How we keep chasing our dreams – with Life Will See You Now author Gavin Oattes

How we keep chasing our dreams – with Life Will See You Now author Gavin Oattes

by Suswati Basu
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The reality is when it comes to dreams, is that the majority of people give up on them. The most common reasons as to why they give up, are actually all in their head, and it’s terribly sad that people end up living unsatisfying lives as a result.

So why do we give up on our dreams, and how do we stick to it?

Thanks to the following guests for participating:

Gavin Oattes is someone who just simply wants to inspire the world, help others to help themselves and always, always put on the best show possible. He also happens to be an award-winning entrepreneur, award-winning comedian and a bestselling author. He lives in Edinburgh, Scotland with his wife, two children and his cat, David Bowie. We will be discussing his book Life Will See You Now from 2020, however his most recent book is A Head Full of Everything.

Parenting teenagers expert and psychologist Angela Karanja managing director Catherine Warrilow

Dr Catherine Wilkins, Healer and the founder of Fractology

Happiness Evangelist and Life Coach Julie Leonard

Intuitive coach for Cosmic Soul School, business mentor and Wellbeing Radio Host Natalie Farrell

Here are some of the resources from the show:

Bob Goff discusses finding your authentic intent and running with it. For him, that meant being truly available to others. He even put his cell phone number in the back of his book.

Books looked at this week:

Gavin Oattes: Life Will See You Now: Quit Waiting for the Light at the End of the Tunnel and Light That F*cker Up for Yourself

Bob Goff: Dream Big: Know What You Want, Why You Want It, and What You’re Going to Do about It

PS. I do not receive commission for reviewing books and talks.

Want to watch special bonus material from this episode? Join the How To Be membership for only £3 per month!


Exploring how we can master ourselves by looking at how experts say it is possible with your host Suswati Basu.

Intro music

Welcome to season 2 episode 65 of How To Be…with me Suswati as your timid presenter, guiding you through life’s tricky topics and skills by reading through the best books out there.

It’s a sad truth in life that the vast majority of people give up on their dreams. Sometimes it happens early. A kid is told by his or her parents that whatever they’re aiming for is impossible to reach. Sometimes it happens later. You get older, tired, and instead of trying to pivot once more, you decide to throw in the towel for good.

So why should we follow our dreams and how?

Here is Happiness Evangelist and Life Coach Julie Leonard and intuitive coach, business mentor, Wellbeing Radio Host and Light the Way author Natalie Farrell, on their thoughts. 

JULIE LEONARD: In my opinion, people give up on their dreams for three reasons. First of all, we’re often talked out of it by other people or are unsupported by those around us, and that discourages us from pursuing our dreams.I think also that we’re often not focused on our dreams. We’re not being really proactive and getting really intentional about it. If you’re not clear on your dream or how to do it and you’re not focused on it, then it won’t happen, you won’t make it happen. So we need to be really proactive and intentional in our lives. And lastly, the biggest one is I think that many people don’t believe that they can do it, that they’re not good enough in some way, or they feel like an imposter, and they just don’t believe deep down that they can achieve that dream. And I think that holds so many people back from really reaching their potential. 

NATALIE FARRELL: I think we give up on dreams because we forget it’s all about the journey. Loving every moment and immersing ourselves in the experience means we join in with the vision. And this is how people stick to their dreams, as opposed to people who judge themselves on the results of what they have yet to achieve. And when they’re in this process, it causes disappointment and downward spirals of unworthy thoughts and lowers self esteem. So, enjoying every moment of the process, the journey, the goals, whatever you wish to call it, and when, uh, you’re staying in that space, it means that you’re joining in. And that’s beautiful.

(Back to host)

Our first book is from Gavin Oattes, who is someone who just simply wants to inspire the world, help others to help themselves and always, always put on the best show possible. He also happens to be an award-winning entrepreneur, award-winning comedian and a bestselling author. He lives in Edinburgh, Scotland with his wife, two children and his cat, David Bowie. Life Will See You Now: Quit Waiting for the Light at the End of the Tunnel and Light That F*cker Up for Yourself from 2020 challenges you to live life better than you have to, to never be afraid of your own style and to blow your own god damn mind for a change. I spoke to Oattes recently, so here is part of our conversation or find the full interview on or on the YouTube channel. 

