Our Dreams: How to Take the Brakes Off Our Lives

Our Dreams: How to Take the Brakes Off Our Lives

Our Dreams - © boomingpie - Fotolia.comIf you’d prefer to listen rather than read:

Audio Our Dreams

It’s Sunday night.  All the little projects that were on the To-Do list for the weekend somehow slipped from Saturday morning to Sunday, and then to Sunday night.  Some got done, others didn’t.  The three calls Carol promised herself she’d make never got made.  “Darn it, they’re going to think I don’t care.  But now it’s too late.”

One of the calls was to her high school piano teacher who had somehow tracked her down and left a message to see what she had done with all that talent.

No time for any of that.  There’s just enough time before bedtime to make a new list from what’s left of the old one, and then add the key things that need to get done this coming week.

Monday morning.  The cycle starts up all over again.  Like running a marathon, but with no one marking the progress.  One foot in front of the other, moving forward.  Minimizing any damage.  Staying focused.  Maximizing the results of the efforts she’ll make in her business.

Financial Illiteracy blue squiggle
Years of bad economic reports and the uncertainty of what’s to come have taken a huge toll on women’s dreams.  More than they would in good times.

And it’s time to call a time-out and get them back.

First let’s look at where they went.

Where Our Dreams Went

As teens we could spend entire Saturday night sleepovers talking with our girlfriends about what we wanted our lives to look like:  what we’d do, what we’d achieve, what kind of guy we’d marry, how many kids we’d have and what mark we’d leave on the world.

We’d even draw conversations like that out of whoever we were dating, so we could share our dreams and see if his were a likely match.

College was a time to experiment and to add more exotic elements to our dreams.

Then came the job world, marriage and mothering … and the time spent dreaming shifted to time spent worrying about everyone around us.  (Nurturing, they call it.)

And the years passed.

Sometime in our forties we start to feel a rumbling, a gentle dissatisfaction.  The kids will be gone in a few years.  We’re on track with the work we’ve chosen to do, but it feels like living a check-list of things that have to be done to fulfill a plan.  A cut-and-dry plan of what’s expected of us.

That rumbling may not grow large enough and the dissatisfaction may not explode into deep questioning of what life is about and what we’re running the marathon for.  If not, by our fifties they will.  According to Harvard neuropsychologist Dr. Louann Brizendine’s book The Female Brain, shifting hormones will release a rash of questions like:

  • “Is this all there is?”
  • “What about me?”
  • “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?”

What we realize is that we turned off our “dream button” for one or both of the following reasons:  (1) we made other people’s dreams more of a priority than our own and/or (2) we figured that, as adults, those exuberant dreams of youth were silly.

Turning Our Dreams Back On

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Dreams are what give meaning to our lives, giving us something to strive for that touches our souls.  To keep them at a distance means that, even if we reach what others consider “success,” it will feel empty.

Turning our dreams back on is actually a simple process.  All it requires is quiet time and permission.

So, in case you’re feeling as if you are obediently fulfilling a life plan that lacks the exhilaration and zest of those teenage dreams, make yourself this promise:

I, _____________________, promise to set aside time for myself, in a quiet place of my choosing, where I can dig back for the feelings I had when I dreamed about what my future would look like.  I will adjust those dreams to my passions and priorities of today, without losing the vitality.  I will write them down.  And I will give myself permission to start fitting them into my life so that the rest of my life is as fulfilling and passionate as I know I deserve.




(And if you need a little help, the best tool I can recommend is Whitney Johnson’s book Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream)

Let us know in the Comments section below what youthful dreams this may have brought back for you.


Bio: Sharon O’Day fixes financial lives. She is a tell-it-like-it-is money expert with a successful career in global finance, plus an MBA from the Wharton School. Today she specializes in getting entrepreneurial women over 50 back on their game so they can have more money, less stress and more joy. With her “Over Fifty and Financially Free” strategies, they take actions that lead to their ultimate goal: financial peace of mind.

  • Susan Schiller

    I’m going to schedule in some dream time this week, with pencil and paper to write down what comes out. Thank God for neuroscience; otherwise we might all feel like we’re going crazy when really it’s hormones creating opportunities for change. I want to live life as fully as I can… I know it begins from deep inside. Thanks, Sharon, for another practice exercise in reinvention 🙂

    • Reinvention is such a good thing. What few understand is that they are in total control. At any time, they can look at what they’ve created for themselves and decide what to change. I’m not saying it’s always easy. I’m saying it’s always possible. As you have proved, Sue.

