Back in the year 2001 I bought an apartment in Nice. I had inherited a little money after my mother died. I had thought of buying a small flat in some less-than-salubrious area of London and renting it out, which could have brought in income but also could also have caused me stress, as managing rented apartments is not always plain sailing. Instead, my mentor suggested to me that I consider investing the money in an apartment somewhere sunny. It felt very frightening at first. Could I afford it? I was on my own, running my business Positiveworks, and not sure whether I had it in me to make such a move into a positive experience.
Nonetheless, I took his advice and bought the apartment in Nice, a beautiful city with everything I could possibly want to relax, think, write my books. I hadn’t imagined I would make friends there but, in the end, I did make many good friends who I miss today, now that I have sold the flat. But this is an example of how, sometimes, one has to take a leap into the dark and go for something one isn’t sure about, that makes one anxious but is appealing in some way despite that.
One of the friends I made in Nice was an inspiring lady called Anne Naylor who ran a group called the Possible Dream group. I went along to some sessions. We sat around in a room and each person expressed a possible dream – it could be that they needed a new fridge but didn’t have the money, or a new car, or a relationship, or world peace, or to alleviate hunger. Any dream was expressed and accepted and those attending joined their energy and good wishes to the person whose dream it was.
But there was one person whose comment has stayed with me all these years. He said “I don’t think we can fully imagine a dream that we might be living because we may not have reached that moment where we can even envisage something greater than the kind of life we have now”. He continued to say that he could never have imagined, a year beforehand, that he and his wife and children would be living in the hills outside Nice and having a dream life that he would never have thought possible even a few months ago.
I can relate to that, as I could never have imagined the adventures and experiences I enjoyed whilst running Positiveworks. Had you told me even a year before I set the company up that it would take me around the world, meeting fascinating people and giving me a lifestyle of immense joy (and challenge!) I would not have believed you. Had you told me in 1999 that I would own a flat in Nice I would not have believed you either.
I wonder if you can think of experiences and situations that have occurred in your own lives that turned out better than expected or that you could never have imagined at a previous time?
And so, I feel this concept of the possible dream is especially important now, as we enter 2022. It has been another annus horribilis with Covid and many global events that have shaken the world. It is too easy, and no help to anyone, to get into a negative spiral of helpless hopeless talk about how awful everything is and how incompetent everyone is, etc. Where does it get us?
Of course, there has been loss and I am not minimising the reality of the stress, bereavement and challenge people have experienced over the last two years. But might we not now consider how some possible dreams that we could not have envisaged some time ago, have come about? I think an appreciation of what we have experienced can be a platform for launching ourselves further. For example, when the Coronavirus first hit the world, people assumed it would take years to make an effective vaccine. Instead, it took a few months. People assumed that individuals would not comply with isolation rules and yet the majority did. In the UK both the vaccination, the testing and the booster programmes have exceeded expectations and outpaced other countries. And if this is our ‘war’ then at least we have had heat, light, and plenty of television programmes to watch. And none of the bombs that our parents experienced.
And beyond that, the last few decades have seen large numbers of people around the world come out of poverty and hunger and into employment. Focusing on how terrible everything is will not help to keep them there, nor help bring others out of destitution. In the 1960s we thought we would be decimated by a nuclear bomb. We weren’t. In the 1970s we all assumed that the UK was finished, that we would become a third world country, but instead things turned around and the pessimism people were expressing then was not realised. But pessimism is more likely to pull us down, even now, whereas realistic optimism is more likely to help us innovate, and create, and pull ourselves back out of the hole of 2020-21.
Better, surely, to look forward, to imagine possible dreams, and realize that we may not be able to see how exciting those events might be from the place we stand now. Better, surely, to talk of possibilities and things we and others CAN do rather than what is going wrong?
So, I wish you a happy Christmas and suggest that maybe you spend a little time imagining a possible dream for your own future, that of your family, your community, your country, the world. Why not? It could cheer you up and you might even find that fate surprises you sometime in the future and gives you something even beyond what you are able to dream today. Who knows…?