"Extraordinary is the only word that comes to mind, and only possible because we named our intention... but the key I think was starting small. One thing I'm learning through coaching is that hearts have no borders. The things that people live and die for are not only the same anywhere, but they're small, everyday things."
The Art of Dreaming Small follows the true journey of co-active coach Mare Rosenbaum and two of her clients as she calls magic into their lives-and her own-by finding a new way to make each day extraordinary. Mare's life recipe mixes coaching and business innovation methods that result in purpose-driven and fulfilling bucket-list-worthy experiences. There is indeed some kind of magic here. Since creating a bucket list, Mare has experienced amazing things that can be attained through goal setting and hard work-but, as she says, there's something serendipitous that happens when you follow this method. Other people have written about this phenomenon at length too, because when magic happens, it must be shared. Dream it, know it, and do it!
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You Want What?!
What does it mean when two clients at the same time, thousands of miles apart, come to you to help them write their bucket list? What are the chances? A believer in the Law of Attraction, I wondered if I was going to find out that I had a terminal illness.
One of these clients was at the top of his game, in his forties, a vice president of a multi-million-dollar international company. The other was barely a senior, healthy, adventurous, financially independent, and capable of doing anything she desired. My mind was saying, what in the hell are you talking about? Why are you thinking about the END of your life when you're just about to live it? What stops either of you from doing anything you want to do?
What came out of my mouth (as a newly minted coach) was, "Tell me more."
Jeanne, client number one — a true empath, could sense my discomfort with what sounded like a death knell. Reversing roles, she assured me that creating a bucket list was positive. To her it was a way of living intentionally. "I don't want to get to the end of my life and realize I haven't lived it." She went on to explain, "I think I have a good ten years before I have to worry about my health limitations. I want to use that time wisely."
Paul, client number two, explained, "Every day I go through the motions, I do the same thing, I'm tied to my cell phone, work is 24/7, I go to the gym, I come home, but this isn't living." He went on. "There's always traffic, some horrible story in the news, shootings, people don't care about each other ... they don't care that they're destroying the environment ... they're always on their cell phones, and I do it too. My brother barely talks to me, and I never actually take the time to enjoy life. Friends, and family ... enjoyment, isn't that what life's about? Why does no one do this? I'm tired of it. I don't want that to be me anymore."
This sounded like the lament of our time. I hear this often, in every setting.
With both clients, when there are few limitations on what exciting and wonderful things they could do, where would I begin to help them create a bucket list that truly mattered? And, what if they spent time and money doing something fantastical that turned out to be meh? As far as end of life: they may have ten years, or twenty, or two days, who knows? What about living now?
I longed for them each to experience joy; to experience intimate connection. I longed for their contentment. I sensed their frustration and restlessness. Both are caring, kind, loving people who want meaning. Together, we would soul search and learn what compels them, what loving every day means. To guide them in this process, I would do this for myself first. Every weekend I would work, just one step ahead of them, not knowing where it would end up.
From The Secret, to Think and Grow Rich, to vision boards, many of us have attempted to call into our lives our dreams and greatest fantasies. For some, it works. For the rest of us, well, it seems too out of reach. I've tried both methods to no avail. I believe there is power, maybe something energetic or magnetic to naming and claiming what you desire. So why doesn't it work? Perhaps I'm too impatient, and my clients needed something now, today, not someday. Paul will never do visioning every day. To take a purely coaching approach, I could help him set goals, take steps to achieve them, work through his own resistance or other obstacles and increase his motivation, but, what's the goal?
Even in my coaching classes, I have to admit, that the visioning exercises we did to discover our life purpose resulted in nothing for me. It felt forced. Where does purpose reside within each of us? What's the path to discovering it? How would I wrestle this awesome task (awesome in the truest sense) into submission? It may happen that we find our way, but how would I repeat it successfully with every client? To feel fulfilled when the experience has nothing to do with work, to live our purpose outside of career, unless it's volunteerism, feels at times even more elusive. Any purpose exploration I've seen or done has to do with what we do in the world of work, but what about finding meaningful enjoyment? Experience for our own sake seems contradictory to purpose. Like an explorer, I set out to discover unknown territory.
We all owe it to ourselves to live well, and if we believe in a Higher Power, God, or The Universe, we feel indebted to have been given the precious gift of life. How do we honor that?
Is it enough to honor ourselves? Elizabeth Gilbert's year-long sojourn in Eat, Pray, Love is all about honoring herself: satisfying desires, curiosity about herself/others/the world, spirituality. It's about finding her own, highly personal connection with the divine, but here's what's interesting to me: simply living from her personal divine connection is what seems to be so fulfilling for her. Perhaps one lesson for us is that translating our very personal experience of our Higher Power, whatever that is to us, seems to bring us joy, and yes, purpose. Given that, it seems that the most important place to begin would be inside of us, with our spiritual connection.
This will never work for Paul, he's atheist. I think the idea of connecting to his divinity will turn him off totally. Perhaps for him this deep connection can be to himself. What does he feel strongly about? What inspires the best in him? What connects him to his excitement, joy, pleasure, others? What does he care about so deeply that he cannot tolerate its opposite?