  • I love it, Sharon. Thanks so much for reminding me today to not forget to dream and keep at it! I appreciate you

    • Those dreams are so important, Jeanne, even if they need to lay dormant for awhile. Truly, without dreams, life is like a painting with no vibrant colors …

      • You are absolutely right! I haven’t been sleeping enough these days but am believing for a complete restoration of the years the locust has eaten!

  • robindavidman

    I think it is really important to have a dream or a goal to strive toward. This is especially true when you have obligations that have to be prioritized first. The nurturing, as you call it, fits within these obligations. Even if you know that you are not going to be able to succeed in your dream or goal in the immediate future it gives hope of something to look forward to in the future. This was another great article, Sharon. You always leave me thinking….

    • If we’re lucky, Robin, we can hang on to the dreams during those times when they have to lay dormant, not acted upon. But that’s apparently not always possible, according to all the women I mentor who tell me they’ve even forgotten HOW to dream. (But that’s easily corrected!) 😉

  • When I got up this morning I was looking forward to reading your latest post before heading out to a cold and wet morning. And what a gift you bestowed on me: dreams, emotional nourishment and feeling fulfilled. Thank you so much, Sharon!

    • Oh, Barbara! You made my day … to think I could warm up a cold and wet morning just with words! 😉

      • You know, Sharon, you have started me on something, I keep asking my friends about their dreams, do they still have them or have they left sight of them. And the most beautiful and touching thing a very dear friend of mine said to me tonight was: “It took me ten years to recapture my dream and I will never let go of it again!” Is this not beautiful?

        • It certainly is beautiful, Barbara. I love seeing the light go on when someone rediscovers the magic of dreaming …

  • Roslyn Tanner Evans

    All my iife I shopped for handcrafted items at summer fairs and venues. Occasionally a thought flitted into my mind that maybe I could do something artistic but then reality told me otherwise. I didn’t have great eye hand coordination nor did I think I had any talent. Fortunately, at age 68, I took a 2 hour class in beading and wow- I came alive. Having spent 30 professional years as a career counselor I recognized that aha moment. I am spending the later years of my life fulfilling a hidden dream and discovered my artistic outlet. I created an online business selling our handmade beaded jewelry and I am a vendor at craft shows.

    • THAT’s dreaming, Roz! I’m going through the exact same transition: I had a vision of a necklace I wanted that no one made, took a class … and am now accumulating beads in my travels to be able to launch something similar. And I can spend hours hunting down supplies, rummaging online and offline for special beads. In fact, on Sunday on a whim I drove with a friend 200 miles to a gem/bead show in Orlando, attended, slept over and drove home. Fulfilled!

  • Preach! I needed these fire-starter words today. What a wonderful reminder that as long as there’s breath in our bodies, we still have the opportunity to make it happen!

    • Absolutely, Marvia. As an extreme case, think of the Holocaust survivors: you know they hung on to dreams to get through atrocities we can’t even fathom. As long as there’s breath in our bodies …

  • Wingate Wyndham Sulphur

    What a great post! I love reading your articles. I did think I would have married earlier in life, but I was also set on finding the “right” one. Always said I would be married for at least 2 years before having children and we just passed the 2 year mark. I enjoy my career and hope to stay in the hospitality industry for a good while. So, I would say that I am following my dreams as most of mine were about family and career. Hoping to inspire some new dreams soon =)

    • Heather, you’re in the stage where your young dreams still have lots of room to thrive. As you do have children, it gets a little tougher to keep yours in the forefront. Hold onto the ones you have the best you can … because that ability to “dream with your eyes open” becomes more and more important. In short, it means not losing yourself as you love and nurture others …

  • I think the biggest gift we can give to our children and those we influence is to dream, have a plan and to go into action on a consistent bases.

    “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them” ~ Walt Disney

    • That last step is the one too many people forget, Brian … going into action consistently. As for Disney, now THAT’s the epitome of someone who knew how to dream!

  • Bonnie Squires

    Hi Sharon

    This is a wonderful post. I had stopped dreaming for awhile.
    But latly I’ve been crafting again and making earring and I’ve
    sold 4 pair so far. I’m all recyling some plastic things and will
    be making some Christmas gifts and who knows I my even sell

    Thanks so much for this blog it has made my night and to
    keep dreaming.

    • Dreaming with your eyes open … and creating things that can bring in some money … THAT should get your dream machine going, Bonnie!

  • Tina Ashburn

    This is a wonderful promise. When we fail to take care of ourselves and live our dreams, we help others fail, too! On the other hand, when we succeed at taking care of ourselves, we help others succeed, too!

    • Tina, it’s very much like the warning on airplanes to put our own air masks first, before putting them on our children …

  • Tereza

    A life without new dreams must be really dull!

