A milspouse friend messaged me recently, “I really feel like you are living your dream right now.”My first response to myself was, “Wait, what? I am?” My next thought was, “What a waste. Your dreams are coming true and it takes your friends to recognize it.”
I have a history of not being very good at celebrating my own success or good fortune. After completing my first marathon, I prefaced the story with, “I finished, but my time is embarrassing.”A friend told me firmly to never start the story that way again because I ran a marathon for the very first time and that’s a huge deal worthy of celebration. After receiving the news that we were getting a wished-for second assignment in Germany my thoughts were, “Yay Germany! Oh no, Germany. It’s so much work to get there.”In both cases, I should have sat in the happy place a little longer.
Making dreams come true as a military spouse is hard because we have little say in how major parts of our lives play out. We need to have portable dreams. Instead of getting caught up in the difficulty of crafting an uncertain plan, I want to start celebrating my successes so that I can recognize when my dreams, big or small, are coming true. Here’s what it’s going to take. I hope you’ll join me.
- Write down short-term and long-term goals. If you have not identified your dreams, how will you know when they come true? This is no easy matter. Because we move so frequently, it’s hard to put a long-term plan into place when you don’t even know where you’re going next. I have a rough idea of what I want to accomplish during the remaining two years that we’ll be at this duty station, but then things get blurry, especially as the possibility of retirement looms. Will my husband stay in five more years or 15 more years? The decision isn’t entirely in our hands. This year, rather than making New Year’s Resolutions, I chose a mantra — be open — to guide my year. Having an open mindset has opened up some wonderful opportunities, but since I didn’t have firm goals or dreams in place, it wasn’t readily obvious when to celebrate. My challenge to all of us is to come up with some goals that we can make happen regardless of where we live, or when we transition out of military life. With concrete (but flexible) goals written down, then there’s no doubt about when a celebration is in order.
- Listen to those who know you best. When your friends and family get excited for you, take that as a cue to celebrate yourself. Don’t be modest. You deserve it! It’s easy to get caught up in all of the details and effort of making things happen and start moving on to the next thing before you’ve taken a minute to bask in your own glory.
- Start a gratitude practice. I have never been able to stick to keeping a gratitude journal, but I’m starting to see how writing down some things from my day could really help me slow down and reflect on what is going well in my life. I’m going to start using my meditation practice as a trigger to write down three quick things to be grateful for from the previous day. Triggers, or nudges, are important when starting a new habit. Think of something that you already do routinely (reading bedtime stories to your kids, brushing your teeth, brewing some tea). Now add your new habit, like gratitude practice, to create an improved routine. Before you know it, you’ll incorporate the new desired habit. If we’re grateful for what we have then we will become more deserving of richer rewards.
What dream has come true for you lately?