Many people find great satisfaction in giving to or being part of a cause. Whenever I think of nonprofit work, I think of self-sacrifice through volunteerism. That won't work for Paul either. It may work for Jeanne though. Another author takes the approach that finding your purpose in a cause can serve you as well, and that we should look for a win/win. The book is called, A Selfish Plan to Change the World: Finding Big Purpose in Big Problems, written by Justin Dillon. He takes a cannot-tolerate approach to help you discover your purpose, or in his words, "your riot." Here's how he connects "riot" to purpose:
FINDING YOUR RIOT
"You might be thinking the word riot is a little over-the-top. It sounds scary and violent, so why would anyone want to find one? Riot conjures images of violent clashes in the streets with a mob launching Molotov cocktails on one side and police in gas masks on the other. I understand the word riot sounds downright dangerous and perhaps unlawful. I've been around a few riots, and they are definitely chaotic. The riot inside you doesn't look like any of these images. Your riot isn't violent or destructive, but it does have one thing in common with traditional riots: Your riot is a place inside of you where you stand up and say that something is wrong. It's where you turn your indignation into action. Simply put, finding your riot is how you find your purpose."
Justin Dillon found his riot while standing in a recording studio lobby, reading the cover of a newspaper article in a paper that happened to be sitting on a coffee table. It ignited such a strong reaction in him he felt he had to do something about it. The rest of his life, his work, all of his experience, skill, and business connections came to the fore to support his new mission: eradicating human trafficking and child slavery. His newfound purpose is powerful, life-changing for himself and others, and there is no doubt of the worthiness of pursuing it. It led him to far-reaching corners of the world to make movies, give concerts, and enjoy many other bucket-list worthy experiences. It makes a great story, however I have the feeling this isn't what my clients are after.
In exploring ideas for my own bucket list, I wondered if "finding my riot" is me. It feels inspirational. Before I consider seriously pursuing such an all-consuming mission, I need to remember that every time I watch John Oliver's Last Week Tonight I pick up a new cause that I'm on fire to do something about. I had to stop watching. This could be a danger zone for you too. It would be easy to get so sidetracked into a cause — let's face it, they're all worthy — that it becomes dissociative. What I want my clients to do, and for you to do, is to honor yourself not lose yourself, an important distinction. My clients want to live within the lives they've created, only more meaningfully. Going overboard (doing something crazy), or wishful thinking is not what this book is about.
The method I'm about to walk you through is grounded in positive psychology, bona fide coaching practices, my years of work with relocating Fortune 500 executives, and facilitating businesses with strategic planning and innovation.
May this book lead you to discover more about yourself, to find fulfillment and joy within your life, and at every opportunity.CHAPTER 2
It (Actually) Happened
It was a cold, boring weekend in February when Jan and I sat in bed, pen in hand. "I have a hunch. I want to try this. You game?" I said. Jan has a strong analytical mind, he's a logical thinker, and very pragmatic. Oddly, he is also able and willing to "vision" easily. Running only slightly ahead of my clients, I had to try what I thought would work for them. I wasn't willing to make them the guinea pigs. Why not try this out ourselves? And, what if it works? Creating our own bucket list was very appealing. Complicating things, I had a combination of methods in mind that I thought might work. We could discover where my method falls short, take some wrong turns, test it. Mulling it over in my mind for the past several weeks, I was convinced that there would be more to this than simply naming values. How would I make these values come to life?
How would we know what to rule out until we explored each one exhaustively?
Jan, an unwitting participant to a much bigger commitment, said enthusiastically, "Sure!"
We began. I asked him to recall a peak experience from his childhood — anything at all — then see it vividly in his mind and describe it to me.
"I'm about five years old, sitting on the patio floor of my grandparent's house in Switzerland playing with Legos," he said. I waited in silence, while he explored the scene unfolding for him. "Not a care in the world. I am building a house."
"What's special about that?" I asked.
"I'm making it real from an idea in my mind — no rules, completely free to create whatever is in my mind ..." I let a few seconds pass, managing my urge to know more. "It's warm outside, the house is beautiful, marble floors and a fireplace. A view of the lake and village, and the mountain that looks like an old lady with very bad teeth." I tried hard not to chuckle. The things he notices ...
And so, it went for two more peak experiences. Having learned about levels of listening in coaching, I was able to discern several values from Jan's memories. Briefly, Level One Listening helps you to be aware of your own feelings, inference, and assumptions. Being aware of what is going on in your own head frees you from it. Level Two Listening gives you the specifics of the story, words someone uses and context like what is happening and when. Level Three Listening however, gives you the important stuff, the meaning behind the story, as with Jan's feelings and perceptions.
