Goals and dreams are so important to a healthy and happy life, but what happens when the goal is missed, the dream deferred? Jordan Lee Dooley offers practical help and wise advice for building aspirations that are aligned intentionally with what really matters.
Have you ever given your best effort only to almost reach a dream? From falling short of goals and closing down her first small business, to navigating tough world events and devastating loss, Jordan Lee Dooley knows what it's like to face unwanted interruptions as you build the life you desire.
Now Jordan invites you on a journey to clarity and contentment when the unexpected leaves you feeling stuck or unsure of what's next. Whether you have big career aspirations of breaking glass ceilings, small-town dreams of a simple life, or something in between, you may be familiar with the feelings of discontentment that creeps in when your hopes and dreams are disrupted, delayed, or even seemingly destroyed. Most of us inevitably find that even if we've crafted beautiful vision boards and plotted out every step of our life, sometimes plans just don't work out the way we hoped. So what do you do when you feel stuck in the tension between where you started and where you hoped to be?
In Embrace Your Almost, you'll uncover:
• how to know if it's time to let go of a dream
• the single most important question to ask yourself
• practical steps to move forward when your plans shatter
• how to clarify which goals are right for you to pursue
• what to do when your dreams seem to come true for everyone but you
• simple ways to make the most of the middle and in-between seasons
It’s time to redefine what success looks for you and clarify what you really want in a world that says you should want to have it all.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
I felt sick to my stomach, like I was going to puke. As I blinked hard at the results of a project displayed on the computer screen in front of me, my heart sank to my toes. I had invested tens of thousands of dollars into this venture, willing to take the risk because conservative predictions had indicated that I’d make it back three to four times over.
However, the actual data was showing that I might not even break even.
How is this happening? I wondered as I tried to make sense of it. Did I miss something? I had done my research, planned, and made calculated moves. Everything was set up for success, and I was so sure the investment would yield a generous reward.
I looked over everything again and again, only to come to the same conclusion: this was not going well. I felt so stupid! How could I have been so off in my predictions? Why am I always so overly ambitious?
Realizing how big of a flop this project could turn out to be, I called my husband and expressed how worried I was. He offered some encouragement and suggested we go out to our favorite little Italian restaurant later that night to discuss possible plans of action. Still in disbelief that we were having this conversation, I reluctantly agreed, and he made a reservation.
As he twirled his linguine onto his fork and I bit into my gluten-free risotto that evening, he said something I didn’t expect. “J, I know this feels like a big loss, and your frustration with it is valid. But I also want to remind you that you didn’t have to do this project. It was something you wanted to go for, but it’s extra. It’s not essential to doing what you’re best at. And maybe this is a lesson in contentment in a season when you’ve been saying you want to slow down. Maybe it’s an opportunity to focus on what is working instead of constantly trying to make something new work.”
I swallowed hard as I processed what he’d just said.
He was right. Perhaps I’d let my ambition for more, more, and more run away with me . . . again. In an unexpected way, it was as if on that day, at a tiny table over pasta, he gave me permission to reconsider all that I was chasing after and whether I would allow what was working to be enough.
After we paid our tab, we headed home, changed into comfortable clothes, and read books under the bistro lights on our patio. The sound of crickets filled the cool evening air, and I took a deep breath as I thought, Wow, even with this project not panning out, I really like my life right now.
Sure, I had a lost investment to make up, but strangely enough, I was reminded to be thankful for all that was going well. I paused, looked around, and breathed it all in, noticing that I felt gratitude on a deeper level than I had in a while. Perhaps that’s because when disappointment or loss strikes, it reminds us just how good the very normal things of everyday life really are.
A couple of days after our Italian dinner, I walked out my back door to see my husband preparing the garden boxes for planting, just as the sun was going down over the lake behind him. It was a late spring evening, and the golden light reflected off the water onto his athletic frame. I squinted as I walked toward him to offer a hand.
