The pandemic took a lot away from us. I've been one of the lucky ones, but something I definitely lost during our COVID year was the ability to dream about the future. The only way I could get through all those months was to stay in the present, enjoy the small daily victories, and ignore the future. I didn’t make plans beyond my Zoom appointments, and I took it one day at a time. It was just too sad to dream big about the future, because it was impossible to know what would be possible.
Now we find ourselves in a new phase, as the vaccine keeps a growing number of folks safer and COVID rates decline in the U.S. Life is opening back up, but not evenly. Kids under 12 can’t be vaccinated yet. Many struggle with the lingering economic impact or health-related setbacks of the pandemic.
For lots of people, things feel better, but still uncertain and confusing. Summer is almost here, and there’s a cautious optimism in the air. More people are socializing, making plans to travel, and dreaming again about the future.
Making Post-Pandemic Plans
In my conversations with coaching clients, I hear a new kind of anxiety surfacing: how to break from the COVID routine and adapt to a more in-person life. Among the worries expressed:
“I have rusty social skills and feel awkward socializing in person, even with people I know well.”
“I’ve gotten used to my home-based life and don’t want to go out all that much.”
“I’ve had a change of heart about a lot of my friendships and activities. I’m not sure I want to go back to my old life.”
“Some of my friends are vaccinated and socializing a lot. Others have kids at home and are still concerned about COVID.”
“COVID life was simple. Now I have more choices and more distractions. It’s exhausting, and I’m having a lot of trouble focusing and making decisions.”
If you're feeling understandably ambivalent about what comes next for you, it might be a good time to do some dreaming! Allowing ourselves to dream helps us solidify what we value and what matters most. It gives us a clear view to a beautiful horizon, so that we can point our ship in the right direction. We may not reach the exact destination, but our route becomes more intentional, and we find more meaning along the way.
Our dreams are not a to-do list. Dreams clarify our vision of the ideal. They keep our imaginations alive, so that we can have many wonderful ideas about what’s possible. For every 100 dreams we have, only 10 might become a reality. This isn’t failure. This is the creative mind in action.
4 Tips for Dreaming Big in 2021
1. Stay grounded in your own values and situation.
A journaling practice (such as Morning Pages) is the best way I know to stay connected to my core values and what’s best for me. Write about what you'd like your life to be like over the next year. Or simply talking to yourself on the page and see where it leads over time. 2. Try to avoid comparing yourself to others.
FOMO is stronger than ever these days. Social media keeps us connected in great ways, but it’s a hotbed for comparative and competitive feelings. Cherish your uniqueness, and accept that your dreams may look a lot different from other people in your circle. In the words of Martha Graham, there is only one of you in all time! 3. Focus on what you can control.
The first lines of the the Serenity Prayer sum it up well: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference. Stay clear on where you have autonomy in your life. It will give you a greater sense of agency. It will also help you distinguish between an attainable dream and a fantasy dream -- both of which have value. 4. Accept that some of your dreams will not come true,
and that they serve an important purpose. They are part of your creative process and your planning process. It’s normal to dream. It's normal that all dreams are not realized. And, it’s also normal to feel a sense of loss when dreams don’t come true. Make space to feel those feelings. Then let them go, perhaps through a ritual of some kind. Releasing them with gratitude will open up the door for dreaming anew, and there's no better time for new dreams than the present.