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A few weeks ago, a woman asked me, “Tonya, what’s your BIG dream?
Y’all, this question brings tears to my eyes.
I feel like I’ve been growing into my dreams since I was a child.
When I was 12 years old, my big dream was to win The North Carolina Rhododendron Princess.
For three years in a row, I won second runner-up.
Always a trophy. Never a crown.
Next, I fantasized about having a home that didn’t have wheels.
Yes, I grew up in a trailer.
I’ll never forget my parents announcing that they were going to build a house.
I was beyond excited.
In the evenings, I’d look at the plans drawn up by the architect and dream of sleepovers, walking down the stairs to the dinner table and all the other things I imagined happened in “real” houses.
One day, out of the blue, my mom came home and announced we were buying a double-wide.
I was devastated.
At some point — between divorce, bills coming in faster than the money and everyone’s expectations, I stopped dreaming.
It was too painful and disappointing.
Plus, I was barely surviving.
Dreams were what happened in movies, not my life.
But, here’s the thing about dreams.
They nag at you.
You may try, but you can’t . . .
. . .eat them away.
. . . shop them away.
. . .work them away.
Trust me, I tried.
You’ll be reminded of what you once dreamed of. Whether it’s while reading a book, watching a movie, or seeing someone in the line at Starbucks, you’ll feel a nagging feeling in your soul asking you to listen.
Why we stop dreaming
As kids, we loved to dream.
Dreaming was natural and part of learning and growing.
We’d imagine becoming doctors and ballerinas.
It was fun because a part of us believed that our dreams could come true.
However, after disappointments and the flood of negative beliefs that enters our minds, dreaming becomes hard and painful.
You doubt that your dreams are possible.
You start to look for all the reasons it can’t happen.
It’s hard to want something that you think you can’t have. So, you begin to shrink into the background of your life.
And, this is where so many women I work with find themselves.
Be daring enough to dream
As I was preparing for this episode, I started to think about when I allowed myself to dream again.
I do recall when Sarah (my daughter) was a little girl watching her sleep and thinking, I want more for her than what I’m doing.
A wise woman once told me, “Don’t tell your kids how to live; show them.”
I was showing her how to live with fear, how to shrink and hide and how to put everyone else’s needs above my own.
Y’all, it’s painful being so brutally honest with yourself, but I didn’t like the life I was showing my daughter.
But, I didn’t know where to start, so I started small.
My dream was to get healthier.
Now, thinking back, this isn’t a small dream, especially when you’ve let yourself go. Not to mention, if you don’t have your health, nothing really matters.
But, I wasn’t dreaming of building a business or traveling around the world. That was too impossible at the time, so health it was.
I started taking walks every single day.
At first, I could barely walk a quarter of a mile without becoming winded, but I kept walking.
I started creating my health.
With every walk and decision that supported my health, I was becoming more confident, empowered and hopeful.
These seemingly little daily actions were creating momentum for more dreaming.
As I tell clients all the time:
The best part of reaching a goal is who you become in the process.
So, I kept dreaming and showing up.
I remember dreaming of being a food and wine writer.
It seemed so exotic and fun — traveling to food and wine festivals, sipping wine in cellars, being treated like royalty at restaurants.
So, first step was to go to sommelie school.
Did I mention that I am a country bumpkin at my core?
Seriously, y’all! The extent of my wine experience was Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill (I know some of you know exactly what I am talking about.).
As far as cheese go, the fanciest cheese I had ever tried was Sharp Cheddar (the Piggly Wiggly brand).
So, I had a big learning curve, but I kept following my dream.
Two years later, I was asked to be the food and wine writer for a regional magazine. It was not as romantic as I had imagined, but I checked off another dream, nevertheless.
Big Dreams come with Big Doubt
I wish someone had pulled us all aside in school and explained the nuts and bolts of dream making.
I believed that if a dream was possible, it would feel easy and you’d be 100% self-assured.
What I didn’t realize is that when you have a dream (something you want to create/experience/become) that doesn’t exist right now, it’s going to be super uncomfortable.
And, the bigger that dream, the bigger the doubt.
However, now I know: it’s supposed to be that way.
I believe dreams serve two purposes:
PURPOSE #1 = Dreams are the roadmap to your destiny.
I know. This is so cliche, but it’s true. Everyone wants something different, and that’s because everyone’s unique and has an original destiny. Knowing what you want is KEY to creating a life you love.
PURPOSE #2 = Dreams are an invitation to grow.