GAVIN OATTES: I wrote, Life Will See You Now. So, um, it came out 2020, as you just mentioned, and I wrote it started towards the end of 2018, and in 2018, I had an almighty,  let’s call it breakdown. My, uh, brain broke. And there was a review of that book came out that summed up perfectly, and it said, this is not self help. This is Gav help. He’s written a damn thing for himself. And they gave me five stars. And it was only then I was like, oh my goodness, they’re absolutely right. I literally wrote the book that I needed for myself. And when I go back and look at it now, I realise just how autobiographical it is. I mean, I’m not a celebrity. I didn’t want to go medal at any Olympics. I didn’t win The Apprentice. However, I definitely do go back to my childhood. I tell a story. And it just took me on this incredible journey. And of course, it came out about five, six weeks before the pandemic. I mean, who would have known? And all of a sudden, it just seemed to be the book that was needed for those times for so many people all over the world. And when people start getting in touch during lockdown, saying that it’s my book that saved a life, or kept them engaged, or helped, um, them keep a smile on their face, just unbelievable. So, yeah, very autobiographical thing. That’s the word. And then the other one that you mentioned there, the teen book that I’ve got currently. Again, it’s kind of the team version of life we’ll see now. There’s a lot of me in there as well. In fact, all the books I’ve ever done, they’re very personal. And, um, I talk about losing my dad, and I talk about failing, and I talk about things coming to an end and relationships breaking up and all this stuff, and the dream coming to an end, and how awful, uh, that was when it all fell apart. Uh, but like all good rock and roll stories, there’s always a positive thing. But I think the key is  to push on through. Now, I know the question is, how do we push on through that? But I think the answer is to push on through. And it’s to have that hope and that belief that things will get better. And the reality is, they usually do. They usually do. And, um, I think it’s really hard. I think it’s really difficult when things are not going your way and you’re down and you’re tired, anxious, depressed, or whatever it might be. And I’ve been there and done them all occasionally, uh, still do. And, um, it’s just you’re almost kind of forcing yourself at times to get out your bed, have a big drink of water, and go outside and get some fresh air, and just keep trying to shift that mindset. But as we’ve now said a couple of times, that’s really hard. It’s exhausting. But I think it’s really important, when you are down or struggling or not feeling yourself, I think it’s really important that you acknowledge that. I think it’s really important that you kind of embrace it rather than fight against it. One of the things I’ve said a few times in books and interviews and things is you almost have to let those days in. Like, let them in, show them around, almost like doth one’s captain and just acknowledge it. But make sure you show at the door. Don’t let it come and hang about for too long. If you need to lie on your bed for the day, shove an ice cream in your face, do it, because sometimes that helps. But it’s really important that we show those moments the door as well, and let them go. But, yeah, I think there’s too much time spent fighting anxiety and things like that. Sometimes it’s almost like that. I guess it’s coming from that place of mindfulness where you acknowledge, this is how I’m feeling. This is just where I’m at right now. And, um, that sort of embracing of those moments, I guess. I think there are people whose dreams change, and I think it’s important that people, more people out there know that’s, okay, like, dreams change. We can have new dreams, we can scrap a dream and start again. And I think actually, sometimes you have to. Sometimes it’s really refreshing and really important. However, that being said, I think there’s an awful lot of people who we conform to society, I guess. When I went to school, I was a teenager and it was very much you go to school, Gavin, you pass the exams, you go to university, you get a job, and guess what? You’ve made it. That’s what it was. And it was sold to us as that was how to be successful nowadays, of course, certainly I do a lot of talks in schools in Scotland and things, and there’s a wonderful phrase that they use, and that is no wrong path. And there’s a whole initiative now in Scottish education around no wrong path. And I love it, because it’s this idea that you can go to uni, you can go to college, you can do an apprenticeship, you can do training, you can do volunteering, you can take a year out, you go travel the world. None of it’s wrong. And it’s this idea of encouraging young people to know you’ve got that crazy big dream, or even maybe a reasonable dream, go give it a go and see if it doesn’t work out. You’ll be absolutely fine. But I think certainly for a lot of people, there’s pressure from parents, there’s pressure from there’s financial pressures, especially nowadays, and the cost of living and so on. But I think sometimes when people look at if you truly want to go into stand up, for example, you’re not going to make any money. And if you do, it’s going to take a long time. Some people, um, might get there quicker. And I think some people look at it and think, well, do you know what? It’s much easier just to go and get a proper job. Thing is stand up as a proper job. You worked damn hard and you’re away all the time.  But I think the reality of life sometimes gets in the way. Even though I still worry about people’s perceptions, and I think I worry less about that now. I mean, I’m about to turn 43  and  I still worry a lot about things. I have huge run-ins with anxiety. But I think back to my teens, desperate to fit in, desperate to belong, and weirdly desperate to stand out and be different. And that’s a really I can’t speak for all teenagers, but I think there’s a lot of teenagers who find themselves in that weird space of wanting to be their own person, they want to stand out, they want to be different and be proud of that. But I want to fit in with this crowd here and not be too different. And I think that’s where it can either go right for someone that can go wrong for us, but yeah, huge amount of fear for a lot of us. That what if question, what goes wrong? What if I fail? What if no one likes it? What if I get terrible reviews? What if and I think it’s just, uh, that mindset of flipping that’s empty. But what if it goes well? What if you love it? What people really enjoy it? What if it’s the most exciting thing you’ve ever done in your life? And, um, it’s just flipping that way of asking that question, I think, and getting excited about the positive answers rather than the negative answers.

