You can still hop on the boat you think you missed.
As a coach, one of the phrases I hear quite often is “It’s too late.”
That sad phrase is sometimes paired with its cousins, “I’m too old.” or “I missed the boat.”
What I want to say – what I would shout from rooftops with a megaphone if I could (I was a cheerleader, after all) – is: “It is NOT too late.”
Wait! Before you start to argue, let me explain.
Yes, it may be too late for you to become an Olympic gold medalist ice skater. But it is NOT too late for you to learn how to ice skate and to feel like a medal winner. It’s not too late to invite a crowd of friends to watch you ice-skate and to play music and skate your heart out and get presented with a medal you ordered in advance for just this happy occasion.
Yes, it may be too late for you to birth children of your own. But it isn’t too late to create a family and to have the experience of raising children. It isn’t too late to feel nurturing and connected. It isn’t too late to officially adopt or non-officially “adopt” a child and take them to the park (post Covid-19, of course), read to them, make art projects or share your stories with them.
Yes, it may be too late for you to visit every country in the world, as you once dreamed when you were eighteen. However, you could start a scrapbook and create a page for every country you “visit” online or every country you talk to a friend about who has visited that place. You could add a section in your scrapbook for foods you tried from that country, music you listened to, pen pals you found a way to meet, etc.
Are you scowling at this?
Are you muttering, “It’s not the same?”
Are you crawling back into that familiar cave of disappointment and the feelings of missing out?
This is so important.
With every dream or desire we have, there is an essence of how we want to feel. There’s a sense that we will feel more connection, more adventuresome, more vitality or simply more happy.
One secret to a life filled with joy is knowing that we have the ability to choose to gift ourselves with experiences that fulfill the essence of our dreams.
Think about it: Would you rather choose to spend the rest of your life lamenting the fact that your parents didn’t give you ice skating lessons when you were little or would you rather find someone to teach you to skate, lace up those beautiful new ice skates, don your fancy frou-frou skirt and experience the thrill of gliding around the rink?
I’m gonna go out on a limb and suggest that what you really wanted all your life with your gold medalist skating dream was not so much the feel of that heavy gold award around your neck, but the feeling of lightness and bliss as you skated.
We humans are often pulled into the undertow of “it’s too late” by believing in the story that the details of the dream matter. Who amongst us didn’t fall in love (or deep crush!) as a teenager and truly believe that it was “that person” we had to have or we would never feel happy. It was only him I could love. Heartbroken, we knew we’d never be truly happy unless that one person loved us.
And then, well, most of us went on to fall in love again, and yet again – even after the most heart-wrenching breakups. And if we didn’t fall in love with another person, we loved a child, a pet, a career, a hobby. We felt love. We experienced love. That one person, that one dream, did not hold the key to all our love and happiness.
Please, do not ever give away the keys to your well-being, joy or sense of self to anyone or anything outside of you.
If you’re still reading along and you think you’d be willing to let go of one of your own “It’s too lates,” bravo for you. (I’m virtually high-fiving you!)
Here are some steps you can take to turn an “It’s too late” into “It feels great.”
Pick an unfulfilled dream that haunts you:
You heard me talk about being a mom, a world traveler or a gold medalist ice skater up above. There are dreams like that to choose from. Or, maybe you always wanted to write a book or start a business. Maybe you always thought you’d learn to paint with watercolors. Big or small, it doesn’t matter what dream you choose. Just select one story that you told yourself “I missed the boat” about. This is what you’ll play with.
Imagine how that fulfilled dream feels:
Now, close your eyes and let yourself feel how you always imagined it would feel to have that, do that or be that dream. (Do not let your reptilian Squawky Polly brain try to insert feelings of regret, loss or sadness. There’s been plenty of that. Time for some positive feelings about this dream to re-emerge.) They say that when we imagine experiences, our bodies release the chemicals of those experiences. Let your body give you the dopamine feelings of this dream. Let yourself feel all those yummy feelings you’ve been wanting all your life. (Truthfully, honey, you could stop right here and consider your dream accomplished. You’ve experienced, it right? Your body didn’t know the difference between “real” and “imagined.” You could let yourself have everything in life simply by living it in your imagination. But perhaps that’s a conversation for another day! Let’s keep going, okay?)
Imagine the lowest-common denominator:
Now, take that dream and reduce it to its simplest form. What is the most rudimentary expression of this dream? That’s where you want to start. For example, if you’ve always wanted to publish a book, consider committing to writing a small book that includes five 500-word chapters that you will self-publish. (And by self-publish, that could mean stapling copies you print at home!) You can always expand later if you want. It is best to begin with something that feels doable – something we will do!
Explore the steps to get there:
Can you write out five to ten steps to get from the “here” to the “there” of your dream? Let’s go back to that book. Here’s what you would need to do: come up with the topic/focus, outline those five chapters, schedule writing sessions, write the chapters, think of a title, format the book, print copies, host a book party! Once you have the major steps written down, you can break those down into even smaller chunks if necessary, to help you move this dream forward.
Set a timeline:
When do you plan to finish and celebrate? Put that book party on your calendar! (It’s okay if you need to change the date later. It’s key to have a target to work toward!)
Don’t drag your feet! You’ve just gotten excited. You’re committed to banishing those “it’s too late” ghosts from your psyche. What will you do right now to get started? How about putting something in writing that you post where you will see it every day? Or put step one on your schedule. Or tell a friend about this so you have some accountability. For fun, you might want to make or buy something that represents that completed dream. Create a mock-up of the book cover or buy that skating medal and hang it in a prominent spot to inspire you.
Watch how you feel:
As you’re going about your never-too-late dream steps, notice how you feel. Make sure you stay focused on the “what is” of this dream as opposed to “what was supposed to be in some imaginary parallel life.”
Celebrate like crazy:
I meant it when I suggested a book party or a skating shindig. (Er, again, post Covid-19!) There’s no reason not to bring as much hoopla and celebration into this as you can. Make sure the amount of joy equals all the hours of feeling bad when you hadn’t experienced this. THIS is your one ride on this specific merry-go-round of life. Why not do everything you can do enjoy it?
Rinse and repeat:
Got another “it’s too late?” No problem. Go back to the beginning and start again. You’ve got time. You’ve got this!