A Vulnerable Confession: The Dark Side of Dreaming Big and Wanting it Now

Hello, my name is Tyrell Mara,

and I have a problem… 

I have big dreams, BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), and huge aspirations. I also have a chronic problem of wanting to achieve them all right now!

This shows up in a few areas in my life, but the best illustration is in my athletic and work pursuits…

Let me give you some examples:

A trip down memory lane

Offense #1

In grade 8, I set the BHAG of playing basketball at the highest collegiate level in the world, NCAA, Division 1. I started training as hard and long as I could until I got very sick and was diagnosed with severe Mononucleosis.

I was bed ridden for almost 2 months…

Offense #2

In grade, 11 our basketball team set a goal of winning a provincial championship. Feeling like I was the sole leader of the team, I took it upon myself to do everything in my power to get us there… 2 months before playoffs I burnt out and found myself fighting my second battle with Mononucleosis…

I spent another month horizontal.

Offense #3

In my 3rd year at Portland State University I had never worked so hard to earn a starting position and the title of team captain. As I went into a shooting slump midway through the season, I decided to "work my way out of it". This meant pushing my body's limits both in the hours I trained and the intensity at which I competed… In one game I dove for about 10 loose balls, every time landing directly on my elbow. Over the course of the next week I started developing a throbbing soreness in my elbow, I shrugged it off and ignored the pain- "the team needs me Now".

After my elbow swole up to the size of a softball and I got uncontrollably sick, I went to emergency where the doctor diagnosed that I had a major internal staff infection. Had I not gone in that week it would have likely spread meaning very serious surgery… Or worse…

I was out and absolutely miserable for nearly a month and a half. 

Offense #4

In my final year of University basketball, myself along with 4 senior teammates had a shared vision and firery belief that we could win a national championship. Again, I pushed my body to the limits to do everything I could to support the team. At mid-season I started noticing a throbbing pain in my left pinky toe. It was the smallest of 5 toes, so I told it to suck it up like the rest of them!

A week later I could hardly weight bare on that foot and was diagnosed with an internal staff infection in my poor little pinky toe. Fortunately I was starting to learn from my past experiences, I put 100% of my energy into healing and recovery…

I was out for 3 weeks.

Offense #5

Finally, I have recently set another BHAG in my new sport of passion. To Compete at the Crossfit World Games. As with all of my "BHAG" declarations, they ignite action. I started training harder, longer, and spending more mental energy studying all the dynamics to making it happen. In hindsight I was training as if I had 4 weeks to make all the gains for the rest of my life. I could feel my body breaking down and getting tired, but I told myself it was just part of getting stronger. I was becoming mentally and emotionally drained which became evident in my training performance.

Sure enough after two weeks of training like this, I got an intense fever and I started having pain in from my abdominal to pubic region. At 1st I thought I would just give it a day of rest, and I would be good to go tomorrow. As the symptoms got sharply worse, I knew this wasn't good, and after spending 2 long days bouncing from clinics and then in and out of the hospital, I was diagnosed with a pretty serious infection…

Antibiotics and a few weeks of rest… With a huge dose of reflection!

How this shows up for me professionally

I also struggle with this in my professional and working life. For years I have held a deep belief and passion of having positive influence and leadership on a global scale, truly changing the world. Despite this calling that seems to be locked into my DNA, I have no idea what this looks like or how to get there. Putting a tag or definition on the bigger role that I want to play in my life is a constant struggle and search. Something that results in ocasional sleepless nights, and depressing and frustrating moods. 

What do We Give Up When "Wanting it Now"

While there are the obvious physical repercussions of what we are giving up such as time away from a sport due to injury. Or losing sleep and feeling lost with the battle against professionally not being where we want – I think there is something far more profound and damaging that we are missing.

We give up the opportunity to appreciate meaningful moments, and to experience joy and gratitude daily. 

We are so busy reaching out for 'what we want to become', that the opportunity to grow and learn at a foundational level slips by us day after day. In Brené Brown's latest book, Daring Greatly, she talks about our culture that misses the daily opportunities to experience joy and practice gratitude. That we are so busy and preoccupied (in my case looking forward) that we miss the most important moments in life, however small and seemingly insignificant they may appear.

I can relate to this both athletically and personally.

I think back to the times I was pushing so hard to "figure life out" and ask why do I need to answer that question, anyway? Or when I chose  "just keep working harder" as the answer to all my athletic goals – I question, what precious moments and experiences did I miss along the way because of that constant and unrelenting 'push'.

We give up the opportunities to reflect and learn from the experiences that shape who we are at a core level. 

For me this is one of the biggest losses that has very significant long term repercussions.

Consider this paradox… we reach and push with all our power towards something way out in the future, a Crossfit Games or changing the world, meanwhile we give up appreciating and learning from our daily experiences that ultimately shape Who We Are, our Authentic Self. 

We continue to strive for whatever that thing is. Day in and day out you devote everything to getting there and not stopping until you do. One day you wake up and realize you have made it, the time is "Now". Finally you can relax, be fulfilled, and take it all in. As the "Nowness" that is upon you sinks in, you begin to realize an odd but very real emptiness. A loneliness that is unexplained. In fact you may even feel miserable. You don't realize it, but you have missed all of the signposts along the way that were saying "HEY, let go of that thing you are chasing and consider this. This is what you are called to do at the core of who you are. This is how you are really going to change the world!"

If we live in the moment, appreciate the joy and gratitude, and learn from these experiences, we will move towards a future that is most aligned with our authentic self and how we truly want to show up in the world! Maybe one day this means competing in the Crossfit Games, or having positive influence on a global scale. Or, maybe it means something completely different that will be more self-fulfilling and have greater impact. 