(Back to host)

Oattes says life requires energy and effort. It can feel like a chore but the more skilled at it we become, the better at it we get and the happier we feel. Many of us spend far too long contemplating life and all that goes along with it; thoughts, feelings or problems. Sometimes we just need to trust our gut instinct and go for it. Adults need to get their heads back in the clouds.

Throughout life you’ll hear all sorts of people telling you that ‘thoughts become things’. Albert Einstein said, ‘Imagination is everything, it is the preview for life’s coming attractions.’ It’s all too easy to get stuck in life and feel like we’re not moving forward but our imaginations allow us to focus on the real life that we want to experience.

We can’t be ‘anything we want to be’ and dreams don’t always come true, but with the help of our imagination we can definitely try our best! And of course, the world needs dreamers. There’s just one problem: most of us give up on our dreams.

And just like people, dreams can change. Dreams do change. Sometimes – again, like people – they must. And that’s OK. Dreams can make and break you. But it’s a hell of a ride. Oattes says to anyone who’s thinking about dropping everything and going for it, then please do.

A child’s ability and willingness to learn from situations are a reminder that learning is so much more than education. Learning is a constant process which involves learning to live, to learn, to socialise and to behave. To keep learning is key. Some important points include:

1. You Don’t Have to Make It to Make It – That’s part of the problem. It doesn’t end. The goal of ‘making it’ is a never-ending struggle with ever-changing goalposts.

2. We all need a hero – based on his own experiences and observations he definitely believes that to this day, society still strives to ensure those who embody the best values of our culture are held up as objects of admiration in order to be inspired

3. Take part – You don’t even have to be the best but you can still be a part of something. You can still compete. You can still have fun.

4. Jumpers for goalposts – We all know that setting goals makes a huge contribution to the success of an individual or a team. It’s fairly common knowledge that most successful people are goal-orientated. We all know that they take time to identify what it is that they want and then build up a really clear and detailed picture of what achieving the goal will look and feel like. They then break it down into small manageable chunks and take regular action to move towards their goal. 

5. The Long Lost Art of Giving an eff – We need to give a damn and the world needs it. Identify all the magic, the stuff you’re passionate about, that give you purpose and give it your all and watch your life transform.

6. Don’t be a douchebag – You’re never too important to be nice to people.

7. Ask for help – As kids we’re brilliant at this. We’re naturally skilled at asking for help when we need it, but we seem to unlearn this life changing skill the busier and more engrossed in ‘making it’ we become. As adults we need to relearn this. It doesn’t make us weak, in fact it’s quite the opposite. It makes us stronger. 

8. Arrive Alive – Think about who truly inspires you. Make time to really focus on what they do and why. Really pay attention to the detail. Take it in. Repeat. And when you’re feeling inspired and energised, go smash it your way. Alive.

9. Good Things Really Do Come to an End – many do. Be sad, be angry, be offline, be whatever you want to be. And then fill your head back up with goodness. Your heart will follow. Remember, it’s all in the thinking.

10. Silliness Is Good for the Soul – Life can get serious. Finding reasons to laugh, lighten up and welcome some nonsense into your day is not only important, it’s damn good for you. Research shows us that adults only laugh on average 17 times per day. That’s 1.4 laughs an hour. 

11. Regrets, I’ve Had a Few… – Forgive yourself for all the things you didn’t do. Sounds easy but we all know it’s incredibly difficult to do. Regret hurts every day. Choose the past memory that’s hurting you the most. Imagine you could go back and do it all again. Write down how you would have done things differently and in doing so, allow yourself to pick out and embrace all the key learning points. This allows us to affirm that we have learned a lot more from our past mistake than we realised, and that if we had the skills we have now, back then, we would have done things differently.

