The Problem With Dreams and Success

Posted by Erin Aquin on Apr 12, 2016 10:00:00 AM

6550009887_d837fddb3a_z-903176-edited.jpgYou might think the title of this blog is strange since I write so much about big dreams and re-thinking the idea of success, but while planning my upcoming meditation series at De La Sol Yoga and the Spring Revitalization Retreat on April 30, I have been talking to students about why they started their yoga or meditation practice and why they continue.

Reducing stress, improving well-being and attitude are the most common reasons.

While it is true that practice can help with these things, I am interested to know why so many of us feel stressed out, sick and negative in the first place.

Most of my students have really good lives. They have careers, homes, families, love and safety. Having all of those things in a world where so many have so little should be a recipe for lasting ease, health and happiness. 

Sadly, countless studies show that our culture as a whole struggles to find meaning and contentment. Even though you probably have wealth and security in many domains of life, you might also be struggling with an unspoken stress that is silently damaging your health and well-being.


Worse still is when you are wrapped up in your personal stress, you become less available to deal with the bigger issues in the world that could certainly use your contribution.

While I wouldn't claim that yoga and meditation can resolve personal stress, they are tools to help you engage in a more productive relationship with your life and the world around you.

Recently I have been working with spring energy and the Wood element (from the Chinese Five Element system) in my yoga classes and meditation practice. Wood energy is linked to perspective, planning and how we work with our dreams to make them a reality.

In that investigation two things have come up that immediately derail the unfurling of success and the ability to dream big. I notice them in myself and in most of the wonderful people I work with. Since theses obstacles work so strongly against success and big dreams I want to explore them with you today. Together we can hopefully, remove some of their charge and make ourselves available for the bigger projects the world needs us to complete. 

1) Comparing Another's Accomplishment to Your "Work in Progress"

A source of deep stress for people of all ages is that we compare ourselves to others. The most harmful way you might do this, is comparing your "work in progress" to someone else's "finished product".

It's like listening to a great record and comparing the artist to yourself even though you picked up a guitar for the first time only days ago. When you do this you forget that the other artist was once a beginner on the path and it took them decades of work, sacrifice and support to get to the place they are. 

You may also find yourself comparing your inner experience to someone else's outward expression. This is an easy trap to fall into especially with social media being such a big part of our lives. You find yourself on Facebook scrolling through pictures of a smiling, glamorous friend at a gala event who is describing their #perfectlife and how #blessed they are while you sit in your underwear eating cereal at 7pm on a Saturday night.

Easy to feel like a hot mess isn't it?

But just because someone appears shiny and glossy from the outside doesn't mean that they have it all figured out, in fact, it is often the reverse.

When you compare yourself or your stage of the journey to someone else remember that you can only be where you are in the process of your own learning and unfolding.

Working with the wood element through vehicles like meditation and yoga are ways to ground yourself in the reality of your present state and allow you enough perspective to appreciate the beauty in the creations and achievements of others (without feeling jealous or in any way "lesser").  

2) Big Dream Paralysis

Another deeply embedded source of stress is what I call "Big Dream" paralysis. How many times in your life have you come up with a brilliant idea or goal? Perhaps it was something so far outside your current realm that it blew your mind. You got ecstatically excited and maybe told a few trusted friends about your big idea. Then you set to work researching and plotting your next move.

Not long after you hit a wall.

You realized your big dream was going to require funds you didn't have to get started, or more education or a huge shift in lifestyle. Perhaps you simply didn't know how to turn your idea into reality. Doubt crept in and like a slow moving poison, it contaminated the purity of your dream bit by bit until you wanted to stop thinking about it all together.

This has probably happened to you several times in your life. Overwhelmed by the magnitude of your big dream, you squashed the whole thing entirely because there wasn't a clear path.

And while the wood element inspires your big dreams, it can also help you break those goals down into actionable, reasonable steps that will actually get you there. All of the great leaders in business, science, the arts, etc. have this capacity for "shifting modalities" and remaining unstuck as they pursue their life's work. 

If this is something you're interested in bringing into your own life, consider joining me and Steve Haase for the upcoming Spring Revitalization Retreat on April 30 (you should hurry, though, as the early bird discount ends tomorrow).

Photo Credit: NPS/Neal Herbert

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Living Your Dreams

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