Making the Shift

As the recent Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting tragedy in Conneticut remind us, nothing and no amount of time in this life is guaranteed. Happiness, Joy, and Gratitude live in the daily moments that make up the bigger picture of our lives. The life we dream of is the one we take baby steps to create when we acknowledge and learn from our every day experiences

Personally, I am still holding on to those BHAG's of going to the Crossfit Games and one day having a global positive influence. But as we head into 2013 I am making a commitment to honor the important daily moments in life before the future facing goals and desires.

  • I will be open to fully experiencing the joyful moments in everyday, and pause to appreciate those moments when they come. 
  • I will be more conscious in expressing gratitude and reflecting on experiences that shape who I am.
  • I will 'let go' and 'surrender' those BHAG's I once said "I have to accomplish" to the Universe, and know that if it's meant to be, it will be! 

What Does Your 2013 Look Like?

As we move into a new year, what are the areas of your life that you will honor, appreciate, and put energy towards? 

Will you make any shifts from driving forward to slowing down and being in the moment?

Please share below or send me a tweet @TyrellMara, I would love to support you in your journey! 


  1. meganjane December 19, 2012 Reply

    Hey Tyrell, firstly, it’s great that you have taken the time to examine, recognize, & plan to change this pattern! It’s so easy to push it off. It’s interesting to me that you always ended up with an infection. 
    I’ve had to deal with my share of them as well, and the best cure has come by way of my naturopath. He doesn’t push any spiritual counselling, but I researched the Rx he gave me and, sure enough, internal infection is common in “Type A” personalities, or those who push themselves and store frustration internally. It’s like the stress inside your body literally starts to fester. 
    I was just reading in the book of Luke about the importance of appreciating the moment. Jesus’ tells a parable about a man who’s field produced more food than he could need or sell. His solution: build bigger barns! Then he could relax for years to come. He failed to acknowledge that God might take his life that very night, and that he could’ve helped many people with the overflow of his crops.
    Thanks for sharing so openly & personally. It’s a nice change to see something so personal on my newsfeed :)

    • TyrellMara December 20, 2012 Reply

      meganjane thank you so much for taking the time to share your story and experience with me, Megan! I really appreciate your thoughts and perspective. I am actually really glad you brought up the dynamics of internalizing stress and frustration, this is definitely something that I have a hard time with. In many of those past experiences, there is the stress of achieving the goal, or of falling into a slump and losing my spot (perceived failure) that I internalize, which then drives me negatively to not let up or let go. In this last episode I had to make one of the most difficult decisions of the year and it certainly weighed on me for several weeks, attributing to my eventual crash. I need to continually work on understanding when I am holding on to this baggage and weight and let others around me help me let it go! 
      I also really enjoy your Biblical story! It speaks very clearly to me around how important our attitude and how we frame our world is. I also consider the comparison between the man who produces more food than he could ever need, but is never satisfied, versus the man who produces just barely enough food to survive, and is filled with gratefulness… I question who is truly living a happier, more joyful life… My gut tells me I would hope to be that second man… 
      Thank you again Megan! 

  2. Alexi Bergeron December 19, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for your post, this is very important stuff. I’m a habitual goal setter as well and have been reminded lately of the importance of stopping to ‘read the sign posts’. It’s been a real challenge to balance the drive or wanting to achieve BHAGs with the real need to stop, look, listen and experience the process of achieving those accomplishments.  I read a quote recently that we overestimate what we can accomplish in a year and underestimate what we can do in five. I’m also reminded of my father constantly admonishing me to, “stay in the process!”. When reading your paragraph about the empty feeling that sometimes accompanies goal achievement I was reminded that he was trying to help me avoid this. Again, thanks for sharing all this Tyrell, great post.
    Merry Christmas,

    • TyrellMara December 20, 2012 Reply

      Alexi Bergeron thanks Alexi! I really appreciate your wise insights… It’s funny, I look back to all of those BHAG goals/accomplishments and it is overwhelmingly always the process of getting there (relationships built, moments experienced) that I remember fondly, versus the actual completion of a goal. There is a fine line to be balanced between working hard at a passion to achieve something great, and staying present and “in the FLOW” to really process the experience. 
      Thank you for taking the time to read and share, Alexi! Looking forward to our next coffee! :) 

  3. biggreenpen December 21, 2012 Reply

    I think I am going to have to read this several more times to really “get it” and all of the nuances but I appreciate your candor in what you have shared. I struggle with that too — perhaps from the opposite side — am I content to plug along in a situation that has become more and more untenable (at work) when in reality if I jumped off the cliff (I know, cliffs are popular right now!) I may discover that I am more capable of a great safety net than I can possibly understand now …….. used a Brene Brown quote in a recent post I wrote – I love her stuff.

    • TyrellMara December 21, 2012 Reply

      biggreenpen So great to hear from you, Paula! 
      Wow, it certainly sounds like you are wrestling with some big thoughts and potential decisions. Thank you for sharing so openly. 
      I find that these decisions can be so hard. And while many times I put tons of rational and strategic thinking into them, it always comes down to “how am I feeling” on a gut and intuitive level. I tend to ask myself the question: is what I am doing right now truly energizing and engaging me fully? Or am I staying here/doing this because it is the easiest and most comfortable place to be? If I were to pursue a passion or goal that would mean leaving something I’m currently doing, how would that make me feel, and what are the true risks associated? And of course, by staying where I currently am, what are the opportunities and passions I am closing the door on and “saying no to”. 
      After all the rational thinking I often find that these core questions give me a very real bearing of what the right decision is! 
      I hope that you are able to gain clarity as you continue your journey and that you move towards the things that fill you up with energy and help you continue to be the positive influence that you are! 
      Thanks again Paula, I look forward to keeping in touch

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