I saw Jaws at entirely too young of an age. The film terrified me, but it also sparked a lifelong obsession with sharks, particularly Great Whites (the species in the movie). For decades I fantasized about climbing into a cage and seeing one up close. It was on my bucket list. I once had the opportunity to cage-dive in shark-infested waters, but passed it up because “it had to be a Great White.” Even though one attacks a cage in the film, that was fiction, or so I thought. Then I saw this (skip to 1:40).
At that point, I decided not to risk being inside a cage while it got torn in half. I let go of the Great White dream and opened myself to other options. While in Hawaii recently, I dove with a school of Galapagos sharks (less powerful, less aggressive, but still impressive). And you know what? It was perfect. I felt like a giddy child again, and I still have a buzz off of it. I was wholly satisfied.
It's right to have dreams and goals. It's ideal for healthy, accomplished living. However, if you adhere too rigidly to your own expectations and the “picture you've always had in your head,” you may miss out on something more right for you. Sometimes life (or the universe, or God) knows what you need better than you do.
I never planned on going to school in Alabama, for example. I was going to stay in the West. However, a meeting with a recruiter from Auburn opened my eyes to what ended up being one of my most-treasured life experiences(and also put me on the path to meet my wife). I also always planned on raising a family in my home state of Arizona, but flexibility and opportunity brought me to Saint George, Utah, and I love it here.
A woman I know always planned to marry a certain type of man, then fell fora different kind completely. He was (is) a very good man, but he didn't fit the exact profile in her head. She resisted her feelings towards him for a long time because she couldn't let go of her old dream. This caused both of them plenty of heartache. When she opened herself up to a new dream, however, she found a union that has lasted to this day and brought them both a lot of happiness.
My friends, pursue your dreams, but be flexible and adaptable. There may be better dreams, and opportunities that you've never imagined, that will open to you if you are open. This is the lesson I've learned time and again, most recently from shark-diving.
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Jonathan Decker is the clinical director of Your Family Expert. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist, husband, and father of five. Jonathan earned a masters degree in family therapy from Auburn University as well as a bachelor's degree in clinical psychology from Brigham Young University. He is an actor, author, and television personality.