12. No One Really Knows What They’re Doing –  everyone is just winging it. Don’t compare yourself to others, be inspired by them instead because it’s highly likely they, too, are just ad-libbing at life!

13. Grudge match – As Confucius said, ‘To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it.’

14. Be the milk – Imagine an empty bowl and you fill it with Rice Krispies. They are lifeless until you add the magic ingredient…The milk. We need to devour life, top it up when needed, refresh it when needed and whack some sugar on when you have to because, let’s be honest, sometimes we need to sugar-coat things.

In life, there are those who do and those who don’t. How we use our time, energy and effort is ultimately a choice. Wherever you’re at, whatever you’re doing, you can either give it your all or you can give it less. 

Hence, Oattes talks about the Sun Lounger Principle (SLP). You may have heard of NLP, or neuro-linguistic programming? Described by founder Richard Bandler as ‘an attitude of curiosity and a willingness to experiment that has left behind a trail of techniques’. NLP is essentially an ‘instruction or owner’s manual for the mind’. Science Digest describes it as ‘the most powerful vehicle for change in existence’. In its simplest form, SLP is all in our thinking. It is a technique that enables you to quickly get to grips with a task you perhaps otherwise can’t be bothered doing. You treat every single day as if it were one marvellous summer vacation. It’s a level of passion, energy and hunger.

On the off-chance you’ve never heard of positive psychology, it is, in its essence, the scientific study of what makes life worth living. A science of positive aspects of human life, such as happiness, well-being and flourishing. Martin Seligman is recognized as the founder of positive psychology. In his words it can be summarised as a ‘scientific study of optimal human functioning that aims to discover and promote the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive’.

Basically, for most of its life mainstream psychology has been concerned with negative aspects of human life. This was not originally meant to be the case. The first psychologists had three main aims to their work, which was to:

1. Cure mental illness

2. Improve normal lives

3. Identify and nurture high talent

However, as you can imagine, World War II left a toxic legacy of ill health and depression. One of the most transformative events in history, conditions were extreme and humanity was staring an almighty crisis in the face. There were huge consequences and understandably points 2 and 3 pretty much got forgotten about. 

Neuroscientists at esteemed institutions like Stanford, Harvard, MIT and others have determined that only 10 percent of the human brain is consciously thinking, whilst the other 90 percent is taken up by your subconscious and unconscious thinking. The subconscious mind oversees our recent memories and is in non-stop contact with the resources of the unconscious mind, which means your unconscious never stops chatting with your conscious mind. 

All their dealings go through your subconscious and this is what provides you with the meaning to all your interactions with the world, as filtered through your beliefs and habits. It communicates through feelings, emotions, imagination, sensations, and dreams. But here’s the cool part: you can use this to change your life. It all starts in the conscious mind, the easiest part to control. After all, this is exactly how your habits and behaviours were formed in the first place. It’s all about changing your thinking.

Oattes says if you want to live and work in a beautiful world that is kind, loving and awesome then you need to take some accountability for the energy you put out. In The Intention Experiment: Using Your Thoughts to Change Your Life and the World, American alternative medicine activist and lecturer Lynne McTaggart writes:

‘A sizable body of research exploring the nature of consciousness, carried on for more than thirty years in prestigious scientific institutions around the world, shows that thoughts are capable of affecting everything from the simplest machines to the most complex living beings. This evidence suggests that human thoughts and intentions are an actual physical “something” with astonishing power to change our world. Every thought we have is tangible energy with the power to transform. A thought is not only a thing; a thought is a thing that influences other things.’

A thought is an electrochemical event taking place in your nerve cells producing a cascade of physiological changes. Jordan Lejuwaan, a co-founder of multiple technological ventures, explains it this way:

‘There are thousands upon thousands of receptors on each cell in our body. Each receptor is specific to one peptide, or protein. When we have feelings of anger, sadness, guilt, excitement, happiness or nervousness, each separate emotion releases its own flurry of neuropeptides. Those peptides surge through the body and connect with those receptors which change the structure of each cell as a whole. Where this gets interesting is when the cells actually divide. If a cell has been exposed to a certain peptide more than others, the new cell that is produced through its division will have more of the receptor that matches with that specific peptide. Likewise, the cell will also have less receptors for peptides that its mother/sister cell was not exposed to as often.’

