46?! Huh. Not Quite What I Expected.
I’m 46, and I feel amazed sometimes that I’m still learning some of life’s most basic lessons. Have you ever felt amazed at that? I guess our amazement at this reality reveals an underlying (and flawed) assumption about what being an “adult” would be like. That at this age, we’d “have it all together.” Well... I’m compelled to admit that I don’t have it all together. Do you?
If you do, please let me know, and I’ll be right over to sit at your feet and soak in all your wisdom. Then I’ll ghost-write your autobiography and we’ll both enjoy early retirements because you’ll give me a very generous percentage of the royalties. Then we’ll write another book together about how to “retire” early because we’re suddenly “early retirement experts.” This time, though, my name will be on the cover of the book, too, and we’ll split the royalties 50/50. Then we’ll be on Oprah and sell the rights to the movie. It’ll be great!
Oh wait. “Retirement” isn’t actually all that awesome. And fame is a tyrant.
Maturity = Acknowledging Our Immaturity
Although we adults may inhabit grown-up bodies, in some ways--just by matter of degree--each of us still has some of the characteristics of immature children. Have you ever met a 40-year-old child? A 57-year-old child? A 78-year-old child? I have, and in some ways, I am that adult-child.
Maybe one measure of our maturity as adults is the ability to acknowledge the immaturity we still have in adulthood.
That acknowledgment keeps the door open for growth in areas where it’s needed.
A Clarification Before We Go Any Further
There are very definitely ways in which shedding the immaturity of youth is right and good and enables we adults to contribute in the world in the ways that only adults can. It’s good that we learn how not to throw temper tantrums in the cereal aisle of the grocery store, for example.
However, I think there are many ways in which shedding “childishness” does us more harm than good. This was impressed upon me when, in response to a women’s casual question on a plane regarding my occupation, I replied that I was a coach. And, among other things, I help people “grow up” more completely--by which I meant that I served as a catalyst for helping people assume full responsibility for themselves and the lives they were leading. Her reaction caught me off-guard, though. She retorted instinctively, “I’ll never grow up!” In that moment, my thinking regarding my role in people’s lives as their coach was instantly rewired. I realized that part of “growing up” is actually recapturing some of the characteristics of youth that can get suppressed, squashed, or neglected as adults.
Especially the audacious, unfiltered, unapologetic, un-self-conscious ability to dream.
Dream Like a Kid In a Candy Story
If you’re a parent, you’re very familiar with being in a toy store or candy store or watching an ad on TV with your child and having them ask you, “Can I have that, Daddy??!!” or, “Can I have that, Mommy, please please please??!!” Kids don’t first reflect on whether something would be a wise purchase or be good for them. They see something they want, and they just ask for it.
Can you remember doing that when you were a kid? When was the last time as an adult that you allowed yourself to want something with abandon, like a child would? To dream a big dream and believe that maybe, just maybe, it’s achievable? To tug on the sleeve of God (or the Universe, or whatever / whomever you appeal to in moments of want and need) and ask, “Can I have that please?? Please??!!” I think the willingness to dream big dreams and ask for big things is one of the most tragic qualities lost in most adults as they “grow up” and take their place as “adults” in the world. And that loss means that many of the greatest contributions we could make in the world never see the light of day.
Thanks, Steve Harvey!
I realized this was true of me recently after listening to Steve Harvey share his rags-to-riches story. (He’s got an amazing story, BTW--check out his motivational stuff online.) A big takeaway for me from his story was how clear Steve was on what he wanted in his youth and how enthusiastically he asked God for it.
In Steve’s case, he wanted to be on TV and he wanted to be rich. He dreamed and asked and yearned incessantly and unselfconsciously and with abandon. And today, both of his dreams have come true--beyond all reason and evidence to support that those dreams could actually be realized. Steve is quick to point out that the dream did not become reality just because he dreamed it. He worked and persisted and took advantage of every opportunity that came his way. He was an active, alert participant in bringing his dreams to life. But the dreams came first.
Our dreams aren’t the only thing, but they are the first thing.
Somewhere along the way, I became very self-conscious of my wants and dreams and learned that it was somehow wrong to want good things for myself and to dream big dreams. I have some awareness about where that self-consciousness and hesitancy came from. But it’s actually less important that I know where they came from than that--once becoming aware of it--I simply resolve to change it, to resuscitate that bit of “childishness” and give myself permission to invite it back into my adulthood. As Steve Harvey said, our dreams are unique to each of us, and they represent things that don’t yet exist in the world but that we could make a reality.
And Einstein is attributed as saying that, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” But we “adults” tend to affirm the opposite and deem ourselves very prudent and sensible for doing so.
Progress Belongs To the Dreamers
It’s hard to recall any significant advancement or movement or evolution of humanity that anyone thought was sensible at the time. Rather, a dreamer or two came along and began to assert persistently that what no one else saw or believed was indeed possible. Jesus. Galileo. Our Founding Fathers. Henry Ford. Gandhi. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. All “dreamers” in their own way who sowed seeds of human advancement in ways that most others thought absurd at the time.
Will You Dare To Dream Again?
I, for one, am daring to dream again. My family and I made “dream boards” together recently for the first time. I have on mine 30 or more big dreams that I’m bringing to God audaciously and without hesitation or self-consciousness. I’m not under the illusion that all of them will absolutely come true just as I’ve dreamed. But I do know that by holding them back self-consciously or trying to right-size or polish them before bringing them into the light, I’m hedging my bets and bringing half-hearted desires into the world. And half-hearted desires yield mediocre results.
I want mind-blowing results. I want the best that this life has to offer, and I want to offer my best in this life. I’m done with half-hearted dreaming.
I’ll say it again: Our dreams aren’t the only thing, but they are the FIRST thing.
There’s a lot of work between our dream and its fulfillment. But there’s no fulfillment without the dream in the first place.
Let Mortality Motivate You
Let’s bring our Mortality into the picture. We’re all going to die. It’s just a matter of when and how. It might be at a ripe old age, or it could be later this very day. Will you invite that awareness into your life to motivate you to take action NOW on the dreams that only you can dream? The dreams that exist only in your heart and mind and no one else’s?
It doesn’t have to be a Martin Luther King-sized dream. Or a Galileo-sized dream. Or an Elon Musk-sized dream.
It’s a you-sized dream, and that’s just right.
Don’t take your dreams to the grave. Go after them with everything you’ve got. Some of them might just come true. Others might not. There’s beauty in their fulfillment, and there’s beauty in the pursuit even when they don’t come true.
Ladies and gents, “tomorrow never comes.” There is only today. Dare to dream again. And take one step today, no matter how small, toward fulfilling your dreams.
If This Was Useful to You, Listen to This, Too
Check out episode of my podcast, Andrew Petty is Dying: 009 | Awaken Your Inner Kid to be the Best Grown-up You Can Be--a Lighthearted and Enlightening Conversation With My 10-Year-Old Son. It’ll help you reconnect with your imagination and the wonder and innocence of your youth.
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Remember: You ARE going to die. But you’re not dead yet! So get after it!