  • Kung Phoo

    I do not think you should ever turn your back on your dreams.. you never know when they will creep back into your life and then you can realize them.

    • They may morph a bit as you mature and change some of your own perceptions, Rob, but they will adjust accordingly …

  • Alexandra McAllister

    I believe in dreams…it keep me going and looking forward to the future. Love this post. Thanks, Sharon.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Alexandra. While we’re often told to live in the present, the anticipation brought about by dreams points us in the direction in which we should invest our efforts.

  • You have to have dreams – a goal to work towards – the hope or anticipation of fulfilling a dream or reaching a goal is what keeps you going. Everyone has bumps, other obligations that come up in their life where adjustments have to be made… but never lose the ability to hang on to your dreams. Great post Sharon!

    • Glad to see you have a tight handle on the way dreams work, Knikkolette!

  • Kelly

    When I was in my 20’s I did what someone else wanted to do. When I turned to my 30’s I started doing what made me happy. Now I’m in my 40’s and I’m following my dreams.

    • The perfect metamorphosis, Kelly, as we come out of the cocoon of what others expected of (and for) us … into the life of what we truly want.

  • MeliLovesCards

    Great post and a really wonderful exercise! My dreams have changed during the years. I never wound of being the person “who hands out the babies” and made peace with that a long time ago. My dream has always been to “help people” and I’m so proud to say even though it’s been something I’ve been doing all my life, what I am doing now will help people “help” other people!

    • If helping others is what defines what makes you happy, Meli, then it’s logical that it will be an important part of what your dreams look like. With time, we just get better and better at it!

      • MeliLovesCards

        Helping others feel happy brings about the most personal satisfaction Sharon. You’re right, I’m getting better all the time!

  • What an incredible article that indeed pulled my dreams back “up” and out of my head. Each step through a woman’s life you highlighted her exact feelings and questions. The her I refer to is “me”. Thank you Sharon for the wonderful tool, the little paragraph that I’ve saved and taped to my wall…to be read daily and meditated on. Thank you for giving me permission to dream big again…it’s never too late to redesign success after 50!

    • That’s precisely what you live and what you teach, Carla: “it’s never too late to redesign success after 50.” We just forget to integrate that element into our dreaming … 😉

  • Simona R.

    There were a couple of years when I did not want to write anymore. Moving to a new country, learning a new language, made me reluctant to express myself anymore. Until one day when the writing bug had to burst out again. I remember about these two years as very dry, and I asked myself what would be my way. I just could not see myself becoming an accountant or something I was not skilled for, when writing was definitely my skill and passion.

    • Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to keep our dreams down and unexpressed, they’re too strong and break through despite our efforts. Sounds as if that was your case with writing, Simona. So glad you’ve set that skill (and dream) free!

  • Terri Lind Davis

    I am glad to report I decided to “just do it” and follow my dream this year to become an artist!

  • Cindy Taylor

    Oooohhh…I love the idea of giving ourselves PERMISSION to dream again….so important!! Thank you SO MUCH for this reminder!!

    • It’s easy to get too serious about life, Cindy … and dreams seem to be something of an earlier time. Nonsense! We all need them and will find in the long run that life turns out pretty sad without them!

  • Ann Zuccardy

    First, I am over the moon that you have made this post available in audio format. I have a hard time reading large blocks of text and audio makes it easy. You’ve inspired me to do the same on my blog. Second, I love the reference to that rumbling that happens in midlife. Since my brain injury and turning 50, I’ve found my way back to child-like dreams long ago abandoned. Does it mean I am going to go out and “live” every one of them? No. Just having them…just having them adds levity, joy and purpose to our lives.

    • Ann, I started adding the audio to my weekly articles about two years ago … definitely jury-rigged one night when it seemed like a good idea. (I know lots of people enjoy it, for differing reasons.) I’ve just never bothered to find a method that uses less duct tape. As for dreams, I love that you allow those child-like dreams to surface and to do what they did for us way back when … 😉

  • Sharon

    This is excellent … I’m hitting that hormone rush I think! 😛

    • Then do yourself a favor, Sharon: buy Louann Brizendine’s book The Female Brain. It has nothing to do with hormone replacement, etc. It’s all about how hormones affect our brains … and how they’ve affected our brains since we were in our mothers’ wombs. Easy read … and a great eye-opener!

  • To me, dreams are the fuel of the soul – without them we just wander aimlessly from one day to the next. Taking action to make a dream a reality is the real trick though, and the source of true passion. Loved this piece Sharon, as always 🙂

  • Lorii Abela

    post! Dreams motivate you and make your life more interesting. What is the
    greatest dream that you have achieved so far?