Is it too late for your dream?


by Noelle Sterne

  • Do you feel stuck in your job, your activities, your life?
  • Do you condemn yourself about what you could have done, should have done differently?
  • Do you yearn for more, even if you don’t know what it is?
  • Do you suspect you’ve got something to give, even if you can’t identify it?
  • Or do you know what it is but haven’t been able to release it?
  • Have you pushed your secret yearnings, your Dream, into the back of your life, like old photos in the sock drawer?

Like many people, maybe you live for the weekends or retirement. Maybe you promise yourself that then—finally—you’ll do what you really want to. Too often, these envisioned golden times never materialize. Why? Partly because of that mindset of “later,” of lifelong habits feeling you don’t deserve the good, and because the first steps may seem overwhelming, bewildering, or unattainable. You spend years that go too fast in activities that don’t satisfy with self-blame, frustration, illness, and a mushroooming sense of failure.

Maybe you’ve recited your own “If Only” stories (if only I’d gone to college, married someone else, hadn’t taken that job . . . ) or believe other “If Onlies” you hear that supposedly prove inevitable victimitis from other people (“If only she hadn’t done that,” “If only I hadn’t gotten sick,” “If only he had repaid me that money”). But you don’t have to believe them—those people aren’t you. 

You can take charge. In Deepak Chopra’s words, “You and I are essentially infinite choice-makers. In every moment of our existence, we are in that field of all possibilities where we have access to an infinity of choices” (The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, p. 22). 

That infinity includes your Dream. 

Why It Isn’t Too Late for Your Dream  

Whatever your secret desires to do more and be more—to paint, write, sculpt, make pots, create your own business, or devote more time to anything else that’s always fascinated you or given you joy—it’s not too late. 

Whatever your age, circumstances, childhood background, or the state of your bank account or waistline, it’s not too late.

Every life experience has perfectly prepared you—even though you may not see it—for where you are now. Any self-judged “wrong turns” you condemn yourself for having taken have been nothing less than perfect. 

These convictions are based on my own life lessons and three principles in my book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams. Please stay open to these:

  1. There are no mistakes. 

     Miles Davis, the great and enlightened jazz musician, said, “Do not fear mistakes. There are none.” Your imagined failures stop you from reaching for your buried Dreams and living more fully. 

  1. We can reframe our pasts. 

When we realize there are no mistakes, we can free ourselves from branding past experiences as negative or wasted. Instead, we can review, relabel, and understand our past differently—as the perfect foundation for reaching our long-cherished desires. We can reflect on what we learned and turn every perceived botching of our past into a greater bonus for our future. We can more easily forgive ourselves for our “mistakes” and see them as the inevitable steps toward the future we want to create. 

  1. The outer reflects the inner. “Out there” is “in here.”

As you perceive your life differently and become freer from the self-defeating thoughts and labels that have kept you down, you’ll start to shed your old habits of negating yourself. You’ll ease gently into the splendid clothes of deserving. In these new clothes, which are much more than zipper-deep, you’ll begin to blossom and develop your talents and abilities, as you’ve always secretly known you could. 

Today’s spiritual teachings reiterate these principles: Napoleon Hill’s Conceive-Believe-Achieve, Neale Donald Walsch’s Thought-Word-Action, Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now, Louise Hay’s affirmations, Abraham-Hicks’ alignment with the Source and the ancient-new Law of Attraction. 

When we apply these magnificent teachings, we learn to name, visualize, deserve, expect, and act on our God-planted greatest desires. We begin to feel a wonderful sense of rightness and know we’re really on the way to our Dream. 

My Dream

My Dream was always writing. Nevertheless. I pursued all the undergraduate and graduate degrees, supported myself with office jobs, and right after the last graduation taught college English and literature. Two years later, weary of too many committee meetings and too much letterhead, I retired (or got fired, depending on one’s perspective and title) .

A friend brilliantly suggested that I become self-employed so I could devote more time to writing. So, being also a good secretarial student and having weathered the rigors of the doctoral dissertation, I advertised dissertation typing in my university community. Clients appeared quickly. 

As I typed, I often became engrossed in clients’ materials, and when they next visited to pick up the work, I started asking questions about their drafts. They began to suspect I wasn’t your average office drone. Encouraged by my questions and interest, they spilled their troubles about impossible deadlines and drafts from their professors endlessly thrown back dripping with blood-red pen critiques. 

Feeling for the clients, I began giving them advice and editorial suggestions. The clients’ faces relaxed and their small smiles of hope showed me I’d reached them. I felt wonderful.