This means every cell in your body is replaced about every two months. So, the good news is, Oattes believes, is that you can reprogram your pessimistic cells to be more optimistic by adopting positive thinking practices, like mindfulness and gratitude, for permanent results.

Here is how it can apparently help:

1. Optimism has been proven to improve the immune system, prevent chronic disease and help people cope with unfortunate news.

2. Pessimism has been linked with depression, stress, and anxiety whereas optimism has been shown to serve as a protective factor against depression, as well as several serious medical problems, including coronary heart disease.

3. Optimism is linked to life longevity. Optimism also plays a role in the recovery from illness and disease.

4. Optimists are also able to recover from disappointments more quickly.

5. Optimists are also more likely to engage in problem solving when faced with difficulties, which is itself associated with increased psychological well-being.

Gratitude is also important. Grateful people are happier, have stronger feelings of social support, have better physical health, increased empathy and feel less stressed and depressed. Oattes started out with the ‘Happy Stories in Three Words’ exercise, which literally is a three-word gratitude journal for those struggling to begin or perhaps write a list, or write a letter to someone you’re incredibly grateful for.

Oattes also talks about Daniel Everett’s 1977 Wycliffe Mission to Amazonia, in which he attempted to convert the Pirahã people to follow the way of the Bible. Instead, the opposite happened. He was converted to their way of life. He found what he believed were the happiest people in the world. As writer Aleksandar Mishkov tells us, the main one is that their culture is based on immediate experience. So what sets them apart? Here is some facts:

1. There’s no such thing as politeness within the Pirahã tribe. They believe politeness only shows a lack of trust in one another. Everything is/should be centred around love, support and understanding each other. The Pirahã tribe do not question or try to reason things too much.

2. Children are not punished or shouted at and the only explanation and reasoning they have is ‘it just happened’.

3. The belief in Xibipíío which refers to ‘immediate experience’. In the Pirahã tribe experiencing things means everything. Xibipíío, meaning ‘experiential liminality’, which describes something ‘experienceable’ or experienced. They do not value past or future, but instead focus on now. The tribe does not understand unexperienced past; 

4. One of the strongest Pirahã values is that they don’t believe in coercion; you simply don’t tell other people what to do. You don’t force, you don’t command or even give advice. There is no social hierarchy. There are no tribal leaders and there is no crime.

Similarly, The School of Life, founded by a number of writers and thinkers, including author Alain de Botton, believes that the problems lie within Meritocracy, Individualism, Secularism, Romanticism, Media, Perfectibility. 

– Meritocracy creates a divided society where those deemed to be the best must then be deserving of success.

– Individualism has made us lose our sense of community.

– Secularist societies cease to believe in anything that is bigger than or beyond themselves. Sometimes we forget we’re part of a universe and nature. It’s not about you, it’s about what you’re creating for the next generation.

– Romanticism is what we constantly strive for thanks to the media, which is going to leave us all very disappointed with a series of relationships that are ‘fine’ at best.

– Instead of negative media, happy news would regularly remind us that the news we most need to focus on comes from our own lives and direct experiences.

– And finally, perfection is not within anyone’s reach. We need to feel comfortable sharing our real fears, imperfections and vulnerabilities. 

Oattes advocates for a oneness approach, which is our ability to connect with the greater truth of existence on a deeper level. Scotland is leading the way with this currently. Along with New Zealand and Iceland, the Scots have established the network of Wellbeing Economy Governments to challenge the acceptance of GDP as the ultimate measure of a country’s success. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says:  “GDP measures the output of all of our work but it says nothing about the nature of that work, about whether that work is worthwhile or fulfilling […] The argument of that group is that the goal, the objective, of economic policy should be collective wellbeing — how happy and healthy a population is, not just how wealthy a population is.”

The next aspect is dealing with anxiety. Oattes, who has suffered from anxiety himself, says mental illnesses are clinical conditions which have a ‘biological’ basis, anxiety disorders are caused by a ‘resetting’ of the ‘baseline’ anxiety level; this happens through reinforcing the anxiety disorder by repetitive anxious behaviour. With anxiety, the danger that is feared isn’t normally imminent – it may not even be known or realistic. We need a little anxiety to keep us alive, but fear is an emotional and physical reaction to a present, known threat. 

Therapist Darlene Lancer says  that “Anxiety is often accompanied by obsessive worry and an inability to concentrate that may affect our sleep. It can trigger a full-blown fight-flight-or-freeze response of our sympathetic nervous system that prepares us to meet real danger. However, a big difference between fear and anxiety is that because anxiety is an emotional response to something that hasn’t occurred, there is nothing to fight or flee.”

