Are you protecting yourself from your dreams?

In a writer’s coaching session with one of my clients the other day, we discovered that she was holding herself back from what she truly wanted with her creative work because she was afraid of being disappointed if it didn’t come true.

Does that sound familiar to you?

So many of us, myself included (!), tend to vacillate between wild dreams of incredible success and being afraid to admit to what we truly want for fear that we won’t get it.

We even hold ourselves back from knowing what we want, as if staying confused will keep us safe.

Lessons from little tots

The other day on the way to preschool, my son tripped, fell flat on his hands, and dropped his toys. After he stopped crying and we had a good hug, he said to me, “I was running too fast and I threw my toys.”

I thought about that for a minute and responded, “I don’t think you were running too fast, but sometimes we do trip and fall down.”

I wanted him to know that sometimes, things just go wrong, and we don’t necessarily want to: 1) blame ourselves, or 2) hold back overly from enjoying life because “something might happen”.

Making decisions to protect ourselves

We have all had experiences in our lives where we reach for what we want and don’t get it.

In our disappointment, we make decisions to protect ourselves from even wanting it in the first place, so we won’t get hurt again. We decide that it’s safer to aim low than to proclaim our dreams and be embarrassed when we don’t get them.

I’ve run into this with my creative work and my coaching work — setting my sights high, only to have it all come crashing down, and then deciding it’s not worth pursuing anymore.

In fact, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given up on my creativity over the years to protect myself, like the time I dropped out after ONE DAY in art school because another student ridiculed my work, or how I decided not to be a writer when I was a kid because my parents told me I couldn’t make enough money that way.

What’s the right lesson here?

So while it’s true that we might be disappointed and sometimes we do aim higher than we achieve, is the right lesson to learn NOT to aim high? Is it truly better to be “realistic“?

I think we have to ask ourselves which risk is bigger. Is it the risk of playing small and holding back, never quite going for what you want most? Or is it the risk of going for it, maybe falling hard, but possibly grasping that star you’re reaching for?”

Let’s all agree to admit what it is we truly want, and to say to ourselves, “I’m going to give this dream the respect it deserves, and play full out to get it. After all, it’s something I truly, deeply want.

What’s your dream?

What’s your big dream? Tell us about it in the comments.

Here’s my dream: To have my writing be paid, published and/or produced.

For the sake of further exploration, next week I’ll write about doing things for the joy of them, even if they don’t “happen” the way we want them too. :)




Commitment + Synchronicity = Magic

I’m re-reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron while I’m running my Artist’s Way Accountability and Support Group.

I’m reminded once again of Julia’s brilliance and insight about the power of committing ourselves to our Big Dreams, and how the Universe supports us through seemingly magical occurrences when we do so.

I, for one, am both continually astonished by how well this works and remarkably resistant to it at the same time. These massive doubts and fears always seem to come up when it comes to the question of commitment:

  • But how will I know if it’s the right thing?
  • And how can I even just pick one thing to focus on?
  • What if I get bored with it?
  • What if I don’t have anything new or valuable to say?
  • What if I can’t make any money doing it?
  • What if I suck at it?
  • What if no one likes it?
  • If I love it so much, why am I not taking action on it?
  • But how will I do it?
  • But I can’t decide!

I’ve learned to see these as no more than temporary obstacles, personality traits (I’m a scanner), hidden fears and shoulds, and stealthy inner critic messages. In other words, I try not to give them too much attention or take them too seriously.

I’ve also learned to prioritize and pick something to work on first, but not to worry if I put something down and come back to it later. Elaine tells me she likes to have at least 3 creative projects going at once so she can move from one to the next as she feels called.

Move the Universe With Your Commitment

Julia quotes this passage from The Scottish Himalayan Expedition by W. H. Murray:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (or creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.

“All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have believed would have come his way.”

She separately quotes Goethe:

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has magic, grace and power in it.”

(I’ve quoted both of these directly from The Artist’s Way. I’ve seen other variations.)

But How Will I?

Once you’ve committed, figuring out how really isn’t your job. Really.

Julia reminds me of this critical bit as well:

The Universe falls in with worthy plans and most especially with festive and expansive ones. I have seldom conceived of a delicious plan without being given the means to accomplish it. Understand that the what must come before the how. First choose what you will do. The how usually falls into place of itself.

Our inner critic and the fears that drive those anxious commitment questions make us think we have to answer the HOW question first. We do feasibility studies, shop our dreams around to our critical friends and enemies, and dismantle our cherished secret hopes before we ever give them a chance to take root, let alone blossom.

It makes me want to cry.

I want to cry when I think of all the beautiful, cherished, lovely dreams that will change the world, heal our broken systems and hearts, and help people grow and become better human beings, but that are being left unexplored, unexpressed, and undiscovered because we are more concerned with staying “safe” and not rocking the boat. These are just smokescreens, people. Smokescreens.

Let’s Be Honest With Each Other

Because really, deep down, “Anyone honest will tell you that possibility is far more frightening than impossibility, that freedom is far more terrifying than any prison.”

What Are You Willing To Allow?

The truly fascinating aspect of all this is the energetic flow of giving and receiving. Peter and Marcia taught me about the divine flow of Universal energy — the möbius of energy that moves out and returns back — an unending cycle of exchange. IF we allow it.

As Julia says, “The Universe is prodigal in its support. We are miserly in what we accept.”

We are miserly in what we accept.

