For Better and For Worse: The Lab Rats Blow Up Their Dreams (Part 2)

  • Someday Lesson: Your dreams don’t exist in a vacuum – you have to consider the people you share your life with.

(Last week we looked at the extreme dreams of Lizzie and Alessio and what they were willing to do to change in their lives or in their dreams to make the two match up. This week, we look at what Wendee and Horatio decided.)

Evil Erin on Flickr.comAs I said last week, when I was deciding where I wanted to live, if I wanted to stay with my boyfriend, I needed to consider his situation and choices. Even now two years into living with him, although I have itchy feet and think about creating a life that involves living in a variety of places, my desire to be with my boyfriend is stronger than my wanderlust so I adapt my dream and stay where I am.

Sometimes the dream is stronger than the connections to others and we leave. This happens often with family. For example I know my mother would be happier having me near her in Ontario rather than across the ocean, but my desire to live in Europe is stronger in the instance, so here I am.

There’s another reason for doing this dream-big-consider-limits exercise. In reading Richard Wiseman’s 59 Seconds (yes, I’m talking a lot about the book, but it’s just packed with information), he talks about a series of experiments that showed the best type of visualization about the future combines thinking about the best possible outcome then immediately considering possible obstacles and limits.

The experiments showed that people who held the two opposing thoughts in their mind at the same time (a type of doublethink) were much more likely to achieve their dreams than people who only focused on the positive outcome or only on the obstacles and limits.

So, let’s see what Horatio and Wendee came up with by engaging in a little doublethink:


In his extreme dream, Horatio sees himself living in a gorgeous flat with fulfilling challenging and sometimes even difficult work a thirty minute walk from him. His work involves solving problems for others using mathematics and molecules. He travels a lot and gets invites to visit colleagues around the world.

He doesn’t mention where the flat and the job are, however, but that missing bit of information gets explained when you look at his limitations, which mainly focus around his girlfriend. He notes as a limitation that he has “a relationship to maintain.” That may seem cold, but it’s not.

It’s the truth, plain and simple.

He would like to consider moving to a different part of the world to pursue his work and the apartment of his dreams, but the reality is that he’s emotionally attached to someone who enjoys working and so any move would involve a huge change on her part as well.

So what has Horatio chosen to do? He’s decided that he won’t make any rash decisions and that before anything, he will research options that will benefit both of them. He will explore other locations where both of them could work and he will plan things out slowly so that his girlfriend has time to adapt to the idea of a major change.


Something fascinating showed up in Wendee’s extreme dream that I haven’t seen before. She’s talked a lot about teaching others about art and how much she loves teaching, but the idea of selling her own artwork has been a minor theme, if she remembers to mention it at all.

However, in her extreme dream her artwork appears to be a major income source for her. The reason for its exclusion earlier shows up in her limitations one of which is the belief that fine art is not a “good” way of earning a living.

I think in this exclusion we might have found what is really blocking Wendee from getting rid of so many of her Somedays. She would love to produce art for a living, but feels that it’s not a proper career so focuses on teaching, on volunteering and on projects that skirt around the idea of earning from fine art.

So what stops her? Fear of not being an equal provider in her relationship and of not being able to support herself if necessary. Having been divorced once and having to start over from scratch, Wendee doesn’t want to be in the same position again, so looks to ways to support herself with “proper” work.

Unfortunately as I found out with my own desire to live my life producing art, no matter what I did to avoid this desire, it kept coming up and I kept sabotaging things that took me in other directions. When I acknowledged this dream, suddenly a world of possibilities opened up as ways for me to earn a living while pursuing my dream.

But it took acknowledging my real dream before I was able to move forward.

I may be mistaken in reading into Wendee’s exercises that fine art as a primary source of income is Wendee’s true dream, but there’s something that’s been blocking Wendee and this might just be it.

Measuring Progress

After his breakthrough moment a few weeks ago Horatio’s progress has settled into a steady forward motion. He continues to look for new work and he’s refining exactly what he wants from his future, including what he can do now to make that future come more quickly and with less struggle.

As for Wendee, I think this week includes her breakthrough moment even though she might not have been aware of it. If indeed producing fine art is her true Someday dream, then acknowledging it will make figuring out the rest of her life that much easier.

At this point, I’d suggest Wendee does a quick review of prior exercises to see how the new dream might change her answers and send her off in a new direction.

And if the fine art thing is not her true dream, then in the worksheets she sent in this week she identified a very workable to-do list of things that she wants to change about her current reality, each of which is realistic and measurable. Either way Wendee has made some great progress with this series of exercises.

