It was hard. Really hard.
I’ve seeing my mother cry 2 times in my lifetime…
Now it’s 3.
“I don’t want you to go.”
I didn’t know what to say, how to respond, what to do.
So I did nothing.
She hugged me, tried to hold back her tears, her emotions.
But I’d already seen it, felt it.
Can a Dream Make You Cry?
About 18 month ago I moved to Japan.
I quit my job, left America, and stepped forward to follow a crazy dream: to become a ninja.
You’d think the hardest part would have been the first time I stepped foot in the Land of the Rising Sun… I did too.
The Pain and The Dream Go Hand in Hand.
For the first time in a year and a half I was back in America. I connected with family and friends. It was amazing.
I thought to myself: “No problem, I’ll hang out with friends and family then soon be back in Japan. Continue on with my dream. I won’t miss a step.”
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I have dealt with language barriers, visa issues, cultural struggles, intense winter cold, doubts, fears and insecurity… I thought all the “hard parts” were in my past.
To this moment, I still hear her words:
“I don’t want you to go”.
Use Your Fear, Pain, and Tears to Guide Your Next Steps
I got off the plane, stepped foot in Japan and made it to my apartment. I have lived here for a year and a half. But everything felt strange, different, new.
I never realized how much I loved my family and friends. I’m fully committed my dream, but it still hurts.
If you want to step forward with your dreams you may face incredible challenges. Struggles you never imagined. But here’s the irony, the more it hurts, the more it fuels me. How screwed up is that?
It’s now 1 month since my return to Japan and I feel more committed to my dream than I ever have in my life.
I share this post with you for 2 reasons: 1) I want you to recognize that pain and the pursuit of a dream go hand an in hand and 2) The pain needs to be used to fuel your dream… Not kill it.
How to Use Fear, Pain and Sadness to Fuel Your Dream
Below is the exact process I used to face the pain of pursuing my dream.
Step 1: Feel the pain.
I got to my apartment in Japan. I dropped my things. I looked in the mirror. I cried.
Not a light cry. I’m talking about a hard breathing, tears flowing, loud sniffling cry! And you know what? Somewhere in the midst of it all, it felt kind of good.
I didn’t fight it. I just let it out. I just let it be.
It’s like I was… Just hanging out with my pain.
Don’t run from your pain or struggle. If you try to deny it, it only gets stronger or more intense. But when we sit with it, eventually we can have a nice, honest conversation with the pain. Which leads us to the next step.
Step 2: Ask “Why does it hurt?”
As I sat there sniffling away – looking in the mirror I found myself smiling. I’m 30 years old. I quit my job to move to a foreign country. I’ve faced challenge after challenge and yet – here I was crying, because I missed my mom :).
So I asked myself: “Why does it hurt?”
Really think about it. Ask yourself the question: Why does it hurt? The answer is scary but within it, is so much beauty!
It’s a scary question, but a powerful one as well. I really thought about it. And it clicked…
Step 3: Identify the beauty in the pain.
You know why it hurt – because I loved my family and friends. I never realized how much they meant to me. When I first got to Japan everything was novel, amazing, incredible! But now a year and a half later, some of the “novelty” had worn off. The “New Toy” excitement was gone. So, I just had to be honest:
I love my family and friends back in America.
My sadness and pain came from love. That’s beautiful.
Step 4: Recognize there are only 2 choices.
Now that I knew the pain, I had to step back. I asked myself: How bad do I want this? Do I quit? Do I give up?
I smile as I write those words. I soon realized I had only 2 options :).
1) I quit the dream
2) I move forward with the dream.
No matter what stage of your dream you are at – there is always 2 options. You either follow the dream, or you don’t follow the dream. There is no middle ground.
Step 5: Make the choice and re-commit.
With that new found knowledge I knew what I had to do. I would continue to pursue my dream: to become a ninja. I opened my bag, pulled out my gi (the uniform I use when I train in martial arts), and just stared at it.
I really was forced to step back and ask myself “Why am I doing this?” As I sat there running through answer after answer, I realized how much my dream mattered to me. But I also realized how much I love my family.
In that moment, my dream evolved. Someday, at some point I’d love to go back to America and train obsessively. But right now, I’m not there yet. I have to earn that opportunity. Now I’m in a different stage of the game. My commitment to this moment is deep, because I know it will get me to those other moments when I’m ready.
You have to choose one way or the other. You cannot say “I’ll wait”. By choosing to “wait” that is no different than saying “No.” to your dream.
Step 6: Take it 1 Day at a Time.
Initially I wanted to develop a super detailed plan of action. But it felt overwhelming. It was too much. So I stepped back and thought to myself “What if I just focus on today?” “What do I need to do today to move towards my dream?”
The dojo (where I train at) was closed. So, I put on my running shoes, my headphones and stepped out the door. I ran and ran and ran… What’s this got to do with my dream? Well… Have you ever seeing a fat ninja?
I decided to take each moment for what it is – a beautiful precious opportunity to learn and grow. One step at a time, one day at a time. I continue to make progress towards my dream. It’s a beautiful thing to feel the beauty in the pain of the pursuit of a dream.
Don’t try to take over the world in one day. Focus on making the most of today. What can you do today to move you closer to your dream?
What struggles, challenges or fears have held you back from pursuing your dream?
Photo by F L I R S T – Palk Clap