We all have dreams, don’t we? Dreams give us hope and a purpose to work towards. Life, sometimes has different plans for us, but that doesn’t mean we give up on our dreams. My guest this week, in the Over 50 & Thriving Series, is Heather Erickson. I met Heather through the AtoZ Challenge, earlier this year and when I read her story, I knew she would be a valuable contributor to the Thriving Series.
Heather, her husband and family, have had to face difficult times when her husband was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in 2012. Since then, Heather has worked to encourage others facing cancer and their families to keep fulfilling their dreams despite their illness. I”m sure you will enjoy Heather’s suggestions on ways why we need to keep our dreams alive in order to thrive. You can also connect with Heather through her website and links to her social media, at the end of this post.
Why keeping your Dreams alive is vital to Thriving
To me, thriving over 50 means dreaming. Dreaming is essential to living your life with purpose, and purpose is essential to thriving.
Your childhood is spent listening to your parents. Then you get married and have kids (maybe) and if you do, you discover that you are really centering your life on taking care of them. Your home fills up with their things and the older they get, the more things they add. You become a taxi cab driver getting them to and from every event they attend. And you wouldn’t change a thing. After all, you love them. But along the way you dream. Often the responsibilities of raising a family keep you from trying to fulfill those dreams.
There comes a time when you wistfully imagine life beyond these years. It’s likely in your early 50’s when the kids move out of the house and your life finally becomes yours. This is the time in your life to take all of those dreams that you stored in the attic of your mind and dust them off.
This doesn’t mean you have a midlife crisis and chuck all your responsibilities and sensibilities. It means that once the kids are grown and out of the house you have more time, money, and energy. How you spend them is up to you.
Here are some of my dreams. I want to:
- Join the Minnesota Mycological Society and hunt mushrooms.
- Travel more (and I already travel a lot)
- Go on a cruise with each of my daughters (separately)
- Visit Italy with my oldest daughter who is an Art History Major
- Focus on writing mystery novels rather than books about living with cancer
- Have my grandchildren over every Friday night and let their parents have a date night while they play with their cousins.
These weren’t the dreams I had for myself 10 years ago or even 5 years ago.
Back then I had dreams of growing old with my husband, traveling with him and doing missionary work in Pakistan.
These dreams had to change when my husband was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. It’s imperative to your ability to thrive, that you maintain or transform your dreams—even when life seems to steal the dreams you once had. Dreams give you a sense of purpose. They are something to hold on to. It’s okay if they change. It’s also okay to mourn the dreams you once had, that will never be fulfilled as you originally envisioned. In fact, it’s more than okay—it’s important. It is a deep loss, letting go of dreams.
That’s why you need to dream new dreams.
These dreams aren’t second rate dreams. They aren’t back-up dreams They are transformed dreams.
At first, this can feel like a betrayal, like you’ve given up. On the contrary, this process is you getting up. I’m willing to bet you’ve been knocked down a time or two in recent years. When that happens, you need to regroup, assess your strengths and values and decide what you are going to do that will give you the will to keep going.
Questions to help you identify new passions and dreams to pursue:
- What do you like to learn about?
- What priorities do you have that haven’t changed?
- What new priorities do you have?
- Are there dreams that include specific people?
- Are there “one time” dreams? Things you will do once, like a hot air balloon or the ballet.
- Have you wanted to do something that will be a regular part of your routine?
- What changes do you want to make to increase your physical health?
- Are there things that you want to do to improve your emotional well-being?
- Do you have spiritual goals?
Now, make a plan. I recommend planning SMART goals. I have a post outlining how to take your dreams and turn them into SMART goals.
By transforming your dreams and making a plan using SMART goals, to achieve it, you won’t just survive. You’ll thrive!
Let’s Keep Sizzling!