Make Dreams Come True by Starting Over

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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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Make Your Dreams Come True by Starting Over - Hungarian pastry By Hu Totya (Own work)  via Wikimedia Commons


That’s Hungarian for delicious, and that was my Saturday night — enjoying Hungarian pastries including Dobos Torta, a nine-layer confection made with alternating layers of sponge cake and chocolate butter-cream and topped with hard caramel, and Beigli, a nut pastry made with layers of super-fine dough and filled with poppy seeds (makos).

I was at the Hungarian Pastry Shop in NYC, right across the street from Saint John the Divine Cathedral at Amsterdam and 110th, with my friend Zoltan, who is Hungarian, speaks the language fluently, taught me some new words, and shared Budapest stories. I’d told him I wanted to try something new, was up for adventure, and he delivered.

While we visited I sipped Hungarian coffee, sweet and flavored with almond and topped with whipped cream. The shop ambiance was Old World and bustling — the small square tables pushed together, full to overflowing with people, the walls lined with quaint paintings, the bottomless pot of coffee flowing (they offer free refills).

I Love Adventure!

I am always up for adventure. Earlier in the day I’d tried a new vegan restaurant in Jersey City with another friend. I ordered the tuna veggie protein, imitation fish, on top of salad. It was delicious. Stephan tried the vegan pepper steak.

The night before, I’d been out dancing to a live band. My friend Gordon Webster just released a CD, Happy When I’m With You, and the band was swinging hard. The hall on the 2nd floor of Sal Anthony’s restaurant on Mulberry Street in Little Italy was packed with dancers.

Just for fun, I wore a silver sequined mini-skirt over black leggings, and a top decorated with rhinestones, and disco ball earrings. I was essentially a walking disco ball myself.

Breaking Promises to Myself

So my weekend was a ball, in terms of new adventures. And it was also challenging, in terms of my dreams.

I’d dedicated Sunday afternoon to working on my book and to cleaning house, and instead lay down to read and ended up napping for hours.

I woke up completely discouraged. I’d broken my promise to myself.

Am I ever going to live this dream? Am I ever going to change all the things I profess to want to change in my life?

I was filled with all kinds of swirling, unproductive thoughts about my unworthiness.

Make Dreams Come True by Starting Over - From despair to happiness

Ain’t No Fun To Feel Despair!

I recognize this stream of thought. It’s a form of despair, getting caught in the thoughts about not being good enough in one way or another, and feeling badly.

I’ll admit I sometimes want to just wrap despair around me like a blanket, hide from the world and take comfort from the fact that she asks nothing of me. She can be seductive, and oddly comforting. If you give into despair, you do not have to do anything.

But she also leaves you with nothing. Despair is like a bad one-night stand – a flash of guilty pleasure, and then nothing left but the guilt.

Back on Fire!

And the fire in me always re-ignites itself quickly – the spirit is too strong. I have never been able to stay down for long.

And really, to put things in perspective, all I did was take a nap.

Today I got back on track, worked on the book, wrote a few more pages.

I headed to the gym to work out and clear my head. And while on the treadmill, I read a great article in Yoga magazine about starting over. This is my new practice.

3 Tips to Make Dreams Come True by Practicing Starting Over

1. Meditation teacher Phillip Moffitt advises that you start over this way:

“So how do you practice starting over? You shift your attention away from controlling the outcome, and you abandon the usual reactions to getting off track (criticizing, judging, complaining and lamenting).

“You don’t deny your thoughts and feelings, and you don’t try to make them go away. Instead, you acknowledge them without making any judgments about them but with compassion for how difficult this moment is.

“You then follow the acknowledgments with what I call the ‘and’ practice, in which you say to yourself, ‘Yes, I just got lost, and now I’ll just start over.’”

“Your goals matter because they give direction to your life, but your actual life happens in the endless stream of moments that occur between now and when, if ever, you reach your goal. Because you focus on the journey and not the goal, you find the willpower and the inspiration to start over.”

I love the simplicity of this. Yes, I got lost in my negative thoughts. Yes, I broke my promise to myself to work on the book on Sunday. Yes, I felt badly about this. Yet rather than just spiral further into my thoughts, I’ll just acknowledge this — and start over.Phillip Moffit book: Emotional Chaos to Clarity Move from the Chaos of the Reactive Mind to the Clarity of the Responsive Mind

2.  Remember to breathe and forgive yourself.

Some authors have spent 10 years publishing their novels–even longer.  I can quit being so hard on myself for letting time get in the way. Which of us has never fallen down or felt discouraged along the path at times? I haven’t met that person yet. I think there is something incredibly courageous about simply saying — yes, I’ve fallen, and yes from here I will start over.