Hence by preventing the ‘misfiring’ of the emotion of fear, you can theoretically erase anxiety disorders, their symptoms and thoughts, obsession, phobia, compulsion or anxious focus they cause.

Remember, purpose fuels passion. If we can hold on to something that lights us up then we can be magic again, we can be well again. Find your magic and turn it on. 

And when you’re feeling terrible and you think the world is caving in, Oattes says find people who can keep you on your path. He also recommends writing things down because our brain is like a complex hard drive, that is constantly tricking us. The Zeigarnik effect, named after Lithuanian-Soviet psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, says we tend to hang on to things in our mind if we don’t finish what we start. Writing down your ideas, thoughts and emotions gets them out of your head, freeing up your mental space. 

In 2014, the Association of Psychological Science reported that students who physically took notes received a memory boost – particularly when compared to those who took notes via a laptop. Hence Oattes suggests for you to write a three-word happy story to describe your day for one week.

Music really can be a healer. The author says music makes us happier. It relieves stress and anxiety. Music therapy can alleviate depression with wonderful benefits to our self-esteem and interpersonal skills. Certain types of music can increase our ability to concentrate and listening to music actually helps us to sleep better.

Be more goose. Among many amazing things, when a goose falls ill, is wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They are always looking out for each other, helping, supporting and encouraging. In groups where there is positive encouragement, we achieve more and we’ll have a lot more fun in the process.

Read lots! Books give us a sense of escapism, occasionally they can give us permission. They can distract us from daily life and keep us in the present.

And Oattes says to switch your phone off and look up as much as you can. We spend a lifetime average of 5 years and 3 months on social media. Today alone, more than 3.2 billion images will be shared on social media posts. As far back as 2008, experts were talking about nomophobia. Now one of the biggest non-drug addictions of the twenty-first century, nomophobia is an abbreviation for ‘no-mobile-phone phobia’.

He also recommends acknowledging the narrative. The human mind is such a skilled storyteller. Not only is it skilled in creating the story but it has the unique ability to tell us those stories all the time. The problem for many of us is that the story isn’t always the happiest of stories. Russ Harris, who wrote the book The Happiness Trap, teaches us that most psychological approaches regard negative stories as a major problem and make a big fuss about trying to eliminate them. But the negative story never really goes away. What we need to do is recognise the story but don’t give it the time and energy we perhaps would normally unknowingly allocate.

Next, never use Google to self- diagnose when you’re already feeling anxious. It definitely gets in the way of you wanting to do something out of your comfort zone. 

Remove the toxic people from your life. Neighbourhoods, communities, school, work, sport, club, life, the world – we’re all a team. However, at times, there will be people who will bring you down, and that can even be family. Keep a diary of what they say and do. Present it to them in time. But if you need to, remove the ones in your way and actively seek out those who lift you.

Say no when you have to. You can offer an explanation if you need to, but when you just know, you know, so say no.

Be sure to keep breathing (well obviously) but a good deep breath can fix many a broken thought. Scientists have found that breathing practice is effective in fighting anxiety, depression and stress. The great thing about it is you’re doing it right now and it’s free and you can do it anywhere. According to the American Institute of Stress, ‘Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness.’

And always keep playing. Professor Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, tells us that play is like oxygen. Life is full of fun and wonder. Even in the most ordinary of moments. We’re just not being given the chance to experience them. We need to give ourselves these chances as often as we can. This does not include scrolling on social media. To be playful we need to be present, in it, fully. And for us to chase our dreams, we need to be in the moment without fear.

With that in mind, here’s a scene from the 2006 biopic The Pursuit of Happyness, where title character Will Smith who plays Chris Gardner, tells his young son about always dreaming.


Christopher Gardner : [after playing basketball]  Hey. Don’t ever let somebody tell you… You can’t do something. Not even me. All right?

Christopher : All right.

Christopher Gardner : You got a dream… You gotta protect it. People can’t do somethin’ themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want somethin’, go get it. Period.

