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4 things we need to do to kickstart our dreams

Lessons from New York on how to live a life that dreams are made of.

Courtesy of Diana Feil / Stocksnap
Courtesy of Diana Feil / Stocksnap

What did you want to be when you grew up? I guarantee you had a long wish list. An Astronaut? An Olympic Champion? A Ninja Turtle?

The truth is, we were all born natural dreamers. Our imaginations spanned infinite possibility.

As kids, we lived in a world of make-believe. We dressed up. We role-played. Our dreams were unfiltered and our thoughts untainted. Our lives a blank canvass for creating anything we put our hearts and minds to.

So, at what point do we stop dreaming and why?

Of course, I’m generalizing here. There are people all around who are living out their dreams and more. But maybe, you were a little more like me.

Maybe you never truly checked in with yourself and asked the hard question: what exactly are my dreams?

As a kid, I worked my way through the options most little girls do. There was the obligatory Ballerina. The Nurse. The School Teacher. And, after a trip to the fire station, the Fireman (if you know me, you’d know this wouldn’t exactly be playing to my strengths, pun intended).

What happened between then and the time I bought my ticket for the corporate career train, I’m not entirely sure.

I guess I would have outgrown my dress-up costumes, they would have been boxed and packed away, and perhaps I closed the lid on the notion of dreaming at the same time.

Now this is not as dramatic or gloomy as it may sound! My life and career have brought me incredible experiences. It’s just that I somehow ignored other dreams and passions that were lurking beneath the surface of my life. Those added sparks that make us feel alive.

It turns out writing is one of them, I only realized that recently. And, as was the case for too many years, living in New York another.

Thinking about what magnetized me to my new home city, the irony isn’t lost on me that I nearly gave up on my dream to live in a city so aptly called “the concrete jungle where dreams are made of”.

Which brings me to my question:

What can we learn from New York to inspire us all to live a life that dreams are made of?

As I continue to immerse myself in her magic, as I walk the streets, ride the subway and talk to people in cafés, bars, cabs and everywhere in-between, I’ve come to a conclusion that seems too simple to be profound.

New York is one giant adult playground!

Beneath her fast-paced and tenacious exterior, New York retains a childlike wonder. Those same innate qualities that, as kids, made our childhood playground the breeding ground for our dreams.

And the same qualities that, as adults, we need to reignite our dreams.

1.     Be ourselves. Fully.

Instead of packing away their dress-up costumes when they outgrow them, it seems New Yorkers just buy a bigger size! People be who they want to be. It’s fun, it’s colorful, it’s vibrant. And mostly, it’s inspired me to get closer to my real me.

2.     Don’t judge or worry about being judged.

Ever seen a kid mock another kid for arriving on the playground in a green tutu and mismatching socks? I didn’t think so. And New York is no different. You can walk around the streets doing, wearing and saying anything without feeling judged. Or even noticed for that matter. I’m slowly learning not to hold my dreams back for fear of what others may think.

3.     Dream out loud.

Just like kids who daydream aloud, at every café table I hear people talking about what they’re creating: a play, a business, a movie, a podcast, a community. I soon learned that speaking up pays off when I landed my first job interview after “dropping in” on one of these conversations.

4.     Believe everything is possible.

Perhaps it’s because people love to share and connect, perhaps it’s because this city has a confident swagger, perhaps it’s the sheer energy this relatively small island needs in order to sustain all the wide-eyed hopefuls who flock here from around the world. Whatever it is, New York has a childlike sense of possibility that is infectious. And the more I’m learning to believe that everything is possible, the more I believe that, indeed, everything is.

So, what has New York taught me?

Perhaps if we expressed ourselves more and cared less, played more and judged less, spoke up more and doubted less, we’d retain our childhood wonder and keep the lid open on those dreams that were inside us all along.

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