Jennie Allen, founder of the IF:Gathering women’s conference, author, mother of four, and Austin-based Southern lady, talks about taking time to revive and refocus our dreams in 2017. In her new book, Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard, available January 31, Jennie elaborates on this theme, encouraging readers to stop numbing frazzled minds and start truly living the lives we were meant to lead.
Dreaming in the New Year
By Jennie Allen
Do you ever just curl up with a cup of hot coffee and let your mind wander? Sit down with your spouse and talk purposefully about where you’ve been and where you’re headed?
I know what you’re thinking: “Who has time for that?”
You do––even though I know and understand that it probably doesn’t feel like it. You’re dreaming, whether you realize it or not. We were made to dream. Our big ideas and deepest longings don’t stop just because our schedules fill up with diapers, meetings and carpools. But even though the dreams are there, too often, out of a sense of duty or sheer exhaustion, we stop acknowledging them. Like I write in my new book, Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard, we have stopped being intentional in our downtime and started numbing out instead, dulling feelings of fatigue, confusion, and pain with social media and Netflix. That’s not dreaming. In fact, that’s not even really living.
Here’s the thing: we need our dreams, and the people who rely on us need them, too. Part of gracious living is sharing, exploring, questioning, and developing our dreams with intention.
A couple of years ago, I created what has become one of my husband Zac’s and my favorite tools: the Dream Guide. We have done this, in one form or another, annually since the early years of our marriage, and we’ve always found it so helpful, not just in planning for the future, but in looking back at how far we’ve come. We don’t often connect about big-picture things, between all the constant fires to put out and immediate decision-making, which jobs and four kids demand. Taking the time to make sure we’re living the lives we want to be living together and caring about the right things helps us not only make progress, but remember why we fell in love with each other in the first place.
Now, at the dawn of 2017, we’ve been given a fresh start. The promise of a blank slate seems to make graciousness come more naturally, the way kindness and hope flowed pretty freely when we were children. As long as we’re embracing the gracious, wide-eyed optimism of childhood, why not dare to dream like a kid, too?
There’s no better time to get started than right now. This time of year, we’re a little more willing to assess where we are and where we’re going. Are we living the lives we dreamed of when we were younger? Or has the adult world of to-dos, jobs, bills, and stress stifled our more childlike qualities, such as dreaming?
Free and now available to download on my site, the Dream Guide is a simple exercise that walks you through reflecting on the past year and planning for the future. You’ll focus on four key areas of your life: the personal, which is your internal world; spiritual, which is your relationship with God; relational, which targets your relationships with everyone else; and work, which can be a career, parenting, or volunteering.
You’ll ask yourself straightforward but revealing questions. What were some of your favorite moments over the last year? What do you need to change? What do you want to be intentional about?
Take some time to dream like a kid. It’s actually one of the most grown-up––and gracious––things you can do.