(Back to host)

Our final book is from Bob Goff, who is a lawyer, speaker and author of the New York Times bestsellers Love Does; Everybody, and Love Does for Kids. In Dream Big: Know What You Want, Why You Want It, and What You’re Going to Do about It, Goff shows us how we can reconnect with our dreams and turn them into reality. Here he is

BOB GOFF: I think a lot of people, we’ve all been going stir crazy here for six months, just ricocheting off the walls, and I want people to return to some of their ambitions. Like, what was the ambition? What did you want before it got really crazy and you had to start paying taxes and all that? Say, like, when you were eight years old, what did you want? And some people wanted to be a fire person. Some people wanted to be the fire truck. I mean, whatever it is that they wanted an astronaut.  What, uh, I want to do is get back to that and to say, is there a current version of you in all of the beauty that’s come from going around the sun a couple of times? • Can we return to some of those things that were your ambitions? So if somebody says, for instance, I want to be happy, I’m like, awesome. Me too. But I would drill down on that a little bit and say, what does happy look like? Have a puppy. Does that mean to have a million dollars? Does it mean give away $2 million? Let’s just describe happy. Know why you want it. If you want to be popular, I would say that’s awesome,  but to whom and how much? If you want to pause, join the circus. But if you want a meaningful life, know what you want, why you want it, and then don’t make this just brain candy. Decide, this is what I’m going to do about it.

(Back to host)

Goff says to connect with your dreams, you have to dig right into who you are. Many people get sidetracked on the way to achieving what they want in life. That’s often because they’ve forgotten what it is they wanted in the first place.

There are many reasons why you might have forgotten who you are. Whether it’s a wrong career or wrong relationship, if you’ve forgotten who you are, Goff recommends setting aside some time to get to know yourself.

You should approach this as if you’re meeting yourself after a long absence, like reconnecting with an old friend. As getting this process right is so important, it’s crucial that you take it as seriously as any doctor’s appointment. Getting to know yourself can be scary. With self-examination, you’ll have to face up to some difficult truths, feelings, and fears. But once you enter that deep place in yourself, you can start to get back to who you are, even if that means ending a relationship or changing track.

So you have to be honest about where you are right now. This is a difficult task. Most people don’t know exactly where they are in their lives. But if you want to move forward with your dreams, you have to know where you’re moving forward from.

To do this requires real courage. It means openly admitting some difficult truths about where you are. You may say something like, I’m stuck inside my addiction. I’m lost in my unhappy marriage. I’m muddling through my boring job without direction. You could share your thoughts with yourself while alone, or meet a good friend at your local coffee shop and tell them. If you can’t bear to say the words out loud, write them down on a piece of paper and hand it to someone you trust.

Whatever it takes, say exactly where you are. And don’t be discouraged from telling it exactly as it is. Life can be brutally unfair and complicated sometimes. Even if you’re someone who tries to remain positive, it’s healthy to acknowledge just how low you feel, or how lost you are. No matter how far from your ideal life you might be, be honest with yourself. It’s OK to wish that you were somewhere else.

Then, when you’ve admitted to yourself that you’re not where you want to be, you’ll begin to see a change. Rather than believing that where you are right now is your final destination, it’ll become the starting line to where you want to go. Instead of letting your past and present define you, you can begin to look ahead. This acknowledgment should give you hope, and a new excitement about where your life is headed.

You’ll need to be specific about what you want to achieve. If you leave them vague, they will stay that way. To get more specific about your goals, consider what achieving them actually looks like. Broken down into smaller parts, any ambition suddenly becomes a practical objective. 

However, you shouldn’t let specificity limit your ambitions. Nor should you let limiting beliefs stop you from dreaming big. Just because something seems difficult to achieve, doesn’t make it impossible. I’m personally under the impression to make things realistic however, otherwise you may end up in Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos territory.

Hence before you get started on your dreams, remember to vet them. When it comes down to it, you’ll want to focus on the big stuff, as that’s what’s most meaningful. But there’s nothing wrong with achieving the lesser ambitions – like, say, learning to roller skate. These smaller achievements can spur you on to the grander ones. By bringing pleasure and a sense of gratification, they’ll give you the boost you need to keep pursuing your dreams.

Once you’ve selected a goal to focus on, ask yourself, Is this dream something that will last? Is it something that will still matter in ten years? Many ambitions fade and seem meaningless in the distant future. 

Next, you should ask yourself if your dream helps other people or is it all about you. If it’s all about you, then that’s fine, but it might lack the richness and depth that comes with improving the lives of others. Generally, your deepest sense of fulfillment will come about through helping others. But it is possible to choose ambitions which help others and inspire you. You might also want to think about what legacy you’re trying to leave as a way to choose the most important of your dreams.