I graduated again—from typing to editing and advising. Continuously learning, I developed a business that became one of helping adults pursue their Dreams through their academic graduate degrees. 

Looking back, I see now that each step helped prepare me for the next—from getting the degrees myself to typing and engaging with the clients to dissertation consulting. And I’ve gained immeasurably—in self-assurance, stamina, ability to master many subjects quickly, greater organizing skills and creativity, better interpersonal skills, and growing facility as editor and writer.

Did all these capabilities develop in a vacuum? Of course not. Each was absolutely essential for my own writing. Each enabled me to keep at it, stick to it, and ceaselessly refine it. By now I have published many writing craft articles, spiritual pieces, essays, and stories in print and online publications, a spiritual self-help book (from which this essay is adapted), and a handbook for dissertation writers on practical-psychological-interpersonal-spiritual issues.

Still Skeptical?

Maybe you’re shaking your head and saying, “Sure, sure. I’ve tried this, that, and those. I’ve spent money, time, and tears and have gotten nowhere.” Maybe you feel you’ll never get out of your dark place. Or you’ve already dismissed the possibilities of wonderful things happening to you.

You may have a lot of reasons for your reactions. Other than low blood sugar, a major reason is that you probably don’t credit yourself with what you’ve already done. Many of us don’t even remember our accomplishments or dismiss them and say, “Big deal.” How then can we give ourselves credit and build on our experiences? Or maybe we feel it’s “too late” to start or resume a cherished activity.

Late Flourishers

Still doubting? Look at the many artists, writers, and world figures who came to their calling in their later years (I keep a list to shore myself up). Just a few of these “late bloomers”:  Anna Mary “Grandma” Moses, the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, Miguel Cervantes, Jonathan Swift, Charles Ives, Edith Wharton, Robinson Crusoe author Daniel Defoe, President Harry S. Truman, Pope John XXIII. These and many others are from the wonderful book Late Bloomers by Brendan Gill). As Gill says, “If the hour happens to be later than we may have wished, take heart! So much more to be cherished is the bloom” (p. 11).

And a few more, writers and others:

  • In 1997, writer Jessie Foveaux published her first book at 98. 
  • Gerontologist Dr. Charles Oakes started his third career in his 70s as an exercise therapist for older adults. Then in 2000 he published Working the Gray Zone, a chronicle of his clients’ remarkable sense of purpose, expansion, and spirituality.
  • Arlene Arneson won the Boston Marathon in her age class in 2009. She was 74. 
  • In 2010 Myrrha Stanford-Smith landed her first book deal—at 82. The publisher, admirably forward-thinking and age-unbound, signed her to a three-book deal—and the other two subsequently came out. Stanford-Smith never retired and continued to write until her passing at 93.
  • Award-winning novelist Herman Wouk published his last book at age 100.
  • And a consummate role model: for 93 years, Tao Porchon-Lynch taught yoga 20 hours a week at the center she founded outside New York City. She also pursued her other passion—competitive ballroom dancing with partners in their twenties—and she won awards. Before she passed at 101, she said, “I don’t believe in getting old. In America, look how many beautiful trees are hundreds of years old. They are losing leaves but they are not dying—they are recycling. In a few months, spring will start up again” ( 

So, you too can recycle and see another spring. People seem astounded at others who are active and creative at “later” ages: “He’s ____ and still ___!” Well, why not? Who is to legislate the expanse or limits of creativity and energy? The usual incredulity shows stereotypical thinking about age, numbers, decades, and what supposedly one can/can’t/should/shouldn/t be doing. As the recent attention to and interest in Blue Zone communities demonstrates, none of the negatives have to be true. 

More important, unlike hairlines, our creative desires don’t recede with age. Writing guru Julia Cameron says that if we want to write a novel at 20, we’ll still crave to write it at 80. Nor do our talents evaporate, as in the examples above. Instead of ignoring our desires or pretending they don’t matter, we can honor them and reinvigorate them. 

So, when you feel inclined to dismiss, devalue, or give up your Dream, remind yourself:

  • I can achieve my Dream because it is implanted in me. 
  • My Dream means I have the tools and talents I need to fulfill it.
  • I know how and where to start to activate my Dream.
  • I fully deserve my Dream.

The Lesson Is Listen and Trust

Listen to yourself and your deep-seated desires. Trust that inner urging. Muster your courage, and visualize yourself living your Dream. 

As your Dream becomes clearer, you’ll know the first steps to take: enroll in a pastry-making course, clear out the spare room for a workshop, call the interior designer who offered to show you the wholesale houses, start that novel with a space cleared on your desk or a modest little outline. 

Is it too late for your Dream? Never!

© 2024 Noelle Sterne