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Are you living the life you really want to live? Are you doing what makes your heart sing and your spirit sparkle? Do you wake up most mornings feeling blessed that you get to do what you love? If your answer is a resounding yes, then bravo, for you are among those who shine their light ever so brightly and create a path for others. You show, by example, how to live life fully and on purpose. And if you are not yet there, I invite you to take a risk this week—and indeed a risk it is. For it takes great courage to dream.

You may be thinking, “It doesn’t take courage to dream.” And no doubt for some of you that’s true. Perhaps you grew up in a family where you were told that you could have whatever you wanted, that the sky was the limit simply because of who you are. Or perhaps you were taught you could have almost anything you wanted. While the moon may have been out of reach, the top of the fence was not. You simply had to set your mind to it and it would be yours.

The vast majority of you, I suspect, were discouraged from dreaming, from finding your passion. “You can’t do it.” “You’ll never make it, so why even try?” “You’re too old.” “You’re too young.” “You’re not smart enough.” “Why don’t you get a real job?” “We need you at home to help with the family.” “What a silly idea.” These may have been the words you heard most often. If you’re female, perhaps you grew up in a family where the boys ruled and you were only encouraged to get married and have kids. Maybe if you took an interest in sports or science or math, you were encouraged to consider economics instead. Or maybe you wanted to be a singer, a dancer, or a musician, and you were told you should get a real job. Whatever you were told, it affected you greatly, so much so that even today the voices of those who said you couldn’t still ring loud and clear in your mind.

This week, you’re invited to go on a journey, a courageous journey, one that can possibly change the course of your life forever. My hope is that by your willingness to take one small step, you will be motivated to take yet another, and another, leading eventually to a life you really want.

It took me years to change the belief system that consistently said, “You can’t,” “You’ll never make it,” and “Who do you think you are?” I had to be willing to feel the uncomfortable feelings that sur- faced every time I talked about being a lawyer. I had to say, “Thank you for sharing” to all those people I perceived as dream busters. I had to stop giving them power.

The year was 1981, and I was fast approaching the completion of my second year of sobriety. Something was missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew there was something unsettling about my life. I was unhappy and unsure why. There was a void inside of me, a hole in my gut, one that had always been temporarily filled with drugs, alcohol, and men. Yet for the first time in my life, I knew the emptiness could only be satisfied by something from within. I yearned to know that my life had meaning, that it was about more than just not drinking. Don’t get me wrong, I was grateful to be sober, grateful not to be killing myself with drugs and alcohol. But I needed to know that I could take the lessons I learned in recovery into the real world and live a useful and happy life. I needed to know it was okay to dream of a better life.

Finding myself at that crossroad, I saw my life with a clarity I’d never known before. It was time to get real. It was time to get honest. It was time to change. And I was ready. It was a change that compelled me to ask some tough questions, such as what do I want to do with the rest of my life? What am I willing to do to make it happen?

I started by asking questions of people who seemed to be living the life they wanted. I audited classes at the local university and made friends with the reference librarian at my local library. I looked at magazines that appealed to me and then cut out pictures of things that seemed especially interesting. I read books that helped me identify my skills, talents, and things I enjoyed doing, but most often, I prayed to be an open channel. I prayed to know my life’s purpose.

Why is identifying our heart’s desire so important to our self-esteem? Dreams are what life is made of; they give us a reason to get out of bed in the morning and a reason to keep going, especially on those days we want to give up. When we live our lives on purpose, everyone benefits because when we’re happy, people around us are happy. When we hate the lives we have, consciously or un- consciously, we make everyone suffer. There is a power in loving what we do. There is also a sense of destructiveness when we don’t. Being stuck in a job we hate or a relationship that is unhealthy debilitates the soul.

So what do you want to do when you grow up? If you could do anything in the world you want, go anyplace, experience anything, what would it be? Now is the time to take that first courageous step into the light.

Self-esteem comes from having the courage to dream.

Francine D. Ward
Attorney-At-Law, Author, Speaker

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