With my hands in the dirt, my mind jumped back to the previous August, the first time we had tried to start a garden, which I would later learn was well past planting season for most vegetables in the Midwest. The motivation to start one late in the season came after a hard summer for our family. I needed a hobby. Plus, I knew fresh, homegrown organic produce was so much healthier than days- or weeks-old store-bought food, so I decided to give gardening a try. Never mind that I’d never been able to keep even a simple houseplant alive for more than a week. (My poor succulents, one of the lowest-maintenance plants a person can own, always withered away because I was constantly on the go.)
But I felt empowered and determined to make that late-summer garden work. Dreaming about the bushels of spinach, kale, and carrots I was going to harvest, I looked through cookbooks to find delicious new recipes to try with my eventual vegetables. And for added luck—or at least to complete the farming look—I wore my overalls on planting day.
Week after week, I faithfully watered and weeded my first little garden. I eagerly anticipated those little sprouts breaking through the ground. I even found myself pausing in the produce section at my grocery store, certain that I was going to harvest better produce than what I saw.
Except that’s not exactly what happened. That first year, despite my hard work, my garden bounty amounted to four measly kale leaves. No, not four plants. Leaves. As in, one plant survived, and I got a few leaves from it. The rest of my crop was either eaten by grubs or killed by an early frost. I could barely even make a salad with my “harvest.”
As I picked the four leaves off the plant, I looked at the ground where my carrots were supposed to have grown but sadly had barely even sprouted. Clearly I’d failed miserably.
Or had I?
If we’re evaluating success by the physical harvest, then, yes, I failed. However, if we’re talking about my own growth as I learned about timing, slowing down, sowing, and tending consistently, then my efforts could be deemed a massive success.
Maybe those few kale leaves didn’t represent a failure. Maybe they illustrated what’s possible. Instead of viewing the one plant that survived as a disappointment, I began to look at it as proof that I could grow something. With a few changes, such as planting earlier in the season and developing a better strategy for fending off hungry rabbits and grubs, I knew I could get a better outcome. That one kale plant showed me that I can experience disappointment and see possibility simultaneously.
As my husband and I worked to plant our garden the following spring—ironically the same week my work project flopped and I felt like a total failure—reflecting on my first garden experience got me thinking about how we define success.
Many of us look at success as what we achieve: snagging a great job, getting a promotion, crushing a big launch, finding love and getting married, buying our dream house, and more. We achieve those things, and—voilà—we’ve succeeded, right?
That ideology suggests that if we don’t reach our expectations, then we aren’t successful at all. But what I discovered through my attempts at gardening—as well as through more significant pursuits that I’ll discuss later—is that success actually goes deeper than attaining a specific outcome.
That’s what I want us to consider as we walk together through the following pages—that we can be successful and create beautiful lives even when a specific goal or dream takes longer to achieve or doesn’t work out exactly how we planned. We just have to look at success differently. We must dig below the surface to find what’s most important and make sure that we grow more of it.
In other words, even if on the surface we seem to have failed, if we allow the experience to grow us into the women we were made to be, then we will have succeeded far beyond any superficial achievements.
We can experience great rewards even amid the hopes, plans, and goals that almost work out but don’t and even in the most difficult situations. In fact, I would argue that our most painful setbacks can set us up for the calling we were born to step into. That is, if we allow them to.
Please understand, I’m not trying to gloss over the very real grief and disappointment that accompany setbacks and letdowns. Trust me—I’ve had my fair share of the heartache that comes with them. But as you will see in the chapters to come, your biggest setbacks can become setups for success in the things that matter most to you. Success is possible—even if it looks different from what you initially envisioned.
Table of Contents
1 Redefine Success 3
2 Letting Go of a Good Thing 16
3 Dream Again 33
4 Always Almost There 54
5 When Things Don't Go According to Plan (Again) 66
6 When a Dream Come True Becomes a Nightmare Loop 76
7 Unexpected Gains from Unwanted Pain 93
8 Adversity Can Create Clarity 109
9 When Your Dreams Come True for Everyone Else but You 117
10 Uproot the Lies You Believe 133
11 Prioritize Your Priority 148
12 Make the Most of the Almosts 165
13 Finish Strong 181