3. Understand that change is a process in itself.

Change is like the ebb and flow of the ocean against a rocky shore.  Making your dreams come true requires change and change can have a time and flow all of its own.  There will be many stops and starts as you work on your dream.  You may even change direction several times before you are on the right dream path for you.  Understand that it is just a part of the change process.

Hope you can find the strength within yourself to start over whenever you feel that you have fallen behind on making your dreams come true.

Join me in trying this on as a new practice this week.

Lisa Powell graham
Get Happy!

Give us your thoughts!


  • Rachel

    “…going upward in spirals – I will keep that in mind that next time I feel like I am “spinning” ”

    Hah, sounds like perfect description of learning to dance… or programming for that matter.

  • Rachel, so happy to hear that! And so proud of you that you are still regularly meditating. That’s so awesome!!!

    KJ I love that – going upward in spirals – I will keep that in mind that next time I feel like I am “spinning” – will just remember that every time I stop, and start over, it is a new beginning and an upward journey…

    Also wanted to share with everyone that Zoltan, who took me to the Hungarian Pastry Shop, noted that in Hungarian they actually spell it “Dobos Torta” (it’s translated with the “e” in English) and that we actually had “Rétes” with it (so my online research yielded results that were close but not exact – correcting it now!) which is similar to “Beigli.”

    As he said, “‘Beigli’ has more or less the same fillings as Rétes, but Beigli (at least that I’ve had) has an intact, soft, cake-like dough, whereas Rétes uses many layers of super-fine, brittle dough, like a German Strudel.”

    OK now I know! All of it was YUMMY! :)

  • KJ Konkin

    Staring over…again and again. Wow, that is powerful and painful. I find that when I start over again and again, I judge myself for going in circles. Then somebody wise told me once that instead I might be going in spirals – upwards in my journey whether or not I see it. I hold that close.

    Great post.

  • Rachel

    Nice post, Lisa. The biggest thing I’ve been going for in my meditation AND life is letting go of those unproductive reactions, and just starting over. It’s made a difference in my work, and my boss had noticed. It’s made a difference in my attitude about “the whole social mess”, too. (Don’t ask me why I’m putting my own words in quotes. I don’t know.)

  • Oh and Alex I loved that link! thanks for sharing! Especially this, which spotlights synchronicity and the importance of relaxing and being open to opportunity when it arises…

    Daniel Pink: “But the business culture typically worships drive — setting a goal, single-mindedly pursuing it, and plowing past obstacles. Are you arguing that, to be more lucky, we need to be less focused?”

    Richard Wiseman: “This is one of the most counterintuitive ideas. We are traditionally taught to be really focused, to be really driven, to try really hard at tasks. But in the real world, you’ve got opportunities all around you. And if you’re driven in one direction, you’re not going to spot the others. It’s about getting people to have various game plans running in their heads. Unlucky people, if they go to a party wanting to meet the love of their life, end up not meeting people who might become close friends or people who might help them in their careers. Being relaxed and open allows lucky people to see what’s around them and to maximize what’s around them.”

  • Josie, I love this: “I was struck by the image of someone who had literally fallen, and how ones first instinct is to offer their hand to help lift them up. I like the idea that we can offer ourselves that same compassion, by offering us our own hands when we ‘fall.'” SO important to practice the same compassion with ourselves… a daily practice for me still… since I can definitely be so hard on myself sometimes (Still! five years of meditation hasn’t cured me of that, yet… so much better than I used to be however!).

    Julita, amen to this: “in my mind there is nothing wrong with resting, relaxing, and just enjoying being alive without doing anything important.” It’s so funny that it has sometimes been hard for me over the years to just relax and BE… especially when I’m focused intently on achieving certain goals. Yet I know I actually perform better when I’m relaxed, happy and in the flow. So maybe part of my daily practice is just this: “just enjoying being alive.” :) (sometimes I’m great at it! and sometimes I forget just to enjoy being alive!)

    Cath I will join the team to help convince Heather to take a day off once in a while. ;) I actually had set that intention for Saturday… just relax, no working on goals or dreams, just have fun! :) Which I did. And then it carried over into Sunday… ;)

    that’s what weekends are for, right?!?

    And yes I highly recommend the Hungarian Pastry Shop to everyone! It rocked!


  • Catherine

    We all experience times when our forward motion seems at a standstill. Dreaming can be tiring. Remember my post where I write about what Abraham Lincoln went through to become President of the United States?

    Sometimes I think our lives can resemble the ocean when it is calm. It may seem like nothing is happening on the surface, but if we dive deeper into the waters, we find all kinds of activity.

