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How To Dream Big and Have The Life You Want

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How To Dream Big and Have The Life You Want

Lead a purpose driven life.
James P. Nicolai M.D.
James P. Nicolai M.D. More by this author
Jan 02, 2014 at 09:00 AM

What do you want? Most of us have forgotten how to dream outside of our sleeping world. For some reason, the little kid in us—the one who has no problem suspending reality in favor of Fantasy Island—has gone to sleep.

Maybe it’s because all of our dreams have been shot down in favor of the practicalities of making a living and putting food on the table. Maybe we’re afraid to step out and take a chance to think of a world filled with unlimited possibilities. Reasons abound to justify why we don’t dream. All of my mentors and heroes are dreamers. If they can do it, why can’t I?

Eliminate Obstacles 

Steven Pressfield has written one of my favorite books called Gates of Fire. It is about the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, which was made famous by the movie 300. He has recently written a series of nonfiction books about defeating resistance and living the life we were meant for. In one of these books, called Do the Work, he says the following, “A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. It’s only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate.”

It’s time for us to think about our dreams for a change. It’s time for us to dream big. I often invite people to form an image of what optimum health might look like for them or imagine what their ideal self might be with all of their obstacles eliminated. I ask them to tell me some of the deepest desires of their heart—what keeps coming up for them to do, be, say, or live that may not be happening yet.

A guest I saw at Miraval is an interventional cardiologist practicing in the Midwest. She doesn’t really want to practice medicine the way she does now. She hates what she does. It’s eating her alive. She has every stress-related problem you can think of, from headaches and gastritis to insomnia and palpitations. What she would really love to do is work with horses and handicapped kids.

After we talked, I discovered that she lives very close to where I used to live and practice. And isn’t it interesting—I know someone in that community who has a ranch with horses and engages with disabled little ones to build balance, muscle tone, and self-esteem.

I believe this is how life works. There’s a force out there that wants us to live our dreams. We just have to get over, under, or through all of the walls we create. Anne Parker, a colleague of mine at Miraval, says, “Change happens when the discomfort of the familiar outweighs the fear of the unknown.” That is so true.

I gave this individual the contact information for the ranch. I hope she acts on this bit of synchronicity; I don’t believe in accidents. Stuff happens for a reason . . . all of it. I may not be able to see or feel the connections in the moment—and I may never see them—but they are always there.

Make A Vision Board 

My first recommendation for her was to start dreaming big. I asked her to make a vision board—a piece of poster board with cut-out pictures, words, phrases, and ideas from magazines, newspapers, and paper advertisements that describe the desires of your heart or your ideal self. I suggest you make one yourself. Design your vision board by taking the dreams of your imagination and making them concrete—even if they’re just pictures on a poster board. One time, my wife cut out a picture of the figure she wanted, pasted it in her journal, cut off the head, and put her own face on the empty space. I once cut out the picture of the six-pack abdominal muscles I wanted to have. I kept thinking about what I would look like to have abs like that. It took me 12 weeks and some serious sweat, but I got them—and the vision in my head kept me motivated to make it happen. Transformation occurs from the inside out.

See The Life You Want

Anything you desire to change on the outside must first be changed internally. The physical transformation happens later. Start by dreaming it up. Seeing the vision inside is the most important part and has to happen first.

As you create a goal, first understand what the destination looks like in your mind. Using all of your senses, flesh out every aspect of what will happen in your imagination. How does it look, smell, and taste? What sounds do you hear? What do you hear people saying? What do you say when you’ve made it? How does it make you feel to have made your dream come true?

Make this vision real by putting it plainly in front of you every single day, and then work on the next big question: What’s getting in the way?

About Author
James P. Nicolai M.D.
James P. Nicolai, M.D., is the Medical Director of the Andrew Weil, M.D., Integrative Wellness Program at Miraval Resort and Spa, the first interactive, integrative wellness program of its kind at a destination spa resort. He is a board-certified Continue reading