Rethinking Retirement  

Transform Shattered Dreams

By Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D.

In the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, many lives were lost, many dreams were shattered, and many lifestyles were completely transformed.

Speaking on the sound track of the video, "Farther Than The Eye Can See," Erik Weihenmayer suggests that he wants us to "shatter your dreams" and "when you rebuild them, make them larger, greater than they were before." Erik spoke those words while the video was showing him returning to base camp after climbing to the summit of Mt. Everest. Weihenmayer is the only blind man ever to summit our world's highest mountain. How does a person, blinded when a teenager, transform his dreams into great achievements?

How do people transform tragedy into something positive? Consider Jim MacLaren. He was a 300-pound varsity football player for Yale University, when he lost his leg in a motorcycle accident. He rebuilt his athletic dreams and became a triathlete. He won the Ironman Triathlon. His dreams were shattered again when he was hit by a van while completing the biking section of another triathlon and broke his neck. He became a paraplegic and was told he would never again move his body from his neck down. To the amazement of his physicians, he now is able to move his arms and legs, stand and even walk. When talking on the Oprah Winfrey show a few weeks ago, he expressed his gratitude for the accidents because "I now live from my heart and not from my head." MacLaren has transformed his shattered dreams at lease twice in his lifetime.

Then there is Mattie Stepanik who was born with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy. He dreamed of becoming a "peacemaker." He did not let his inabilities stop him from becoming a wise poet, an inspiration to former President, Jimmy Carter, and an author of the book, "Heartsongs," in which he shared his remarkable talent and wisdom. One month prior to his fourteenth birthday, Mattie died. His beautiful legacy has been published under the title, "Reflections of a Peacemaker: A Portrait Through Heartsongs" and the book became a bestseller.

How do survivors of shattered dreams transform their apparent tragedies into larger and greater achievements? Having worked with the terminally ill for over 20 years, I discovered some of the ways survivors overcome their apparent tragedies. Here are a few things they did.

First of all, they valued and appreciated simply being alive. They stopped taking life for granted, and began to be thankful for life itself. They recognized the value of life. They would often revise their value systems and priorities...sometimes instantly. They placed great value on "the little things" about their lives they may never had recognized before. They recognized the importance of loving, caring and compassionate relationships, and they became determined to become a contributor to those relationships. They realized the importance of having family, friends and loved ones. They became determined to "give back" bring value to others through service. They broadened perspective on life to include respect for all of humanity. Finally, they became aware of our commonality...our connectedness...the human community.

From heartbeat to heartbeat, you never know when tragedy will strikeyour life or when death will occur. Why wait until some unexpected event shatters your dreams? Why wait to appreciate being alive, to rearrange your priorities and values, to acknowledge the preciousness of life, to love others, to recognize the importance of relationships, to dream big dreams and to pursue them with focused intensity and persistence. Do these things now. Live as if today were the last day of your current life. It is! Tomorrow, your life will be brand new.

Lance Armstrong's dreams were shattered by the diagnosis of cancer.Today, he describes his cancer as "the greatest gift of my life." If you transform your dreams, you will more likely fulfill them before tragedy strikes. You may even be able to truthfully repeat your own version of what Lance Armstrong said about his cancer. When your dreams are shattered, may you recognize the pieces as an opportunity to live a larger and greater dream.

Don't wait! Do it now!

Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D. has 30+ years experience as a Life Coach and Licensed Psychologist. He is available for personal life coaching and can be contacted at (970) 568-0173 or E-mail: or

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