The 4 Obstacles to Pursuing your Dreams

One of the foundational stories in my therapy practice is the story of The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho (PRO tip: If you want to give yourself a most precious gift, let Jeremy Irons read this tale to you in the audio-book). 

Coelho, I believe, was the chosen recipient of a message that was channeled from the Beyond. What poured through him was an allegory that serves as the handrails for following our personal legends. 

The story's protagonist, Santiago the shepard boy, confronts all of the obstacles we face when we become aware of our personal calling - our reason for being here on Earth.

Through the challenges he faces on his long journey we come to understand our own obstacles to living the life that is meant to be ours.

In his forward to the 10th anniversary edition of the book, Coelho describes these four obstacles that occur in this order:

1. "We are told from childhood onward that everything we want to do is impossible." In some form or another this is true for all of us, but it's profoundly true for our BIPOC sisters and brothers. Our limiting beliefs get passed on from generation to generation such that our parents' stories become our stories and suddenly we are living in the constraints of other people's limiting beliefs. This is one very common way of losing sight of who we are and what makes us happy.

2. "We know what we want to do, but are afraid of hurting those around us by abandoning everything in order to pursue our dream." Because it's not just you that's locked into the limiting beliefs, but also those around you. I remember when the lights went on for me. I knew I must leave my dead-end career to pursue a master's degree in expressive arts therapy. My husband was in a total panic. I could have joined him and abandoned my dream, but in actuality I really couldn't. When you are aligned on the path of following your personal calling, it feels clear that there is no other choice but forward. 

3. "Fear of the defeats we will meet on the path." Nobody seems to want to "fail" anymore - because the stories we've been told about "failure" is that it's bad. The truth is we won't get anywhere without the patience for difficulties. Whether it's true or not, I love what I've learned about the field of engineering. These folks seem to understand that everything they create (iPhones, self-driving cars, etc) is a prototype, and the expectation is that if a prototype doesn't work as intended- it exists for the valuable reason of teaching us how to make things better. As Coelho says, "the secret of to fall seven times and to get up eight times". 

4. "The fear of realizing the dream for which we fought all our lives." As much as we fear failure, we equally fear success. In Nelson Mandela's words, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us." It's understandable to be intimidated by your own awesomeness. But the time of courage is now. No one on their death bed says, "I wish I hadn't believed in my worth."

In the end, as Coelho tells us,

"...if you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, then you become an instrument of God, you help the Soul of the World, and you understand why you are here." 

Now that seems worth striving for!

Adrienne Cress is a Registered Expressive Arts therapist as well as the parent of two budding creatives. Creativity is her daily spiritual practice. She is all about self expression and she delights in holding space for others to connect with their Inner Artists. 

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