The Big Mistake I Made When Following My Dream 

Seven months into this narrowboat life. 

I am sitting on my fold out table looking out at the water from my floating living room.  The early morning sunlight blinds me a little as I write. I can hear the twinkling song of  birds that I am yet to be able to identify. It is a crisp spring morning; finally some blue skies after months of grey. 

narrowboat dream

This transition from Madrid city centre to rural Lancashire has been a roller coaster of a ride. Now that the water has calmed, I am looking back at this dream of mine and wondering where it all went wrong. 

Or did it even go wrong? 

I have realised that at some point, I began to make a fatal mistake. In this post, I am going to try to explore what this mistake was in the hope that you, dear reader, don’t make the same one that I have in the pursuit of your own dreams.

End of Madrid Era 

Towards the end of my life in Madrid, a deep feeling of hopelessness had set in. I felt like I was trying to push a heavy boulder uphill. I could no longer see the point of anything that I had been trying so hard to create. 

“What is the point in continuing with all of this?”, I wrote in my journal. 

I thought about everything that I had written on this blog in the early years about following your dreams. Now I was asking myself seriously: what is the point of following your dreams? I felt like a fraud and a failure. 

All the things that I said that I wanted: land,  a garden, a low-impact naturally built house, a compost toilet, a community…. 

Then I realised what the problem was. 

I imagined myself having things. 

But is this really a dream? Or is that just content? Is this just a consumer culture wrapped in a spiritual, earthy wrapper? I want this and I want that; are these just status symbols and material objects of a more earth-centred culture?

Who is the person who has those things? What is the quality of their consciousness? Once they have those things, who are they at their core? What skills do they have? How do they live?

I realised it was a question of being, rather than having

“First, being, then doing, then having”, were the words of Sadhguru.

I had forgotten them.

Notes to Self 

A few weeks before leaving Madrid, something dawned on me. 

narrowboat dream

This is what I wrote down in a flash of clear insight just before my life in Madrid started to fall away. It made sense to me at the time even though it is a strange analogy: 

‘The content of your life is like the furniture in a room. You only buy furniture when you already have the room. 

What does the room represent? It is the container for which the furniture can be homed. The container for which the content (the details, the decoration, the furniture) of your dream can be held. 

But is this container something you acquire? Can it be bought or bartered for? 

No, it is something you become. As you grow and evolve, so does the size and shape of your room. You are the container. You become the one who is capable of holding the space for the content of your dream. 

What does this mean exactly? 

It means that you must become your dream. 

You increase the size of your current room so that you can upgrade the furniture. Your style has changed; time for an upgrade. Out with the old and in with the new. Time for a refit. 

If you want to change the outside, you have to change first. You have to be the change you want to see –  not just for the world, but for your own life too.’ 


I asked myself: am I the woman that can hold the energy of this project that I dream of building? 

The honest answer was: not yet. 

I said that I wanted land, but who do I see myself being? What is my role there? What do I do there? 

These are details that I couldn’t yet see. I suppose because they were still too far in the distance for me to be able to see them. My grand dream was still too far away. I still wasn’t that person.

But what about the vision that I had, that felt so strong and true when I started this blog? I began to doubt my own inner sight. 

“What even is a vision, anyway?”, I wrote in my notebook. 

The answer came: 

‘Colour, sense, smell, emotion, feeling, image. It feels real, breathing, like it already exists on some other plane that also exists here and now. That is the truth of the vision. The future of your potentiality brushing past and whispering in your ear as it passes: “I am you. Don’t forget me”. 

‘As if I could’, you think, so beautiful was the vision. But as the days, weeks and years pass, you begin to forget her face. 

“Were you real?”, you ask. You get no reply. 

You get glimpses of her now and then. She seems to appear in a book, through the words of someone else, through music or art. A smell, an image, a sight and – aha! 

You found her again. Don’t let her out of your sight! Opps, too late, gone again. Ever elusive, she disappears as you try to hold her down.

