Two years ago, while writing my memoir, Incongruent; Travel, Trauma, Transformation, I stood in a New Mexico desert and visibly watched happiness unfold. My Golden Retriever Molly, the usual solemn old soul of a puppy, was running at full speed. Across the desert landscape, her long legs in a fully extended gallop. She circled the cactus and zig zagged through scrub brush. She ran straight out and back in close, stirring the dust around my legs. Every so often she would stop and look back at me, with puffed out ears and a smile I had never seen previously. And then she would begin again.
On the third day of this ritual, something clicked. This is the first time in her entire life she has been able to do what she is built to do. The first time she has had the space and freedom to be the complete creature she is made to be. Born in a kennel, moved to the tiny apartment of her first owners, then landing with us where she has a backyard only big enough to make a few strides with those long legs before hitting a fence.
I stood frozen in awe—of her speed, her grace, and her sheer delight. It was a living metaphor for my own life. Of the daily fight to live the precise life I was meant to live, to be the person I am made to be.
It’s easy to stay in the safe lanes of life. To live a life dictated by societal or family expectations and norms, steering clear of the discomfort that is growth. But we can’t let that happen! Finding a version of life that is our full authentic selves is the only way to live with a sense of purpose and direction. Pursuing your dream life will fill you with zest, energy, and a passion for the day ahead.
But how do we find that joy? Let’s start small, with some simple Molly recommended tips for living the life of your dreams:
- Seek Out New Experiences Daily. If there is one thing I learn every day from my Golden, it is the excitement of trying new things. Molly is the kind of pup that will race you to the car door in anticipation of any new sights, smells, or experiences she can have. Her excitement is not only palpable, but infectious. It is a daily reminder for me to get out of my rut and find adventure in the uncomfortable.
Tapping into the power of new things can be difficult. It can be hard to step out of your comfort zone and experience something different. However, there are so many benefits to taking those risks. By trying new activities, you can discover hidden talents and interests which could open the door to a new job, a new hobby, or a new group of friends. Finally, taking risks can help you to become a more well-rounded person. It allows you to grow your understanding and tolerance of others. And it can light up your soul and allow us to live the fullest version of ourselves.
- Hang Your Head Out the Window. We have all seen it; the tongue waving, the hair blowing in the wind; the endlessly happy smile on her face. Yep, that is a dog with her head out the window just taking in the view.
When you chase your dreams, you feel alive and happy. You’re more likely to achieve your goals by boosting your motivation and passion for the life you are building. Pursuing your dreams, taking in the full beautiful view of life around you will absolutely lead to a more fulfilling and satisfying life.
- Prance Your Way Through Life. Like most Goldens, Molly doesn’t just walk from place to place, she prances. The lightness in her step is nearly mesmerizing for its joyful symbolism. Remember a day when you felt like that? Maybe you achieved that goal you had been working so hard for. Or had a wonderful interaction with a friend or loved one. Or perhaps you just felt beautiful in your own skin. Those days are magical.
We all have a version of Molly’s prance in us. And the more often we can harness the power of that joy, that prance, the better our life will be. Seeing life through that lens has a plethora of benefits. From building confidence and self-esteem, to feeling more in control of your life and your destiny. When you have healthy self-esteem, you feel good about yourself regardless of your accomplishments or failures. All these factors lead to a happier and more fulfilling life.
The routines of daily life can chip away at our true joy if we let them. Taking a cue from Molly helps us keep our perspective in check. She reminds us that life is as simple or complex as we allow it to be. And most importantly, she reminds us that what happens to us is out of our control, but how we find joy in this life is our choice each and every day.
Melanie Sue Hicks is an adventure seeking, social impact advocate dedicated to helping others overcome fear and live their dharma. Her debut memoir Incongruent; Travel, Trauma, Transformation hits shelves March 2023. As an empathy driven author, and education, nonprofit and workplace expert, she has been interviewed and published in more than two dozen magazines and websites including Forbes.com, Marie Claire, Authority Magazine, See Beyond Magazine, Thrive Global, The District, and Doctor’s Life Magazine.