Dreaming Of What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

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Lisa is a freelance writer, consultant and life coach. She has her BA in English and Creative Writing from Princeton and her MPA from Harvard. Lisa recently finished the first draft of her book manuscript, Burning Down the House. Her dream is to publish this first book and teach the world how to discover their hidden joy. Her post day is Tuesday.
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For my thirty-sixth birthday a few years ago, I bought myself private aerial silk dancing lessons so I could learn to spin, twirl, and hang upside in the air, held up by ropes of red silk.

In my very first lesson, I was already doing upside-down straddle splits, forming a human cross, inverted in an arabesque. My arms were sore after just one session.

Aerial dancing builds powerful arms, shoulders, thighs. That’s not why I did it, however.

I did it because what inner child doesn’t still at some level dream of running off and joining the circus one day? (I have a very active “inner child,” by the way!).

I actually happen to have a lot of friends who are aerialists, who perform on the trapeze, silk ropes or hoops. Since I was a professional dancer for five years, I have a wide circle of dance friends around the country, and many have decided to venture into aerial dancing in their 30s.

aerials with greg angeloI also have friends who run the circus out in California. My friend Gregangelo of Velocity Circus lives his dream every day, putting together circus events, costuming performers, turning everyday life into an extra-fantastical wonderland.

In fact, it was a Velocity Circus event that first turned me on to the aerial silk dancing. I watched a beautiful 34-year-old woman perform while her toddler ran below the ropes, pointing to mama. I thought, I can do this!

Nuts, perhaps, but it was fun to give it a shot nonetheless.
Loving Your Work
I do not know of many people who love what they do as passionately as Gregangelo. He eats, sleeps and breathes “circus” and even lives in a house that is its own wonderland, hand-painted and created painstakingly over a few decades.

I used to be so incredibly jealous of people like this who somehow always knew what they wanted to do and just went for it. I spent so many years flirting with different types of career paths, never quite willing to commit to just one.

I am just not one of these people who has followed a linear career path, or always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. As a young girl, I dreamed of being a famous writer, the first female president, or the back-up singer and dancer in a rock band, as I wrote about here.

It was never “just one thing.”

This caused me a lot of angst over the years because I so often felt like something was wrong with me.

Yes, I liked to do many things, and seemed to be bright and talented enough to pull most of them off successfully. But what was wrong with me that my career vision hadn’t struck me like a lightning bolt yet?

Why wasn’t I uber-focused on one simple beautiful dream so I could just step-by-step see it through, as others seemed to do?

Perhaps my talent in some ways is the ability to tackle more than one kind of work or project, and to therefore contribute to the world in multiple ways, while keeping my own life interesting. My brain loves to be truly stimulated, and that often means shaking things up and trying something new.

Where Your Joy Meets The Worlds’ Need
This past weekend, I stumbled onto a quote that captured for me what I want to create for my work in the world.

I discovered the work of a spiritual teacher on the Facebook page of a friend. Nithya Shanti is a professional joy-maker, conducting “Joyshops” for corporations, groups, teens.

He calls himself “an inspirational speaker, writer, happiness coach, integral healer, educator and modern day sage.”

Nithya had started out working in the corporate world in India after pursuing a management degree, but was hungry to do something more with his life.

He describes feeling a yearning for “spiritual growth and inner mastery,” something he said he wasn’t finding through his chosen career path.

He ended up moving to Thailand to become a forest meditation monk. After six years of monastic training, he felt moved to share what he had learned with the world, and re-entered “regular life” as a teacher, writer, speaker, leader, healer.

This quote on Nithya’s Facebook page moved me to tears: “Do the work where your greatest gladness meets the world’s deepest hunger.”

Inspired by the work of Frederick Buechner, it resonated for me with my deepest inner longings to both find great joy through my work, and to deeply impact the world in positive ways in my lifetime, to create a legacy.

I spent much of the rest of the weekend working on my life goals and vision, including what I want to create next in my career.

Shaping My Destiny
At this point in my life, I think it is fairly unlikely that I will run off and join the circus. Then again, one never knows. Stay tuned!

Because I have overcome great adversity in my life and survived some serious trauma, yet found my way to inner peace and happiness, I am inspired to guide others to do the same. This to me is a place where my “greatest gladness meets the world’s deepest hunger.”

I think the world needs true joy more than almost anything else. So many people suffer terribly, even in our society and culture in the U.S. which is far wealthier than most, where people in general have great freedom to create what they want for their lives.

What The Next Decade Holds For Me
If I can find a way in the next decade to conduct joy workshops, write more books, essays, articles and blogs, do more public speaking, and get paid to travel the world while doing this work, I will be a very happy camper.

Since I believe that we create our own destiny, as Nithya Shanti also teaches, I will just make this happen!

Motivational writer, coach and speaker Tony Robbins talks about how the “how” of it – how will we make these dreams come true, exactly?!? – is less important than a total commitment to making it happen, and being in action. As we take consistent action over time, we can adjust our strategy when things are not working to create the results we want.

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes of all time, which I believe in deeply, since I have always found this to be the case in my own life:

Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth — that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too.
~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

My book shares countless stories of the synchronicity in my life. When I have truly committed to a path, somehow life always seems to line up to help make it happen.

