Rachel Denning | The Don Quixote Guide to Pursuing Your ‘Mad’ Dreams

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Rachel Denning writes from the road as she travels with her husband and five children overland from Alaska to Argentina. She's passionate about family, education, travel, photography and dreaming big. You can follow their travels (watch an interview here) and be inspired to live your own dreams at DiscoverShareInspire.com.

Don Quixote charged at windmills. He saw prostitutes as princesses. His family and friends were certain he had gone mad, and set out to cure him from it. But curing his madness only destroyed his dreams. And once his dreams died, so did he. How true is that? Doesn't our life lose meaning when we've lost our dream? We become one of the ‘walking dead', living a life of ‘quiet desperation.'

Source: istockphoto

This year, my husband and I and our five children set out on an Epic Expedition driving from Alaska to Argentina.  All too often we find ourselves being counseled by the ‘walking dead' as we pursue our ‘madness.' They complain to us of how much they hate their job, abhor their mounting bills, loathe the filth their children soak up at school, then in the same breath tell us; “Your children need a normal life. You need to get a job.” “Buy a house in the suburbs and send your kids to public school to prepare them for their future.”

Must we all follow the same formula?

Even if it works for you, does that mean I have to do it too? You only think my dancing is mad, because you do not hear my music. Don Quixote set an example. He listened to his heart, and danced to the tune it played, even though others thought him demented. Here are some ways we can be like Don Quixote and pursue our madness:

Refuse ‘Reality'
Don Quixote read books until he filled his brain with idealistic views of how the world should be. The more he read, the more discontent he became, until he could no longer accept the chasm between reality as it was and as he believed it could become. I remember the first books I read when I realized that my life could be different from what it was. It was possible to be the ‘master of my fate' and to make my dreams come true.

No longer did I have to accept what was as what would always be. I began dreaming big dreams and designing a lifestyle that I wanted to live, instead of acquiescing to the template dictated by others. So what if it was far outside the boundaries established by the status quo? This was my dance, and it is determined by my music.

Source:  istockphoto

Act ‘As If'
Don Quixote didn't fake it. He really believed that he was fighting evil in the form of a windmill, and that Dulcinea was a fair maiden – even if no one else could see it. He acted ‘as if'. He performed his deeds as though his dream was truth, and that he was a knight-errant out improving the world. My husband and I have dreamt lofty dreams. We've desired adventure and travel, significance and contribution, even with a large family.

We've rarely known how our dreams could come true. But we've believed with all our heart that they could. Moving ahead, we act ‘as if' we cannot fail. And as Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can, you're right.” Being willing to take those first steps in faith has led us to marvelous heights.

We've experienced incredible escapades; driving through Mexico and Central America; living in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and India; and now our overland adventure from Alaska to Argentina. The opportunity to spread literacy, visit orphanages, establish libraries, work with the leprosy affected and much more has been a great privilege. And the thrill of introducing our children to the world, sharing the discovery of people and places and establishing an expanded reality is one of our great joys.

In the end, Don Quixote was forced back to ‘reality'. He lost his dream, and then lost meaning to life. But we don't have to be like that. We can remain indifferent to the naysayers, maintain our ‘madness' and re-negotiate reality.

Dance to the rhythm of your own music, knowing that those who think you're crazy simply can't hear the beat.


Is there a dream you need to find, so that you can get your life back?

Do you people in your life that think you're ‘mad'?

Are you at a point where you can no longer accept the chasm between the reality of who you are and who you could become?

In what small way, are you tilting at a windmill, acting ‘as if'?

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