” she said, “is living her best life despite the circumstances that she’s in.” What she means is not waiting, but doing what she wants, whenever she can. And for her, I know that includes travel, camping, kayaking, hiking, off-roading in her JEEP, and generally things she’s never done, bucket-list-style, so to speak. 

I think when most people think someone else is living the dream there is an underlying assumption within them that they’re not. I believe they think that those of us who live intentionally, are lucky to be in the places we choose, doing the things we love. But I have to step in and say, it isn’t luck. But I understand. I’ve been there, feeling like what I want is so far away, uncertain that I could ever make it happen. It’s a little painful to admit.

However, there was, at some point, a shift. I chose to change my mind and believe that I could. With that, I made certain sacrifices and choices that (over time) put me in alignment with what I wanted. It wasn’t luck, it was a choice. We all have limited time and money, and unique circumstances we’re dealing with. Whether or not you’re living the dream comes down to the negotiations you take to align with what you want. I began living my dream YEARS before I got in my car and drove 13 hours to the Florida coast!

Living the dream doesn’t happen when everything just falls into place. Living my dream began the moment I chose to believe that it was possible and took intentional, manageable, steps in that direction. I’ve always wanted to skip the cold, grey, dreary winters of Indiana and escape to anywhere warm. I arranged my life to make it happen. I created some degree of financial freedom, inspired work and the ability to check out of one place and into another for a few months out of the year. 

My reason for “snowbirding” was really to keep warm and eliminate distractions so I could finish my book. I had criteria: near the beach (preferably walking-distance), pet-friendly, 2 bedroom for occasional guests, and within my budget range. I’m not staying in a high-rise with amenities and an amazing view of the ocean (yeah, I imagined that initially). I literally had to save the entire year to pay for the small cottage where I’m staying! My weekly budget doesn’t allow for going out to eat, or renting boats and Jet Skis. I work most days, cook my own meals, and practice free online yoga. My only entertainment includes a few hours at the beach with a good book.

I don’t know if anyone else would call it living the dream, but I do.

Living the dream begins with defining how you want your life to unfold. Yes, you get to. First you choose it and then you keep choosing until it gets closer and closer to your wildest imagination. Maybe one day, I’ll have the high-rise too! But for now I know the dream means living into my purpose, being a writer and sharing personal transformation, self-love and on-purpose living.

We all make choices about what to do with our resources, and we’re all in different stages of life with unique demands. There was a time when I was a single parent working hard just to survive. I couldn’t give much attention to what I wanted. I had to wait before I could devote myself 100% to my dreams.

But some people are forever waiting:

Waiting for the right time or enough money.

Waiting for someone else to take us to our dreams, to create what we can’t manifest on our own. 

Waiting for the perfect conditions to aline, to be able to quit (or get) a job that allows us freedom. 

There’s nothing wrong with waiting. Sometimes we just have to, like when I was a single parent. But even then, I was already thinking, planning and becoming intentional about how I wanted life to unfold later. I was already writing my memoir, part time, after my “real” job. I was already blogging and creating a readership. I was already saving and experimenting with winter travel. I was considering what it would cost me and how I could potentially create a life I could love.

You can find my memoir, If I Were Good HERE

Anyone who you think is currently “living the dream,” however you define it, they started a long time ago. They built the necessary muscles (attitudes, habits, ideas, choices) for what they’re doing now. And you can do it too. Your dream still waits for you.

Even today, I consider where I am now just a step. It’s not all of what my dreams entails. I know it gets better. At the same time, I’m already living my dream. As my friend, Wendy, would say, I’m living my “best life now.” It might not look like other people’s definition of “the dream,” but it’s mine and I’m proud of it.

Friend, dreams don’t happen overnight; at least not the kind that will change your life. No matter where you are, or what you’re doing, consider investing in your dreams now. Nothing has to be crystal clear, just go in the direction of what feels right. Ask yourself, are you moving toward the realization of your dreams, or farther away? Are you simply sitting still, waiting, wishing, hoping, praying? Or are you choosing habits, thoughts, attitudes and actions that make you happy already? 

Because the first step to living your dream is an easy one, choosing it!

So what does your dream look like?

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Comments

  1. Kristin Lawson

    Great post Tracy. I think you make a few key points that people often do not understand, perhaps ever in their lives. One, dreams are entirely subjective. That may seem like a DUH statement, but so many people compare themselves to how others are living and waste a vast amount of energy in doing so. Of course I’ve been guilty of that along with every other human, but the key is to recognize that we all have different life goals and dreams and comparison is the thief of joy. Also dreams are ever-changing, and we must give ourselves permission to change them and alter course when we another path is calling. For me, right now the dream looks like owning a designing a home which I never experienced in childhood. It looks like creating financial security for myself which my family never had growing up in poverty. For others, those things may feel like a deathtrap and they could care less, which is totally cool. Do I have other dreams I hope to achieve? Absolutely! Will some of those dreams take me away from the current path I am on? Possibly! Flexibility and self-acceptance will guide me through those changes. The other point you make which I love, is that it take action to do anything. And every action requires sacrifice. Every choice we make means there is another one that didn’t get made. I think people tend to get hung up in a cycle of thinking they need to be motivated in order to act. We don’t. In fact, behavioral psychology shows us that action is actually what leads to motivation, not the other way around. Want to move to a new city but you’re stuck in entropy or fear and don’t know where to start so you just do nothing waiting until you feel motivated to do something…anything? Book a short term trip there and put your feet on the ground. Start applying for jobs in that city and see what comes back to you. Obviously the situation is much more nuanced and complex than that, but the key is to not wait for something intangible like motivation to strike, and instead just act and see where the action leads us on the path of accomplishing our dreams.

  2. Kristin, I love your additions. Such sage advice. I remember when I bought my house. At the time, I wanted to create some stability for myself and my kids. I wanted my work efforts to show in something that would benefit us as a family. Devoting my energy to that then was perfect. I never actually thought I would sell it, ever…especially getting past my fears of financial responsibility and to the point where I could relax. As I grew confident as a homeowner, the house fit me so well. But like you said, dreams evolve and our lives change and we need different experiences to keep growing. Selling the house would give me the freedom to pursue other things. So I totally vibe with what you are saying. When it comes to living the dream, to each his own, so you better own it or you’ll miss out.

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