"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” C.S. Lewis
As you navigated your way through life up, the way your goals and dreams were formed evolved.
Early on, it was your parents who gave you your vision for your life. It was probably a minor variation of the vision they held for their own life. But it was tempered with their life experiences. It was a gift that the older gift to the younger and it carried all of the baggage that such a transaction implies.
Joni Mitchell wrote a song - The Circle Game. Part of the lyrics are:
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
and that’s the difficulty with this cross-generational gift. The experience of the givers tempers the passion and enthusiasm of the gift. They look behind when the child is looking forward.
Later, as you began to spend more time away from your parents, it was teachers and your peers that came to be the dominant source of your vision for your life. But these were still contributions by others. Teachers who had made their life choices and peers who have yet to truly confront their own responsibility for their lives.
If you were truly lucky, at some point you developed a relationship with a mentor who was more focused on helping you realize your own potential than making sure you replicated the patterns of others. For some, such a relationship occurs early in life. For others much later. But, no matter when it occurs, it constitutes the great turning point in a life. It is, in the language of many ancient cultures, being born again. This time to who you are rather than to the context into which you happened to be born.
A good mentor helps you make the journey inward. Helps you discover who you are, what your unique skills are and what you should be doing with your life. For the first time, the idea advances that it is your life and you have every ability to decide what to do with it.
Once you understand this fundamental truth, you come to realize that life is longer and provides more opportunities to be and do things. When you are in your 30's, deciding what to do with your life was quite different than when you confronted that same question in your 50's or 60's. Life has a way of re-manufacturing the same question repeatedly in confoundingly different ways.
Now, you may find yourself confronting that question again. You have built a life that has brought some success. But there is something nagging at you in the background. “What’s next?”
It is been my experience that this question rises in intensity until it has to be confronted and answered. Initially it may simply be a small itch that needs scratching. But eventually, perhaps brought about by the onset of a realization of your own mortality and the fact that you have a limited number of days, the need to address this vexing question yet again become so persistent that there is nothing to do but address it.
The sad thing is that many people, later in their life and after a successful career, try to brush away the question and keep from addressing it. It’s sad because these are the golden years where cumulative experience and abilities open up opportunities that simply were not there before. It’s sad because the doors that can now be opened the two wondrously new life experiences that are both enriching and beneficial to those around you.
I have been describing most of the people who come to me for mentoring.
My focus is in what I call Transformational Journeys. Having made two myself, I am now helping others along the same path. For me, the first began when I decided to spend a big part of my time building a charity that raises money to support cutting-edge cancer research. My reasons were personal. A family member had died much too young from leukemia. I also left behind that part of my life which involved business and have dedicated myself to helping others make these Transformational Journeys.
What I found in my mentoring work was that most people have similar opportunities resting in the background of their lives. Once they are brought forward, they shine brightly, and the passion and energy of youth tends to return. A new goal is set. A new chapter in life is opened. What was before his left behind in favor of what is going to be.
CS Lewis was right. You’re never too old to dream a new dream. But I would go further and observe that the only person who is keeping you from dreaming a new dream is yourself. Mastering the Circle Game means coming to understand that, although the seasons go round and round, a life doesn’t have to trot the same path over and over again. Raising your sights, thinking new thoughts, dreaming new dreams - these are all opportunities that life brings us. They are all there before you. You just need to take the first step towards them.
© Earl R. Smith II, PhD
PJ, Mentoring Client,
Mentoring Client, CEO and Serial Entrepreneur,
Mentoring Client, Deloitte,
CEO of Croix Connect and Host of ABC Radio’s ‘Taking Care of Business’,
Partner, IT & Telecom, Defense Solutions,