By Cindy Yantis
George Carlin said, "It's called the American Dream 'cause you have to be asleep to believe it." Funny irony, for which Mr. Carlin was the master. But, my mindset has changed around the whole concept of this shared national ideal. Or I should say former shared ideal.
The term "American Dream" was coined by historian James Truslow Adams in 1931. He also wrote, "It has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as man and woman, unhampered by the barriers which had slowly been erected in the older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class."
Hmmm. Now, that's an ideal I can get behind. But, instead government, business and society redefined an American Dream that everyone bought into or was brainwashed to buy into, the belief that more is better, and bigger is better. And, society and government rewarded you for following their American Dream, with all kinds of incentives that seemed honest and infallible.
Many of us grew up believing that the goal was to stretch to buy a little piece of America, because it was a safe savings account, something to build upon. Then, you stretch yourself to buy a bigger piece, then a bigger piece. And, if stretching yourself got a little tight, then you could get more credit to make it easier. I mean why not? The idea was that there would always be more, there was always more to attain, you'd always have time, you'd always be making more money to pay for it all. Then, you could look around at all you had accumulated and you'd realize you were almost living the American Dream. If only you had that bigger job, or that bigger house, or that dream car, or that dream vacation, or that this, or that that.
Oh, wait a second. Maybe that is the American Dream. To try and have it all. For me, along with 99% of the population, this was the asleep portion of the Dream. Then, the bottom fell out of an already broken system. America became what James Truslow Adam said the American Dream was striving to get away from: "repressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class."
A moment of truth here. My slippery slope of the Dream came crashing down when I was laid off from the big job a few years ago. That moment of painful truth was also the glorious alarm clock that woke me up from that version of the American Dream. I'm not going to call it a nightmare, because it was the best wake up call I could have asked for. No, it definitely wasn't easy to go through, but through a concerted effort to change my mindset, I now have a much simpler American Dream.
I contemplated this on Independence Day, as I sipped coffee from a Norman Rockwell coffee mug. Artist Norman Rockwell captured the daily American life, full of simple moments. Filmmaker Frank Capra did the same thing with the small American vignettes he portrayed on film. Not from a sentimental standpoint. But, rather a simple, slice of a day, this-is-what-life's-all-about standpoint. I'm thinking we could all use some more of that.
Truly, the American Dream was supposed to be about freedom. Re-creating the American Dream is again about freedom. Simple freedom. To redefine the American Dream, it's important to bring in some new thoughts about freedom.
When you change your thoughts, you change your actions. Where you're stuck is where you start. In this case, freedom becomes action. Here are eight ways to re-create your freedom, your American Dream.
- Free the mind of old thought patterns - make note of how you've been conditioned to think about the American Dream. Start by simply stating what you desire in life. Another good way to start is to "create from what you have," a notion that filmmaker and writer Kelli Joan Bennett writes about on her blog, "Think Outside the Box Inside the Box."
- Free the Yes - turn off your automatic No. Look at areas in your day and your life when you're quick to say no. Instead, make the shift and say Yes. Look at what happens. Start with a whole day, then a week, then a month. That action alone will expand your life.
- Free the right brain - dive unabashedly into a creative project that takes you out of your comfort zone. Last night I saw the Tony-winning play, "War Horse", and the remarkable creativity that went into the development of the piece was very free. So free that it opened up a new way of telling a story. (if you get a chance, see this play!)
- Free your words - let both your critical and emotional thinking come through in your words. Tell people how you feel! Use the words "love" and "want" and "believe" and "yes" often and without the fear of being judged.
- Free your judgment - of self and others. It's a weight that imprisons your thoughts and actions.
- Free your stuff - purge, purge, purge. Clean out your space at least twice a year. Free space allows for clarity and for more good stuff to come into your life.
- Free your money - dump the credit cards. Operating with 'cash only' can be one of the most freeing things you can do for yourself. 'Nuf said.
- Free your control - this is an ideal that's a challenge to get your brain around. But, let the law of attraction work for you. Set clear intentions for your desires, believe in them and then let go of trying to control them. Let go and let flow. The same goes for trying to control other's actions. This not only imprisons them, but imprisons you as well. Let go and let flow.
I'd love to hear how you define your own American Dream. Please add your comments here or on our FB page. Simply say yes and boldly go for it!