Oh man.

She continues: “All gift horses are looked in the mouth and returned to sender. We say we are scared by failure, but what frightens us more is the possibility of success.”

What frightens us more is the possibility of success.

Could it be?

Could it be that what keeps me paralyzed from taking action on key Big Dreams is not that I’m too busy, have too much email, need a break, or just have to “get through this one thing,” but that I am simply: 1) unwilling to accept the limitless possibilities and gifts of the Universe and 2) terrified that I might actually succeed?

Holy shit, Batman. The jig is up.

I’m reminded of what Sonia always says: “How good can you stand it?”


Need help finding, claiming, and committing to your Big Dream? Come to my Voice Your Vision retreat in Berkeley on April 29th and 30th. You can find out all the details here.


What’s Jenna Up To?

~> March 26th, 2011. First broadcast of my brand new Radio Lightworker radio show “Dreamification.” Find out more and submit your questions. Listen from anywhere in the world to this Internet radio show. Listening details available soon!

~> March 29th, 2011. My Artist’s Way Accountability & Support Group continues. Details.

~> April 29th & 30th, 2011. My next Voice Your Vision retreat will be held in Berkeley, California. Early registration is now available through March 31st at midnight Eastern Time. Special savings if you’ve already had your hands analyzed. Contact my assistant Jamie to schedule a private one-to-one chat with me to find out if this program is right for you.

Big Dream Actioneering Report #1: Temper Tantrums & Excuses

Here’s my first official weekly check in for my “Big Dream” Actioneering. All I can say is, man alive. It’s really been two weeks, or something. Read on for details. I hope next time to be more brief. :)

It has been nothing if not interesting to observe myself and all the machinations I’ve gone through as I’ve brought myself closer to claiming my Big Dream of becoming a writer.

Here’s my update:


Well, for starters, as soon as I made the public commitment to write 4 times per week, I found myself in the quandary of putting on a live event and heading out of town, both of which required an extra level of preparation and definitely disrupted my normal routine.

Then, when we came back from L.A., I promptly came down with the “cold of the decade” and found myself completely uninterested and unwilling to write (or work, for that matter) while taking care of myself and my son, who was also sick. I promised myself that this week, I’d get back on track. And I did. Well, sort of.

Really, though, I see the cold as a giant temper tantrum. Julia Cameron describes a kriya (Sanskrit) in The Artist’s Way as “spiritual emergencies or surrender,” something designed to get our attention and say, hey, “Get it?”

I feel like this is a similar situation — On some level, I’m resisting doing the Big Writing because it terrifies me, so I choose to get sick and busy as a way to avoid doing it. Pretty creative, right?

It’s also fascinating to watch my inner critic pester me with, “it’s not creative enough, it’s not good enough,” etc.

Which reminds me, my 3rd submission, “The Gospel According to Lucky,” for the NYC Midnight Short Screenplay Challenge did not get me through to the next round, but I got some great feedback and decided I like the story enough to want to rewrite it.

So I sent it off to some writing friends for feedback, and holy smokes, did my inner critic ever go into overdrive. He (yes, my inner critic is a he) was going all crazy about why they hadn’t gotten back to me yet, that they hated it, that they were writing each other about how bad it was and couldn’t figure out what to say to me, etc. etc.

Luckily I didn’t buy it and busted my I.C. by telling my husband about what he was saying so we could both laugh at him.

One more little temper tantrum: I’m writing this on Saturday instead of Friday like I’d planned. Jeez.

Progress & Celebrations

The good news is that I DID work on my big screenplay (the title is in flux so I can’t tell you what it is yet) and I was able to outline the story even more. It’s a fascinating project. It seems like every time I sort out one bit of the story, I find 10 more unanswered questions to address. I swear this thing will just write itself once I get all these questions answered.

I’m also thrilled that I made it to the 3rd round of the NYC Midnight Short Screenplay Challenge. That was my goal and I met it. Woo-hoo! I also received some extremely helpful feedback from my writing buddy so I’m planning to rewrite that script soon. (No, he didn’t hate it, he said, “I dig the script.”)

Another thing I’m super happy about is watching my creative process around writing unfold. Who knew it would be this way? I certainly have my ups and downs, but I’m finding that I like to toss around ideas and play with them until I feel solid about the “big ideas” and then I start writing. I like that. :)

Plus, joy of all joys, my husband and I are writing a short story, called “Angel of Misfortune” for the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. It’s due today. Can I tell you that ever since I met this man I’ve dreamed of us writing together? It’s so fabulous! And I think the story is pretty good. Oh joy. :)

What about you? What did you accomplish with your Big Dream this week? Join me with your challenges and celebrations in the comments below.


In the spirit of Havi Brooks’ “Comment Zen,” I have this request:

Since I am exploring how to be more transparent, raw, vulnerable, and in my full, messy delicious creative energy in my posts, here’s what I would love to hear:

  • How you personally are doing whatever I’m writing about for yourself.
  • How my writing sparks something for you.
  • About your own stories, ideas, musings, and wonderings.

And I would love to skip:

  • You feeling like you need to take care of me, give me useful suggestions, or other well-meaning but unsolicited advice.

Thank you!


p.s. I just had a brainstorm to do an Artist’s Way support group for a low monthly fee. Anyone interested? Let me know.

p.p.s. If you missed my free call on Friday on “Finding Your ‘Big Thing’,” you can check out the recording here.