Finally, you should ask if your dream is possible. Of course, you shouldn’t get rid of an ambitious dream just because it’s difficult. But you should also be able to acknowledge that some dreams aren’t really feasible, no matter how hard you try. 

Of course you’ll have to confront and understand any limiting beliefs and fears. The first thing you need to do is identify these. If you don’t do this, you could be held hostage by them for the rest of your life. It’s important that you take note of these fears – whatever they are.

The next step is harder. You have to do a bit of self-analysis and try to understand where these beliefs come from. Often, it’s not from you, but from an old teacher, parent, school bully, or partner. It might be something they said a long time ago that has made you more hesitant or caused you to doubt yourself. And sometimes, it’s not one specific person, but a monstrous combination of them all. Sometimes it was meant to be passed down to you as good advice, either way you’ll need to identify it.

Goff says then you’ll need to acknowledge that it’s not you that’s the problem, but the belief. When you’ve done that, you’ll be ready to move on, lighter and freer. And you’ll be better prepared to embrace your dreams.

And in the end, being bold and persistent when you’re exploring opportunities will be necessary. Sometimes, this means asking for advice and help from someone who’s already got to where you want to go. This is where mentoring can be incredibly helpful. 

When you do approach people for help, though, be prepared. If they’ve dropped what they’re doing to read your email or take your call, get to the point. Don’t tell them how much of a fan you are. Ask for concrete advice.And when you don’t get an email or call back, don’t be discouraged. Keep at it. I will always keep persisting with emailing my favourite authors!

So to sum up:

Oattes says in Life Will See You Now that you don’t have to make it to make it, it’s all about trying; find your role models; attempt to take part; set appropriate goals; give your dream your all; always be nice to people; ask for help; find out who inspires you; accept that everything is impermanent; laugh, play and be silly; forgive yourself for all the things you didn’t do; remember that everyone is winging it like you; stop holding grudges; and make life sweet again by shaking things up once in a while.

Goff says in Dream Big that to learn to dream again, get reacquainted with yourself – and what motivates you – on a deep level. You’ll have to look at your life with honesty and clarity before you can move on to better things, though. When you’ve done that, you can begin to specify exactly what you want to achieve and see which of your dreams are feasible. And don’t be afraid to dream big. Leave your fears and limiting beliefs at the doorstep. Remember your family and friends because you’ll always need meaningful relationships in your life.

I always find the serenity affirmation is useful  in remembering your dreams. “Give 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.” Please join in on the conversation by following @howtobe247 on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and subscribe on the podcast, which can be found via 

Please do leave a review if you found this helpful! Thank you to creative genius consultant, artist and author Mandy Nicholson for your lovely comments saying the podcast is “consistently positive.”

Just before we go, we get to hear from Parenting teenagers expert and psychologist Angela Karanja, managing director Catherine Warrilow, and Dr Catherine Wilkins, Healer and the founder of Fractology on their thoughts. See you in two week’s time!  

ANGELA KARANJA: So why do so many of us give up on our dreams? Now let’s look at what dreams are. Dreams are energy, uh, in its most potent form. And what do we know about energy? Energy is always transmuting into form. We live in a space and time reality. And dreams do not have a time limit or a space limit, so we feel we haven’t got satinity or dreams to become reality. It requires us to have faith, to see it as it is and believe. And faith is a kind of foolishness to many. How can you believe in something that you cannot see and touch and feel? Because none of us want to look foolish. We abandon our dreams. And that’s why so many of us do not achieve our dreams. So how do we stick to our dreams? By holding on to that image, ignoring the time and space, and holding on and doing whatever it takes, whatever your gut or your intuition demands, so that you can bring this dream into reality.

CATHERINE WARRILOW: I’m certainly someone who’s been sidetracked or scared to follow my dreams in the past. That might be because you’ve already committed to a certain direction career wise. It might be because you feel you just don’t have enough knowledge or expertise in that area. And there also might be financial considerations or stability around family life. But to stick to dreams, it’s important to take really small, incremental steps to get there. Treat it as a hobby initially. Surround yourself with people from that sphere who might be able to guide, influence, or educate you further. Ask as many questions as you can. Find a mentor, and ultimately set really small, manageable goals that will take you that little bit closer to that dream. And you never know where that might take you. 

CATHERINE WILKINS: So what stops us from creating our dreams. It’s actually the bittersweet gap. So what do I mean by that? It’s really big to realise right now that we don’t have what we want. It’s really sweet to think about what it is that we are going to create. But can we hold that, uh, emotional dissonance between the two.

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