To create something you’ve never had, you must become someone you’ve never been. I’ve been thinking lately that, perhaps, this is the true purpose of our dreams: to help us evolve as humans.
So, of course, when you have a dream, you’re going to have all kinds of limiting beliefs come up.
I can’t do this.
I’m too old.
I don’t know how.
That’s not possible.
I may fail.
I’m not ready.
This is just the minds attempt to keep you where you are. The mind likes the familiar, the known and the predictable.
But, dear friend, everything you desire and don’t yet have is in that place of the unknown.
You must be willing to step into it, even if you’re shaking in your stilettos or sneakers.
Are you going to listen to your doubt or to your dream?
When you look back at your life, how do you want to feel about the risks you took, the dreams you went after and who you became in the process?
But, daring women dream.
Women try really hard to convince me that they don’t have dreams.
Some pretend to not know.
Others give me the “I’m content, so I’m not interested” speech.
Here’s what I know: every woman has a dream.
It may be to have the most fantastic garden in town or go back to school, but inside of you are dreams and desires:
What if you were willing to allow yourself to want what you want without apology?
What if you stopped listening to the doubt?
What if you really went for it?
What if you didn’t believe being content and dreaming had to be exclusive of one another?
What if you stopped being confused about what you want?
I want you to consider that life would become this thrilling playground full of possibility, opportunities and chances for you to grow as a human being.
Sure, it’s uncomfortable and scary, but . . .
You’re capable of feeling the price that comes with living a dream life.
Give yourself credit.
You’ve most likely already experienced hardship; why not feel discomfort on purpose and go after your dreams?
My daring new dream.
First, a little story.
Earlier this year, I had a layover in the Dallas Fort Worth airport.
And this seeming stranger approached me.
“Excuse me. Are you Tonya Leigh?”
“Yes, I am,” I replied a little shocked that a stranger knew me.
“I thought that was you. I’m Mary Beth. I’ve been following your work for years and I just wanted to tell you how you’ve really helped me.”
She went on to explain that her husband left and her mother died all within six months of each other.
Life had knocked her down and since that time, she had stopped dreaming of a better life.
She was stuck and afraid.
However, through reading my blog and listening to the podcast, she was starting to see a flicker of light.
I tell you this story because it has to do with my dream.
For so long, I was like Mary Beth.
I had lost my light.
I felt lost.
However, after years of practicing what I preach, my light is shining bright.
And, I want to share what I’ve learned with as many women as possible.
My big dream is to reach one million women in the next five years.
In an effort to give you a better idea of how far my team and I have to go, I have been doing this work in the world for close to 10 years and we currently have around 80,000 active email subscribers to French Kiss Life.
[note: If you’re not yet an FKL insider, go here to grab our manifesto and you won’t miss a thing.]
So reaching 1,000,0000 women in 5 years is a pretty big goal.
Needless to say, just saying this dream out loud to you and the thousands of other readers and listeners, it is equally scary and exciting.
Of course, there’s that little voice in my head that says,
“Girl, who do you think you are?”
“You may fail in front of the entire world.”
“Don’t forget where you came from.”
But, I’m committed to feeding my dream, not my doubt.
I do not want to be that woman who gives up when her dream becomes too big or too hard.
I don’t want to let “impossible” stop me.
I do not want to be that woman who is sitting in her rocking chair at 90-years old wondering, “What if?”
I do not want to be that woman who told her daughter how to live but never really lived it herself.
I want to see what I’m capable of in this lifetime.
I want to be an example of what’s possible.
I want to see how much I can expand.
I want to see how much joy I can generate.
I want to see how many styles I can create.
I want to see what’s possible.
Call it stubborn. Call it insanity.
Or simply call it a woman with a dream.
So, yes, I want French Kiss Life to touch the lives of one million women in the next five years.
And, I’m committed.
In the next week, I’m going to unveil something that I’ve been working on behind the scenes that’s part of making this dream come true.
Here’s a hint: it’s been a long time coming and is much bigger than me.
As a member of French Kiss Life, I hope my dream inspires you to dream bigger.
Now, I must ask you:
Are you daring enough to dream?
Don’t be confused.
Don’t pretend to not know.
Don’t run from the doubt.
Tell me: What is your dream?
Share it in the comments below.
Heads up: We’ll be continuing this conversation over the next few weeks, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled on your inbox.
And, if you’re not already a French Kiss Life Insider, go here to join us so you don’t miss a thing.