Dreaming Big For Your Life

This past January I led a goal-setting gather-in. I want to share some of what I said:

Goal setting has been a powerful tool for me. As a raised-poor, working-class woman targeted by racism, I wasn’t raised to expect much. Racism and class oppression filled me with false ideas about myself and what was possible for my life. For a lot of my childhood, I focused on surviving. Living near the bottom end of the economic scale, I had to learn to do without many things. There was a lot of “not getting the things I wanted,” and much disappointment. I internalized something about “not deserving.” Somehow I got the message that I, and my mind, were inferior.

It wasn’t easy at first to set goals or to see that I could have more for my life. I used to feel ill and upset, like there was this thing I couldn’t do looming in the background. I felt hopeless, scared, and immobile. Thinking about what I wanted made me feel like a failure, because I didn’t know how I could get it, and also because I needed support and discharge to achieve what I wanted.

I now feel excited about setting goals. I feel like I’m in charge of my life. Goal setting (and deciding) is powerful. I don’t have to discharge everything before things can change; I don’t have to wait to get the life I want.

My recording1 of “I can’t” no longer operates. Now I tell myself “I can” or “maybe I can.” Today it’s much easier to see the reality of who I am. I am powerful, strong, beautiful, smart, brave, exciting, fun, and living a great life.

The following are some goals I’ve accomplished:

  • Going to school to become a pharmacy technician

  • Getting a job in a hospital

  • Joining a weight-loss program and losing thirty pounds

  • Learning to drive

  • Ending a twelve-year relationship and living on my own

The goal I’m proudest of is deciding to fall in love and be with a man who is in love with me.


Here are some useful steps for achieving goals:

1) Decide what you want. Have Co-Counselling sessions on it. Think big for your life and the world.

2) Write down what you want and decide to go after2 it.

3) Write down the steps you need to take. Break your goals down into manageable chunks. Strategize with your Co-Counsellors, friends, and family, and on your own. Make it a fun project.

4) Take action.

5) Discharge as things come up. Set up sessions; call Co-Counsellors for phone time.

6) Review your goals on a weekly or monthly basis (it’s up to you3 how often) and adjust them as you discharge.


Setting goals is a good way to get at4 chronic patterns. Goals that go against chronic patterns will most likely be difficult and require more strategizing. You may have to trick the patterns. A hard part is the feelings of hopelessness and discouragement that can come up. The reality is there is always hope. Most likely the feelings are old and not about today. Goals that contradict chronic patterns may require deciding over and over again, having someone remind you of the goals, and rethinking how to contradict the distress. It may be that you take a break from a goal for a week and come back to it.


Try to make your strategies fun. For example, I treated my goal to fall in love as a project. I thought I’d be like a woman on the TV show The Bachelorette and date all these different guys and have fun. I didn’t end up dating many guys, but it helped to think of it like that. I also bought a journal and recorded what happened on the dates.

The following are comments from others about the goal-setting day.

Rachel Berryman
New Westminster,
British Columbia, Canada

Before RC, I once asked a therapist to teach me how to “re-parent” myself. She didn’t fully understand what I meant and couldn’t respond to me in a way that I found meaningful, which I found frustrating. I was looking for actual things to say to help a child (me) to dream. I wanted to learn how to validate my own dreams and then guide the child within me to go after those dreams. I didn’t know that it was possible for me to take a step and then look for support and resources along the way. I felt lost, depressed, and resentful (“Do I even exist, and what does that mean?”). I wanted desperately to feel empowered and confident and hopeful.

I was a child of working-class Japanese immigrants who were trying their best to run a farm and raise a family in Canada. They trusted me to find my own way in the world and didn’t pressure me into performing to expectations. I had the freedom to pursue my own interests and passions; they just assumed I’d be fine. They struggled and persevered through war, emigration, and hardship and accomplished a lot in their lives. They didn’t understand how lost I felt growing up. I didn’t see any representations of myself on television, and my parents didn’t have the social and professional networks (that other people might have had over generations) to help their children envision a broader future and accomplish their goals. I couldn’t imagine a future for myself or see how I could “fit” in this society.

Hearing Rachel speak about how racism and classism had affected her ability to dream big for herself had a huge impact on me. I felt seen and heard and understood. She talked about how she had used RC to forge a vision for her life, and then she broke down for us the steps she had taken to go for it. That was the tangible help I had been looking for from that therapist!

It’s a tremendous contradiction5 to take myself seriously and listen to the muted voices—my own yearnings in my own heart—and then support them to take shape in a world that seems like it doesn’t want to make room for me. I’m so grateful for Rachel’s support and example.

Mika Maniwa
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 

Rachel reminded us that sexism, classism, and racism make it important (and not easy) for us to set and attain goals. Lots of things get in the way of getting the lives we want.

As a middle-class woman of Asian heritage, I find it difficult to know what it is I want. I’m also not convinced I can get what I want, and it’s easy to become discouraged. Finally, I sometimes wonder if my goals are more about easing the pain of sexism and racism than about having a bigger life.

Watching Rachel go after a bigger, richer life is a huge inspiration and motivator for me as a woman targeted by racism. I feel relief: a woman targeted by racism is leading the way with grace, determination, and ease. People are supporting her. How is she doing it? There must be a way for me, too.

Breaking down goal setting into small steps, and doing lots of discharge, was helpful. Discharge and attention allowed my thinking to go beyond small and immediate to expansive, hopeful, and long-term.

Nana Hashimoto
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 

Rachel reminded me that we can make decisions about the way we want our lives to be and then act on those decisions. I can dream up both big and small goals for my life and then go after them.

She gave us a straightforward road map for going after big lives. At first I could only think of my more immediate goals (do “special time”6 with my daughter, exercise more, eat differently, write more). However, as the day went on, my mind started opening up to the bigger possibilities (changing my job, writing a poetry book, getting published, raising a family). Holy smokes!7 Could I really do those things? After the workshop I didn’t feel like they were any closer, but I did have a plan for getting them closer, and that in itself was a huge step forward.

Laurel Albina
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

I appreciated how Rachel led the morning with so many mini-sessions. It was an example of exactly what she had told us: be gentle, but also do the work.

Now I check in on my goals at the beginning of sessions. I notice I’m persistent, and I feel proud.

Jane Henderson 
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada  

I enjoyed Rachel’s perspective on the usefulness of goals to further our re-emergence. Her encouragement to view our goals as “games” and make the pursuit of them more engaging and fun was refreshing to me. I felt more aligned with my priorities and have since formed a habit of reviewing my daily, weekly, and yearly goals each morning.

Phil Johnston
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

What a good turnout for Rachel’s goal-setting gather-in! People do want to have big lives.

Using examples from her own life, Rachel showed us how we can achieve the goals we set—no matter how big or scary they are, and what feelings we might have when starting out. She also reminded us that we don’t have to be fully liberated from our distress to achieve big goals.


Distress recording
“Go after” means pursue.
“Up to you” means your decision.
“Get at” means contradict and discharge.
5 Contradiction to distress
“Special time” is an activity, developed in RC family work, during which an adult puts a young person in full charge of their mutual relationship, as far as the young person can think. For a specific period of time, the adult lets the young person know that he or she is willing to do anything the young person wants to do. The adult focuses his or her entire attention on the young person and follows his or her lead, whether the young person tells, or simply shows, the adult what she or he wants to do.
“Holy smokes” is an exclamation of surprise or amazement.

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00