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10 thoughts on “For Better and For Worse: The Lab Rats Blow Up Their Dreams (Part 2)

  1. Great stuff Alex!
    We can’t just dream away and forget our families. While I’d love to stay in one spot and run a lucrative business, I accept the limitations of moving across the country every couple of years. The trick is, (at least for me) to learn as much as you can from every place you live and from everyone you meet, that way, whenever your limitations are removed, you can pursue the dream completely.
    .-= Jacki Hollywood Brown´s last blog ..Tips for the New School Year =-.

  2. Alex Fayle says:

    Yes, that’s one thing people forget when they complain about their lives – consequences of previous choices. You chose to marry an army man, meaning you chose the consequences of moving every few years. It might not fit with your small business dreams, but your dream of being with your husband (and now kids) takes priority.

  3. You have no idea how much this speaks to me: “He notes as a limitation that he has “a relationship to maintain.” That may seem cold, but it’s not. It’s the truth, plain and simple.”

    In my someday interview I touched briefly on how my husband’s personality has placed limits on on my travel (and a few other areas of my life.) He is who is, and I accept him as he is, but I also know that I need to make a genuine effort to make some plans that don’t involve him, and that is probably my biggest personal challenge.
    .-= Janet Barclay´s last blog ..News You Might Have Missed =-.

  4. Wendee says:

    Well, Alex, no, doing art as my primary job is not my goal. I’m sorry that you read it that way. I get a great satisfaction from teaching and would like to pursue that for my primary income. I’ve found a nice balance of security and freedom / time off that I like about it, and an ability to connect with people, deeply, that really fuels and excites me. If I could split the two, teaching and doing art, about 60-40, that would be great!

    In stating that I want to do fine art, that’s a fundamental shift away from doing strictly design work. It’s a big step, in itself to say that I want to do art. It would be very romantic and dramatic to say I’m going to be an artist, but, honestly, I wouldn’t say it’s my one big new dream.

    My dream does, and has for years, included art and creativity, and I don’t think I’ve hesitated to say so. In looking back through my worksheets for the previous weeks, art and painting are there, from the very beginning. I know I want them to be a part of my life, and they’ve always been part of the dream… and I’ve been working to incorporate them, in a good, healthy dose, all along…

    But it’s good to hear such excitement about my doing art. I kinda wish I could get that kind of excitement about my wanting to go back to school to study fine art and art education, and about my wanting to teach, as well …. 😉

  5. Alex Fayle says:


    Thanks for the clarification! One thing about doing this experiment “long distance” (ie with my reactions going on the blog instead of directly to you), I see things that aren’t there. You’re right about the art appearing throughout the worksheets, but this time I saw it as something much bigger.

    You’re also right that going back to school is something to get really excited about – I think I haven’t up until now because I don’t hear the same excitement from you on this topic. I hear the fear and the uncertainty and the desire to find stability, but I don’t hear passion. The passion comes from helping people – that shines through – with teaching as part of that helping.

    Figuring out dreams in this sort of coaching comes through conversations and I really like your clarification of – it’s a good clear goal:

    If I could split the two, teaching and doing art, about 60-40, that would be great!

    So, let’s think about the teaching part of it – the big challenge is securing a stable teaching post without going further into debt or taking ten years, yes?

  6. Wendee says:

    Hi Alex –
    Yes, securing a teaching post without going into (more) major debt or it taking too long (3 – 4 years tops) would be fantastic! That’s my plan ..

  7. Alex Fayle says:

    This is I think why I jumped on the fine art thing. You really want the teaching but there’s a huge obstacle to you getting a stable position doing it, making the dream itself kind of fuzzy and appear like it’s something you want because of its stability not because of your passion for teaching. The path for being an artist while a struggle as well has a clearer path.

    So then, time to think outside the traditional route – how can you teach the subject you love without doing the masters’ route? Is there a way of creating a business focused around teaching instead of teaching at a school that has the barrier of more schooling? Something like honing your skills in a niche of your teaching and taking it around to design studios and big companies that have inhouse design staff and charging to teach them this one (or more!) thing that you totally rock at?

  8. Horatio says:

    (Damn, I missed this entry on me. Have to look more often.)

    Just to chip in – yup Alex, that’s about right. This what we call “a highly parameterized situation” – there’s an end point I want to arrive at but there are constraints to be worked within. Denying those constraints, is just denying reality. So, there’s nothing to do but to work at it and see what solutions can be found.

  9. Alex Fayle says:

    “A highly parameterized situations” – what a great phrase! I’ll have to remember that for future use. 😉

  10. Alex Fayle says:

    Yes, I think everyone has that kind of thing to deal with, as our spouses have to deal with the ways our personalities put limits on what they want to do. It’s important to recognize it and accept it rather than resent it or it can become a huge problem in the relationship.

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