As a kid, I dreamed of climbing Mount Everest. Sometimes, I imagined the burn in my thighs as I scaled steep inclines or the fierce winds swirling around the summit. Other times, I thought of the gear I’d need—crampons, ice ax, trekking poles. Then there was the joy of standing on top of the world.
In my teens, I traded my mountain climbing dream for one as a writer. On this new “Everest” peak, I’d spent entire days in front of my typewriter (yep, I’m old) and savor the pin-drop hush of an audience hanging on my every word. The dream was so insistent, I started to climb. But I had no idea if I’d make it to the top.
What’s your Everest? Take a moment to describe the peak without censoring yourself. Who’s there? What are you doing? What have you achieved?
Now, read it again—this time out loud. What thoughts bubble up as you imagine this? If you’re hearing crickets, pay attention to what you wrote. Did you mentally revise your dream down to the most realistic option?
For a long time, my thoughts looked a little like this. Who do you think you are? You’re crazy if you think you can do that. Most people don’t make it to the top, why should you?
Last month, I wrote about how you see yourself. This month, I want to examine the stories that sideline our dreams. Some we know intimately. Others are so deep-seated and unconscious, all we can do is observe their effects. The projects we abandon. The work we insert into our writing time. The opportunities we ignore because we don’t think we deserve them.
Let’s take a look at your Everest exercise. What thoughts did you jot down?
In Marie Forleo’s book, Everything is Figureaoutable, she invites you to cross out those limiting beliefs and then write “bullshit” beside them. After that delightful little swear, combat those fearful thoughts with a healthy dose of truth.
When I wanted to teach other writers as part of my writing career, the following words boomed in my ears.
You can’t teach writing unless you have an MFA. Bullshit!
Here’s the reframe I used to keep climbing.
When Natalie Goldberg decided to teach writing, she organized free classes in a church basement. Over the years, I’ve taken graduate-level writing classes, masterclasses, and yearlong classes in all genres in addition to attending conferences. Plus, I have a master’s in teaching, which means I know how people learn. Why not show up to a church basement (or in my case a local mental health nonprofit) and see what happens?
I designed a course and advertised it. When it filled, I offered another. With every new class, I challenged myself to learn more and asked for new opportunities. It wasn’t always easy. Sometimes, rejection felt like my middle name, and I worried that I was nothing but a hack. But I also felt so alive, because I knew this was the work I was called to do. When I wanted to quit, I told myself the discomfort I felt was akin to the burning legs or winds that signaled the summit’s approach.
Marie Forleo says, “Clarity comes from engagement, not thought.”
If dreaming of your Everest makes you feel expansive, excited, or alive, what small action will quicken your ascent?
In addition to creating clarity, that step will neutralize the fear-based narratives keeping you small.
Before I climb, I get out my gear. The talisman pictured above was gifted to me by a dear friend.
When old stories constrict my progress, I flip the switch and let this little marquee guide my way.
Julia Cameron says, “Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward our dreams, we move toward our divinity.” In her book The Artist’s Way, she describes divinity as “Good Orderly Direction.”
Every effort you put into your dreams contributes to the greater good by allowing you to become your best self and giving others permission to do the same.
I can’t wait to see how you transform those old stories into divine truths.
You can claim yours by sending me an email that includes a one-sentence version of your Everest and one bullshit you’ve turned into a truth. I’ll share your answers in my next newsletter.
Until then, dream big, acknowledge your old stories, and always write on.