I love the renewal I feel with the coming of a new year; new hopes, new possibilities, new dreams. Or maybe old dreams, newly realized. I recently had one of my dreams realized – I got myself back to Petaluma. Life sometimes takes you in directions you don’t expect, and mine took me away from the place that I love for a while. Petaluma was once known as the Egg Capital of the World and still holds an annual Petaluma Butter & Egg Days Parade, so it seems appropriate that the story I want to share with you involves … chickens. More importantly, the story is about opening our minds to possibilities.
One day a chicken farmer found an eagle’s egg. The farmer placed the egg under a brooding hen and the little eaglet hatched right alongside the chicks. The young eagle grew up with the chickens and did everything the chickens did.
Years passed and one day the eagle looked up to the sky and saw a magnificent bird soaring high above him. He was captivated by the grace of this creature and he turned to the hens around him and asked, “Who is that?”
“That’s the eagle, the king of the birds,” the hens replied. “He belongs to the sky. We are chickens and we belong to the earth.” And the eagle lived out the remainder of his years as a chicken, because that is what he thought he was.
The eagle never spread his wings because he didn’t know it was possible. We are often held back without even knowing it. We see ourselves as others see us or remain stuck reciting old scripts and playing out old roles that are comfortable and familiar. We look up in the sky towards our dreams and let them remain there, something we look up at and ponder, yet never spreading our wings.
When you ask young children what they want to be when they grow up, their answers aren’t cautious; they’re passionate. Their beliefs aren’t stunted by doubts and fears. Their dreams aren’t hampered by “what-ifs” and “I can’ts”.
Are you ready to dream big dreams again? Are you ready to look out toward the sky and see the possibilities? Do you dare to think big? Grab some paper because I'm putting you to work. As you start contemplating what’s waiting for you in the coming year, make these next three items a part of your to-do list:
Make something happen
No more “Someday …”
No more “Maybe next year…”
Don’t wait for great things to happen to you – go out and make them happen. Think of something you’ve been mulling around in the back of your mind … a dream or goal that has planted a seed, but has yet to sprout. Grab a piece of paper and write that goal/dream at the top. (Go on – grab a piece of paper!). Now - write the numbers 1 - 20 and start filling in the blanks. Don't worry - you might not actually have to do all 20 of them - that's not the point. The point here is to just brainstorm and get it on paper. Write out 20 things that would need to happen in order to accomplish that goal.
Do something fun
Creativity in work and energy in sport comes from balance in life; when is the last time you did something with no other motivation in mind than pure joy? Dreaming big in other parts of your life can help you dream big in your athletic life as well. Or maybe your “something fun” includes a little of both. Same as your "make something happen" list; it’s time to grab another piece of paper and brainstorm your list of 20 things that could be your “something fun”. From big to small. Pick a new hobby or rekindle an old one. Do something just for the joy of it. Don’t censor yourself! If you feel like you might hold back like that eagle mired to the earth, set a timer and make yourself write the list in under 1 minute. You won’t have time for "what-if’s" and "I can’ts" under that kind of timeline.
Give back to others
Think about all of the people that have supported you in your athletic endeavors. You “borrowed” their time and support (which I’m certain was given willingly … most of the time) so now it’s time to lend some of yours. How can you pay it forward and help some people out in pursuit of their own hopes and goals? How can you inspire a few folks to spread their wings? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Volunteer at an event where other people are realizing their goals and dreams
- Write a thank you note to someone that helped you on your path
- Be someone’s goal buddy and help them with support and accountability
- Watch your friend’s kids so they can get in a workout
The list is endless. Do something for someone else in honor of all of those that have done something for you. Write down 20 things you could do to pay it forward. Remember, you won't be doing them all - you just have to get the ideas flowing.
Once you have all of your lists, it’s time to take action. Without taking action, you're still an eagle thinking you're a chicken and wishing you were an eagle. Pick two from each list; a short-term goal and a long-term goal. Don't worry about how (yet!). Don't even think about how. You don't have to know how yet because the next blog post will help you turn those goals into memories. Just pick two that make you feel a fire inside of you when you read them. If you get a visceral feeling of excitement - you know you're on the right track.