    Your treats sounds amazing!

    I am forever hounding Heather to take a day and chill like you did. Sometimes we need that time to find solutions, feel new emotions, process events that are happening and plan new changes in our lives.

    Great post Lisa.


    PS. People have commented on your post over on Facebook on Remy’s wall too!

  • Julita

    …and I have never had a Hungarian pastry, or danced in Little Italy. no wonder you were tired and took a nap when you finally found a moment to rest. :)

    I love to be lazy from time to time. in my mind there is nothing wrong with resting, relaxing, and just enjoying being alive without doing anything important.

    and in the end you did work on your book!

    sending you my best wishes.

  • We all trip over our own self-imposed uncertainties from time to time but it’s during those times it’s important to embrace what we’re feeling, own it, share it with those that love us and believe in us no matter what — and then let it go — because it isn’t real. All that is real is that we’re all put on this earth to love, achieve, and be our best self.

    I also napped a lot this weekend actually — I was tired. But I’m glad I took that time to sleep. I tend to work around the clock and forget how important it is to take time out for balance. With balance, we open our lives up to luck —

    On another note, did I ever tell you the story about when I mispronounced the word “egesegedre?” Next time we catch up on the phone remind me to tell you that story. ;-p

  • Josie

    Thank you for sharing this, not only am I now in search of Hungarian pastries, I am inspired to change that old Life Call TV commerciall from “I’ve Fallen and I cant Get Up” to a REAL life call “I’ve Fallen and I WILL get up again”.
    I was struck by the image of someone who had literally fallen, and how ones first instinct is to offer their hand to help lift them up. I like the idea that we can offer ourselves that same compassion, by offering us our own hands when we “fall”. Whether its a little fall or a big fall, a fall from a new plan we made for ourselves, or a fall from the expectations of others. Bottom line is, we all fall at some time or another, its the ability to get up and start over and try, try again that is the difference between sucess and failure, Deep down we all have the ability to get up and try it again and get better at it each time we do, sometimes we just lose site of it
    Thanks again for the reminder to focus on each time we get up and try, not the end result!

  • Jennifer

    Fabulous post, Lisa! Thank you!

  • Thanks Wendy…. and thanks for your courage this week in sharing your moments of self-doubt in your own post… I found that SO inspiring, and it also helped me find the courage to share my own story of my “dark side.”

    We all have that shadow side and have to just keep moving through it… Enjoying all the moments of our beautiful lives. :)


  • Wendy

    Thanks Lisa for that great post. I really liked your quotes from Moffitt and do believe it is the journey that needs to be enjoyed.

  • p.s. I think it is this feeling that “self-doubt isn’t sexy” that makes me want to hide those feelings sometimes. Yet I think there is something powerful about owning up to ALL of ourselves and our emotions. So sometimes I have negative thoughts – so what? Do I live a great life anyways? Do I find a way out of it? Am I perhaps even more for it – stronger, more confident, because I know what I can rise above (anything!)? I’d say, yes…

  • Hey Darcy and Remy,

    I’m so glad this post resonated for you… It’s funny, sharing the “darkness and the light” is a newer practice for me with my writing, something I am practicing here on the blog. I used to really try to keep up the “perfect” facade – as if my life were 100% happy-happy-joy-joy.

    My life is amazing, don’t get me wrong, yet I have my days when things don’t feel so great, and I am not immune to self-doubt. I know how to leap over it now and to switch to another train of thought… Just acknowledge that it happened, and keep moving. After all, I’m human – should I be surprised that I have highs and also lows sometimes?

    That’s why I loved finding this practice now – because it leaves room for my humanity and also allows me again and again to start anew. I don’t have to be perfect, just to start over and over again if I get “off track.”

    And Remy, yes, it is important to remember that sometimes we *do* just need to slow down and rest! Perhaps that’s what my body was telling me. After all, I was up all hours of the night Friday with the dance and post-dance, and up late driving back from NYC Saturday. Maybe I really just needed a nap. :)

    Amazing how we can be so hard on ourselves sometimes! Sharing it and knowing that others understand helps. :)

    Love to you both!

  • Remy, the photographer

    Ah, I agree with Darcy! Feels like perfect timing. I think that sometimes I get laser focused and forget to stop, take a look at where I’m at and rest for a while. Even people who run marathons have to keep track of where they are on the route, when to pick it up, when to slow it down and when to grab water on the sidelines. I am notorious for just “running”, until get demotivated or sick or distracted by some other race. Its too early for metaphors! Thanks for the very beautiful description of the torte. Sounds like I could eat one all by myself! Have a great week Lis! Rem

  • Darcy

    Perfect timing on this post for me. Exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you.