More Than One Job For Me
At this point in my life, it’s clear that I will never be one of these people who lived one linear career dream – became a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher and was satisfied with that. I admire those greatly who find one job that calls to them and do it well.

I seem to be more satisfied when working in more than one realm, and using multiple skill sets. I do live, eat and breathe my writing some days, and other days want nothing more than to be out in the world, leading groups or speaking to people.

I believe it’s possible for me to do all of these, and to make a good living while leaving a positive legacy in the world. And perhaps someday I will take more circus classes, because when I take a break from working, I love to dance and who doesn’t want to fly?

And I will keep asking myself these questions, inspired by Tony Robbins’ book Awaken The Giant Within:

What do you want to be when you “grow up”? How will you spend the next decade of your life? And what actions can you take today to help make those dreams come true?


  • hello,i like your post

  • Wow, we have some wild women dreamers. Lisa, isn’t it awesome when you open your heart and soul to all the universe has to offer, you receive the most awesome gifts.
    Thanks for the inspirational mojo!
    Big Love, Laurie

  • Cath – what you do is so extraordinary because it impacts SO many lives – us dreamers of course (the 8women who get to live our dreams out loud here!) but everyone who reads and it decides to go after THEIR dreams… a ripple effect… Creating more shining stars in the world. :)

    Do take care of yourself and those knees too! We need you to stay healthy to keep doing what you do and of course more importantly because I want YOU happy and healthy and around for a very very long time. :)

    Veronica, seriously?!?!? WOW girl no wonder I love you so much!!! Kindred spirits :) You have to tell me the story someday! promise!!!


  • Veronica

    Wow….ditto what more is there to say. Lisa I ran away with the carnival.

  • Lovely Julita, I love this, and agree: “so, I am going to do what gives me joy and not worry so much about the rest. ”

    I really believe that in the end the purpose of life is the JOY and is all about loving others and experiencing life… Our work is one wonderful way to give back to the world.

    Can’t wait to hear about all of your upcoming adventures!


  • Julita

    after working at a long term care facility I know how it ends, our bodies get weaker as we age, but what really surprised me the most is that our minds go as well. so I know what is coming whether I join the circus or sleep all day for the rest of my life my mind will not be what it is today.

    so, I am going to do what gives me joy and not worry so much about the rest.

    I still have my ambtions, MSN/FNP sometime in the next couple of years, but it is not as important. going to Alaska to see my friend Albert, or going to London/Paris with my daughter Catherine to visit my sister and my cousin is much more important!

    I just want to live!!

  • Catherine, Site Admin

    I love this quote – “Do the work where your greatest gladness meets the world’s deepest hunger.”

    I’ve come to realize what I love about 8 Women Dream – as much as the writing – is the publishing aspect of this. It really is like running a magazine company and the site really is a feature magazine.

    We just happen to talk about dreams.

    It keeps me so busy that I can’t figure out what day it is most days, but I love it.

    I have an idea for a post on different motivations and how they help our dreams, because my knees are absolutely killing me this week from sitting and working so much over the last two weeks. It’s pretty painful, but it makes me think about childbirth and how painful it was before it produced the most wonderful boy in my life.

    So I look at the sore knees as the birthing pain before the wonderful is born.

    If I didn’t love it so much I couldn’t endure the pain.

    I could not imagine hanging from the air!

    Great post – Cath

  • Hi Rayne and Remy – glad you loved that quote too – I literally sat at my computer weeping while reading Nithya Shanti’s beautiful path in the world and his Website. And that quote moved me deeply – it is absolutely what I want – to live my deepest joy while healing or giving back to the world in some profound way.

    That, and joining the circus ;) (not really since my friends already have that covered, I just love to go and fly occasionally!).

    Love you both!

  • Remy, photographer/consultant

    I stopped at the quote too Rayne. I think if I’m able to find “where my greatest gladness meets the world’s deepest hunger” I will be standing in the eye of the storm…where its calm, peaceful, bright – not in the storm itself, running for cover and avoiding whirling projectiles – thanks Lisa! Rem

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  • I can see why that quote stopped you in your tracks. “Do the work where your greatest gladness meets the world’s deepest hunger.”
    Thanks for planting that seed in our minds!

  • Lisa, the famous author

    Also visit Nithya Shanti’s Website:

    He is one of the most inspirational people I have come across in a long, long time.

    Blessings to you Nithya!!! Thanks for the work you do!

  • p.s. If you haven’t yet checked out Tony Robbin’s book Awaken the Giant Within, I strongly suggest you read it now! It is full of ideas and inspiration about how to achieve our dreams.

    Tony’s “Ultimate Formula for Success” for how to achieve any dream is super-simple. Here are the four steps:
    1) Decide what you want.
    2) Take action.
    3) Notice what’s working or not.
    4. Change your approach until you get what you want.

    Ah! I love it! He embraces making mistakes, and talks about how most of us overestimate what we can do in a year, and underestimate what we can do in a decade.

    I am committed to taking action TODAY on living all my dreams… How about you?

    Have fun!