I must admit, it took a little self-management (Level One) to get past the fact that he had grown up going to his grandparents' house in Switzerland. In my head I was hearing, Yeah, and I grew up going to my grandparents' two-bedroom, dark, dirty, overcrowded house in Valley Stream, NY! Ah, the challenge of working with your intimate partner. Thanks to my training, I was able to quiet that mental noise to listen to what was truly dear to him about that memory. What I heard when I tuned into Level Three Listening, was CREATIVITY (from his fond memory of creative play with Legos); IDEA REALIZATION (imagining the house and making it real); and, BEAUTY (the fact that a 5-year-old would even notice the fireplace and marble floors was really striking to me.) That is so Jan. And so, it went.
This brings me to an important point: you will need a partner for this exercise and other exercises to come. In fact, this whole art-of-dreaming-small method requires a partner, someone who will either help you with your bucket list (like a friend), or someone who wants to create their own. It isn't easy to do this with your intimate partner and I wouldn't recommend it unless you have a very open, accepting relationship with mutual respect and no judgement. It worked for us because my training helped me get out of Level One, and I admit, our relationship is extraordinary. Keep the idea of working with a partner in the back of your mind until you're ready to begin; someone will want to support you.
Next, I demonstrated to Jan the three levels of listening and asked him to listen to my peak experience memories. Thankfully, he's a quick study. He waited until I found a memory that I wanted to explore. "I am eight or nine-years old, in my backyard. Chairs are set up for the audience, and a clothesline is stretched clear across the yard with sheets pinned to it. I created a play, complete with commercials, and we had invited the neighborhood families to our performance." I could feel the excitement again.
"You did what?!" was his un-coach-like response. Pushing past wanting to come out of this memory and explain it, I stayed with exploring what was exciting about it to me and answered his question.
"The fun of figuring out how to stage it, and who did what, and how each kid could contribute, making invitations and tickets. ..." I was astonished at how much detail I could remember when I pictured it in my mind. I could even feel the humidity of that summer morning, the jitters of not knowing if anyone would show up, staring hopefully at the rickety wooden gate where our audience would enter, feeling the butterflies of not knowing if we would flop. The amazement and joy of seeing each person file in and take a seat was palpable. I reported, "We actually made $40! I was so excited to actually make this kind of money. It felt like a big deal." Of course, I didn't include the part where we show the money to my friend's mom and she swiftly removes the cash from my hand, all the while smiling with confidence that she knows best, and declares, "A charity will be very happy for this contribution!" A psychologist would have a field day with this.
Back to our values exploration, the values Jan heard were: MAKING IT REAL (having an idea and working at it until it becomes real which would later match his value becoming IDEA REALIZATION); STRATEGIZING (having a vision and figuring out how to carry it out); CREATIVITY (writing the play and the commercials); RECOGNITION (making money).
This continued for both of us until we each had a list of values. Rather than create separate bucket lists, we decided that because we do nearly everything together, and that it would be fun to test this together, we would create one bucket list that represented both of us. Neither STRATEGIZING nor CREATIVITY would make it to our combined list which is fine. There were plenty of values we had in common. Now we had something to work with!
We continued the next day, putting big post-it sheets on the wall, gathering our colored markers and scribbling out ideas. Brainstorming. Narrowing. Taking wrong turns. Starting over. After three hours, we were exhausted. We had hit a dead end.
Over the next several days it was all we could talk about. We prioritized, we made another couple of attempts, when finally, it all came together. As a facilitator for companies in need of strategies and innovative ideas I know how this goes. In a professional situation, I know where we want to end up, what it will look like, and what they'll do with the ideas they generate. With this bucket list method, neither of us knew what the end product would look like or how it would work. Still unsure if our bucket list was actually doable, or if it would create true peak experiences, we posted it on the wall of our bedroom.
We didn't think to look at it every day, though I noticed that when we were presented with an opportunity we would check the opportunity against our shared values. If we could check off all six, we would make it happen no matter what. If the opportunity only agreed with one or two values, we would put less time, effort, and money toward it. This list turned out to be a practical tool, even for work projects we were considering. We now had a compass to gage what we would do, when, and how.
When about six weeks went by we looked it over carefully because it seemed that we were doing extraordinary things and having fabulous weekends. To our surprise, even only six weeks in, opportunities seemed to materialize out of thin air and we were ticking off bigger items than we thought we would for years.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Art of Dreaming Small"
Copyright © 2018 Mare Rosenbaum, CPCC.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Author's Note, xiii,
Introduction: The Eighth Wonder, xv,
CHAPTER ONE: You Want What?!, 1,
CHAPTER TWO: It (Actually) Happened, 7,
CHAPTER THREE: What's Important, 13,
CHAPTER FOUR: What's NOT Said Is Important Too, 33,
CHAPTER FIVE: Dead On, 39,
CHAPTER SIX: Narrow, Expand, Then Narrow Again, 45,
CHAPTER SEVEN: Best Of, 52,
CHAPTER EIGHT: Person, Place, or Thing?, 56,
CHAPTER NINE: The Art of Dreaming Small, 60,
CHAPTER TEN: Building Blocks, 66,
CHAPTER ELEVEN: Drill Down: Take It With You (Work, Couples, Etc.), 71,
CHAPTER TWELVE: Dream Bigger: But Please, Smell the Roses, 77,
Appendix: How To: Your Quick Reference Guide, 85,
About the Author, 93,