When I was in my early 30s, I lived in a two-story house nestled in the forest high up in the Green mountains of Vermont. We were far from the madding crowd for months at a time. It was from that perspective on one cold, sunny morning that I was looking out at my future.
I can clearly remember saying to my husband that I knew I was going to be a late bloomer. I had been singing since I was a very young child. I started to sing the solos in our small church when I was 11.
As a professional singer, I had performed many solo concerts. And I had taught singing at a major Montreal University for several years. Still, I felt that my bloom would not come to fruition until much later in life.
I thought that my blooming would only come with wild success as a singer. But in truth, my life, like yours perhaps, has been a series of many different bloomings over the years. We may not have been celebrated for it. But the successes were there, nonetheless.
We entered this life as a tiny human who bloomed into being. Getting through school was also a kind of blooming. We bloomed into a marriage. And then another? Some of us bloomed as parents. Then we bloomed into a new life, after the children left.
And yet, many of us feel that the flowering aspect of life is finished in our later years. We look for ways to fill time. To quash our boredom. We do things that don’t take our breaths away – just to be doing.
Our strong inner voices give us practical counsel such as: Why bother following my dream now? Who wants to hear what I have to say? What will my friends think? I’ll be an embarrassment. I might fail. I’ll probably fail. It’s going to cost too much. I have no talent. I’ll feel ashamed. Who am I to_____?
I’ve come to realize that in our 60s and beyond is perhaps the time when our blooms will be supported by the greatest hard-won wisdom and the brightest long-earned joy. When friends ask me about their dream, “Do you think I should… (fill in the blank)?” My answer is almost always a hearty, “Yes! What have you got to lose?”
Here are 7 things to consider when you feel the urge to follow a dream, later in your life:
Do I really want to do this particular thing? For example, you may think you want to write a book, when what you really want to do is express yourself through words. So maybe writing an article will do the job.
Or perhaps leaning into a short story or a poem is the answer. Or maybe your ideas can best be expressed through a song. In other words, you may need to feel your way to the truth of your own desire. Is it the book that grabs your heart? Or is it an idea that needs the right vehicle?
Maybe your dream is very clear: “I want to learn how to dance.” Perhaps you want to write your own song and sing it, too! Or you are moved to start a garden; take up photography; learn how to cook.
Or your greatest desire is to embark on serious travel. Remember, this is about a kind of blooming that stirs your soul – that further opens your heart. It’s both deeply personal and potentially very powerful.
I asked a close friend, who has worked in this area for many years, why we poor humans tend to give up on ourselves too soon. She answered with one word: FEAR.
Fear of doing the wrong thing. Of making the wrong choice. Of losing respect, in case of failure. Fear of disappointing ourselves and others. Of not having enough energy to see it through. Not having enough talent.
In the end, my friend and I agreed upon the old adage: “Feel the fear, but do it anyway.” And remember this from the Dune book by Frank Herbert: “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer.”
The hardest, yet the most joyous part of the process is just getting started. One trick I use is this: I say to myself, “I’m going to do this new thing for just 10 minutes. That’s all. No big deal. Ten minutes won’t hurt me or anyone else. Here I go.” And more often than not, I feel an exhilaration about simply setting out on the journey.
Those 10 minutes can also be scary, but short-lived and easily doable. The next 10 minutes might happen right then or not. But they are not the same as the first time, when you are lifted up on uncertain wings to enter a new sphere. It can take your breath away. You got started!
“We can talk about it, dream about it and dissect the fine print. In the end, only action satisfies our longing.”― Gina Greenlee
Once started, going further is easier. But you still may need to muster up the courage and the desire to stay motivated. I have another trick for you. At the early point of a new project, I start each day with a short meditative pause for 15 minutes or so.
I allow my mind to settle into a quiet place, knowing that I seek inspiration for this particular project. I sit and wait… listening for the inner voice. Usually, a useful idea will surface, and I write it down. Then I act on it, as soon as possible.
One of my dearest friends said to me with anger one day, as tears sprang to her eyes: “Barbara, leave me alone! I just want to retire.”She was in her early 60s. I had been encouraging her to get started on her own long-held dream. But her fast and emotion-filled response woke me up!
There are times when all we want to do is to rest. I appreciate that now. My wise friend took several years of fallow time before she slowly found a new path. And that brings me to one of my favourite quotes…
This is a saying (attributed to Buckminster Fuller) that I kept taped on my computer for years. Currently, my computer adage says: Take a Break! But back then, I came to understand that a lot of work must go on inside one’s self before the fruits of that inner labor can show up in the world.
The trick is to know where you are in that fallow process and relax into it. You can harvest principle as you rest or read or observe or just live your life. (In my early years, I was forced to harvest principle when I had little money for action!) Then the time may come when you can harvest action and take your idea out into the world, if it so pleases you.
If you are interested in singing as part of your dream, I invite you to join my newsletter to receive free singing tips and to learn about my one-month-long singing course for beginners called, Wake Up Your Life – With Singing!
What life-long dream is waiting for you to act on it? Was there time in your life when you didn’t want to act but just be? Is beginning the hardest part of you? Would you say fear is holding you back?