Inner Sight 

Yet it is not outside of ourselves we should look. The outer world is just a reflection of the inner world. The outer stimulus is just a mirror for what is inside of us. An outer chord finds resonance with an inner chord. Harmony is produced; a match, a resonance, two voices I singing the same note. 

“That’s me”, we think. We see ourselves reflected. How do we nurture that inner chord so that it becomes an orchestra capable of holding the contents of our most beautiful, radical dreams? 

Like a seed, we burst forth from the shell of our inner world. As we expand, all the more we are able to hold. 

narrowboat garden

Back to what I scribbled down in my notebook last summer. I wrote: 

‘I need to create the room, the container for the Universe to fill it with the right furniture. I trust its taste, its knowledge, its choices. It isn’t for me to decide when I am ready to receive my dreams. I simply have to become them and understand that that is enough’.

But I recognise that I’m not ready yet. The room is not prepared. There’s still much work to be done. Am I going to burst forth from my own inner seed or am I going to stay in the confines of my shell some more?

I have to become it before I can receive it.

But be what?

Become what?

This is the next step- to find out”.

Mysteriously enough, within 2 weeks of writing those words I left Madrid and began the process of moving back to the UK. 

Unconscious Messages to a Future Self 

In writing this blog post now, I am struck by the line: ‘I need to create the room, the container, for the Universe to fill it with the right furniture. I trust its taste, its knowledge, its choices’.

I suppose that means trusting where I am right now. Living on my narrowboat, floating on the waters of a marina in Garstang in rural Lancashire. 

I guess this means that my room has been given an upgrade! It’s been redecorated, I’ve got some new furniture. I’ve even moved house; the room is in a different location all together!

There has been many times that I have wondered what went wrong, many times that I have thought that I have failed, many times that I have felt convinced that it has all been for nothing. 

But if I am true to my words, written when I felt expanded, clear and inspired, then this must be the path that I am meant to follow. 

I am also struck by these lines: 

‘You increase the size of your current room so that you can upgrade the furniture. Your style has changed; time for an upgrade. Out with the old and in with the new. Time for a refit’. 

Was I inadvertently letting myself know that I had outgrown my current life and it was time to move on? That it was time to break out of the incubator of Madrid and into a new life that allows me to grow and evolve more? 

This brings me comfort as I look around at my life and wonder where the previous one went and, in my weaker moments, wonder with sadness why it had to be this way. 

narrowboat dream

Final Thoughts 

So what is the moral of this story? 

We have to live out our dreams in every moment for our lives, throughout the changing rooms, the changing content and the changing circumstances.

 A dream is not a goal with a start and an end. It does not have fixed details. It can manifest in your life a thousand different ways and at a thousand different times throughout your life. 

A true dream is a vision for our lives that lives and breathes through us everyday, often through the smallest of actions that align us in integrity to the truth of who we are, how we want to live and who we want to be.

I made the mistake of getting too attached to the outcome, the ‘having’. I projected my own ideas of what it should look like. I forgot the be-ing part. I thought I was the one in the driver’s seat. 

I forgot that I was already living my dream way before I started this blog because it is me and everything I represent. I forgot that ultimately, we co-create with the Universe and if we follow our heart, it will take us where we need to be.

So to return to my radical dream. What was it that I was envisioning for myself four years ago? And how do I live that even more fully here and now with these new circumstances of my life? 

This, dear reader, is the journey ahead! 

It is true that things haven’t worked out as I thought they would. But I now see that this is a dream that I will follow throughout my life, whether it is in a flat in the centre of a city, on a narrowboat on a canal, in a house in the suburbs with a back garden, or in a straw bale house up a mountain somewhere. 

That way I can never fail, as long as I live my dream in every moment, wherever I am.

narrowboat garden

Stay tuned!

To see where this new narrowboat chapter takes me, sign up to my newsletter and get the next update straight to your email. You can also find me on Instagram and Facebook @shared_earthliving. Feel free to say hi!

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Olivia Grundy

Join me as I transition from the city to the country, following my hearts desire for a more sustainable life based on respect for the Earth and all the creatures in it.

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