An aspiration is a hope or ambition of something we’d like to achieve. We all wish for things in our life – changes, new possibilities, opportunities – sometimes we can’t even articulate what we’d like, but we know we long for something different from the reality we currently live. These wishes are often our heart-felt aspirations.
Sometimes we struggle for years, even decades, trying to bring something into our lives that feels impossible, too far away, unavailable to us! That struggle can feel very defeating and wear down our energy and excitement for finding joy in our lives.
This is especially true if your most heart-felt aspirations have been met with disappointment, difficulty or even worse, messages that you don’t deserve what you long for (our society leans very heavily into those messages, and they can really do harm!).
I tend to think that everyone experiences the world like I do (and that’s so not the truth!) but each of us encounter the experience of aspirations differently depending on the success we’ve encountered, the encouragement we’ve received or the hurdles we’ve had to overcome.
I’ve been privileged to find success in many arenas of life. School was always fun for me, creating ideas and projects (from nothing) has been a source of playfulness and joy for me, learning to appreciate new and different neighborhoods and surroundings always brought satisfying challenges.
That’s not true for everyone. Sometimes, we encounter hurdles that are so challenging that we just give up on our dreams or lay them aside because they seem too far away to accomplish.
What are your aspirations? What have you struggled to accomplish that still eludes your grasp? Where have you, time and again, set your sights, only to be disappointed or fallen short of the goal?
For me, my most frustrating aspiration has always been about my body – wanting it to look different, feel different, respond differently to movement and physical challenges – I’ve always wanted an athlete’s body, but never had one! That disappointment led to decades of disliking the body I did have, the one that needed my compassion, respect and attention.
Instead, my self-talk (especially as a teenager) was dreadful – shaming, defeating and damning language – it was all I knew to do, and it never made life in my body any better! Now, maybe because I’m a grown-up and I’ve learned to speak more gently to myself, I respect and honor the body I do have.
I’m grateful for this body’s abilities and fortitude. I’m encouraged by its responsiveness to my modest attempts to treat it well with healthy food choices, a good night’s sleep and gentle, stretching movements that teach me the limits of its current capacity and show me the opportunities for change. For me, every yoga class is a learning experience where I recognize what my body is asking for and I agree to gently give it what it needs.
Have your aspirations been met with encouragement or disappointment? Sometimes we need to reframe our aspirations, our longings, so that we meet with different outcomes in the future. We need to see that what we long for may be a misconception of what we need.
Here’s what I mean. . . Even at 14 years of age, I didn’t need an athlete’s body, but I did need to respect and honor the body that I had – the one whose gene pool leaned toward curviness and ample thighs, the one with Mediterranean skin, bright eyes and really amazing hair. That’s the body I honor today!
Reframing helps us see things differently. What might reframing your aspirations change about your sense of accomplishment? Perhaps. . .
Instead of being disappointed that you never finished college (or graduate school?) you can reframe that in a way that honors what you have accomplished. “I’m always going to be a life-long learner, and perhaps that degree will be mine in the future, but I don’t need it to be good at my craft or successful in my life!”
Instead of being discouraged that you’re not where you expected to be (or where others told you that you should be by now) you can reframe that mindset with, “I’m an amazing, resilient person who’s come a long way in life and, if other people can’t see the depth of my character or the values that sustain me every day, that’s okay, their opinions don’t matter!”
Instead of feeling the weight of expectations (your own and others’) you might reframe your experience by reminding yourself, “I’m doing my best each day to be and become the best version of myself, and I live with integrity and authenticity by capitalizing on the natural gifts and abilities I possess!”
Being kind to ourselves, having respect for our own needs, limitations, capacities and foibles, this is key to reimagining who we want to be and what to do with our hopes, dreams and aspirations. When we speak gently to ourselves (rather than chiding ourselves with a loud, critical voice) we open the opportunity to imagine all that we still might become, whether that’s consistent with pervious longings or not! When our attitude changes, so might our ambitions!
Whatever your heart’s desire, you deserve to have it! It’s not a matter of whether you’re worthy – but it might be conditional on whether you’re being truthful with yourself about what matters most, what’s worthy of your investment (time, energy, money & commitment) and where your values lie. When we’re clear on those things, we can reframe our aspirations and live the life we long to enjoy!
Always know, I’m here to help! If you need to clarify those values, reframe your aspirations or reimagine your relationship with yourself (expectations?) I’m always available to help you do that work!