This is PART ONE of a three-part blog about what to do when dreams fall apart – with steps to help you begin to re-design your life.
It’s heartbreaking when your dreams fall apart. I’ll never forget when my dreams fell apart. There were some really tough days. I’m not kidding.
Feeling as though I was outside of my body was both familiar and so tough. I knew things were about to change… and drastically. This challenge was not going to end the way I hoped, and I wondered if I had it in me to get through the whirlwind that I had predicted.
Rough times can throw us into the darkest moods, yet they can be our greatest hour. I know it doesn’t always feel like our greatest hour, especially when we’re scrambling for ways to get by if what we’re faced with what was unexpected. It also doesn’t seem like your finest hour when you feel consumed with grief and disappointment.
The challenge is managing the emotional roller coaster that comes with being exposed. Then it’s about picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off and starting again.
We can’t hide from other people, and we can’t hide from ourselves, but we can prepare ourselves emotionally to thrive through life’s challenges.
Before It All Happened
I was living the dream! Happy family, three grown-up children. I was working in a curriculum management role in a large government emergency services department.
I was also studying. We had two houses (owned by the bank) and we were about to build a third – a dream home on an island on the outskirts of Brisbane, Australia.
Life wasn’t perfect. It had its challenges, but it was pretty good!
When Those Dreams Fall Apart
We built and moved into that dream home. To do this, we’d made many sacrifices over the years to build it. We had put so much sweat and hard work towards it, so finally be standing in that house, our home, felt incredible! Sadly, shortly afterward I lost my job and my husband’s income was reduced drastically. Three years along, we’d had to sell everything and moved back to Brisbane.
It felt like the wheels had fallen off our lives. When the wheels fall off, the vehicle breaks down. In a very short space of time, we found ourselves faced with needing to redesign our whole lives. I didn’t know how we would get through.
I’d had my 50th birthday in that dream home we’d built, surrounded by dear friends and family. We’d buried our dogs’ ashes under one of the trees. We’d spent every night out on our beautiful back deck staring calmly at amazing sunsets, sipping wine.
To leave that dream home could have been the saddest, most devastating time of my life. I never thought that my dreams would fall apart.
Yet, here I am today, sitting in my office of our first rental home in thirty years, unscathed as I’m telling you this story.
After My Dreams Fell Apart – How I Started the Process of Redesigning My Life
At the time of selling our dream house, I became an accredited Ontological Coach. I’d also landed some consulting work on and off inside the organisation I used to work for. I had learned to self-coach, be coached and coach others. I was my own client and I became a client.
So raw and vulnerable, it felt like I was curled up in a cocoon, unsure of what was going to happen when I came out.
From inside that metaphorical cocoon, I realised that I had to accept those uncertainties… and that I couldn’t control everything. Feeling grief about this was natural. We need to allow ourselves time to go through grief when things don’t work out the way we expect them to or when our dream falls apart…
However, I also knew I had to move past grief into acceptance. Comprehensive ontological training had given me the knowledge that if I allowed myself to get stuck in grief, I could get caught up in resignation. This would keep me in the assessment that ‘things can’t change’. When we are stuck in grief, it’s probable that we won’t see the possibilities for our future.
So what changed everything?
I Got Curious
When your dreams fall apart – or when you go through a significant life-change – it is the opportunity to observe the circumstances differently, rather than seeing it as ‘the end’ of your dreams.
Now I know that when times are so tough, when things seem horrendously difficult – even hopeless – this can seem like a big stretch, even impossible…
So what I’m inviting you to do is to start with curiosity like this. Start by finding one moment to look at your life and the surrounding circumstances through curiosity.
As simple or even ridiculous as this might sound right now, it will change your whole outlook if you just ask yourself these two things…
- I wonder how I’m seeing this?
- I wonder how I could see it differently?
Choosing to Have a Language Shift was Key
Reframing the way we think and having a language of acceptance changes everything. This means admitting that there is nothing we can do about our plans falling apart – but we can have control over our future and be open to the exciting possibilities!
How I applied number one from above:
“This is a terrible situation. We’re going to be broke. Renting is embarrassing. I don’t know how I’m going to tell people we’ve lost everything.”
How I applied number two from above:
“Things will always work out. We will learn from this. I’m looking forward to renting so we can get our finances back in order and be closer to the family. We’ll be stronger for this and one day I’ll share my story.”
See how they are two completely different ways of observing the same circumstance?
In a mood of curiosity, by asking yourself the two questions above, you can begin to reframe your circumstance to give you a greater chance of going through it as a learner, not a person who says ‘this happened because’. What comes after ‘because’ are excuses and they pull you away from learning.
Both of these statements involve my account of the situation, not the situation itself! That’s what we do as humans – we share our account, but it’s not always the truth – it’s our interpretation.
When you observe through these questions, you can step yourself outside of the situation… and you can start to be open to a wonderful brand new path!
I’m sharing my story with you and I’m mentioning the tool of curiosity to you as a very first step as I know personally how powerful it is!
You may not be used to thinking like this. It does take practice. But the good news is that our brains are trainable – every time you try a new skill like this, you are literally mending broken neural pathways and creating new ones.
PPS When your dreams fall apart it is so painful… but it’s the perfect place to redesign your life into something incredible. OX
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