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A Bigger Aquarium... Or The Ocean?

By Marie-Pier Charron

A few weeks ago, I asked my goldfish what his ultimate dream was. Boy, was I in for a surprise! His eyes glowing with enthusiasm, he answered that he would absolutely love to explore... the sea. Oh, he'd never set foot there"in fact, as you would expect, he doesn't even have a foot! But he just finished reading a book about the Great Barrier Reef, in Australia, and now he's obsessed with it. He went on and on about it and then, with a certain bitterness in his voice, he started moaning. He said the fake coral reef I had bought for his aquarium was tacky compared to the real ones he saw in the pictures. He complained also about the water purifier (so noisy it troubles his sleep, apparently). My little friend sure had a heavy heart! I never imagined his little body could hold so much frustration...

Overflowing with compassion, I decided to make him an offer. "Bubble, I told him tenderly, "I believe your dream can come true, and I want to help. Here's what we'll do. I'll take you to the Great Barrier Reef, where the corals are known to be the prettiest, and once we find a really nice spot, I'll let you go free. The ocean will be your new home." Enthusiastic, proud of myself (and a little sad because, after all, I would miss him), I waited for his reaction.


Deep silence.

After five very long seconds, believe it or not, he started swimming vigorously towards the fake coral reef he just denigrated, and he hid behind it! I could hear him spout his worries, panicked. Many words were inaudible, but here's what I caught, "What if the ocean evaporates? Do they have a water purifier in the Great Barrier Reef? If the water becomes stagnant and toxic, I'll die! Where will I sleep? Who will feed me? I'll spare you his monologue about sharks; I think you get the idea.

Terribly human

Besides the fact that he can speak, read and think, I wouldn't say my fish is exceptional. He's only terribly human. Don't we feel stuck in our aquariums as well, sometimes? And aren't we tired of swimming in small circles, after a while? Just like Bubble, our heads are crammed with ideas and projects, and our hearts are full of hope. And just like him, surprisingly, we often opt for the comfort of our old limitations, rather than for the opportunity to craft the life of our dreams.

Let's face it: nobody wants to feel frustrated or unfulfilled. We ALL aspire to dive into a turquoise ocean, to play with dolphins, to discover buried treasures and to be surrounded by the most spectacular corals. This desire, this need, is written somewhere in our heart, in our DNA. So if we refuse to get out of our aquariums, it's not because we are masochists or because stagnant water has leaked in between our ears; it's because it represents, to us, the lesser pain. Our dreams are fantastic"at least, the brochure is impressive! But they are in UNKNOWN territories. Who knows what we'll find there. Sharks? Giant squids? Hmmmm... we'd rather keep our daily annoyances; they are safe, familiar and highly predictable. And it's terribly human to lean towards what is familiar.

The sharks

Let's go back to Bubble for a minute. Some of his worries were kind of weird. Had you noticed? He feared the ocean would evaporate; he was concerned about the absence of a water purifier... Who could blame him? He'd never been in the sea, so he naturally presumed a number of things. Just like us. When we try something new, when we open a door, we can IMAGINE what's on the other side, but our predictions are necessarily wrong. The laws of the ocean are different from the laws of the aquarium, and we can only figure them out once we're there.

Obviously, some dangers are very real. Ah, the famous Great White sharks! Just thinking about them can send chills down our spine. Tell me, what are YOUR sharks? What ferocious beasts live in your dreams? It's imperative you identify them and confront them NOW, because the fears we don't face magnify every possible threat. If you have a goal, and you REALLY want to be successful, take a moment and write down all the danger you think you may be exposed to, lay down on paper all the objections and resistance you can find deep within you. Then, think of strategies and solutions that can help you get round them. Do what it takes to reassure yourself! It crucial, because you definitely won't dive if you don't have a clear plan of action to get yourself out of potential deadlocks.

Without a doubt, the fears that pop into our minds when we think of our dreams can seem exaggerated or irrational. We want to lose weight and be fit, but we worry about becoming too attractive. We wish we had a great job and were financially successful, but we fear money will turn us into a "bad person." We want to travel all around the world, but who will take care of our dog? No, don't judge your fears or your hesitations. Accept them as they are. Even if they seem ridiculous, take them seriously and find solutions. If you want to reach a goal"whatever it is"you've got to feel a vibrant "YES resonate in every cell of your body when you think about it. And for that vibrant YES to resonate, you need to take care of all the little "no's"all the little blocks and worries.

A postcard

Now, I'd like to share with you a postcard I just received, directly from the Great Barrier Reef. It's a little note from my fish. Would you like to know what he has to say? Here's his message (I've removed a passage that was a bit personal):


Dear Marie,

I don't have much time to write, but I simply wanted to say thank you for believing in my dream. Thank you, also, for making me realize that my fears were normal. I really felt stupid, hiding behind the fake coral reef when I should have rejoiced... but as you said, making our dreams come true requires more courage than we imagine, EVEN when they are offered to us on a silver platter.

Life is wonderful and exciting here. I learn something new every day"in fact, every minute"and my eyes are not big enough to absorb all the beauty that surrounds me. It's a hundred times more fabulous than I expected. And the water is pure, alive! It's kind of noisy, though, with all the activity around here, but I really don't care; I never even feel like sleeping anyway.

Oh, I've seen two sharks so far, Marie! They were very quiet and I don't really understand their reputation... The father of the uncle of my new friend's half-sister was killed by one of them four or five years ago, but I don't worry too much about that.

Of course, everything wasn't idyllic and fun right away! I was totally disoriented at first, and I even wanted to return to my aquarium during the first few days. I knew nothing, no one. And I made a Clown Fish of myself when I asked my neighbor when feeding time was. It was all worth it, though... believe me.

I'll say good-bye for now. I hope to hear from you soon! Ah, and thanks for the shawl; it does get cold at night here.



P.S.: Notice the name change...


As my brilliant ex-fish puts it, change is always uncomfortable and awkward"even when it's for the best. I think it's IMPOSSIBLE to truly enjoy life and become all we can be if we won't accept to feel disoriented. Growing means moving from the known to the unknown, and the unknown is ALWAYS an adventure. So when you get ready to take action and dive into the ocean, accept feeling unsettled for a little while and make peace with that. It's absolutely normal, inevitable. Accept feeling awkward. Don't you think the butterfly feels kind of lost, too, after he comes out of his safe and warm cocoon?

A bigger aquarium?

On a final note, let me specify something: the way most of us avoid our dreams is not by giving up on them. It's by hoping, wishing... and doing nothing. By waiting for the ocean to knock on our door. Oh, we decorate our aquariums nicely. Sometimes we renovate them, or we buy bigger ones; but it's not a bigger or prettier aquarium we need. It's the vastness and the beauty of the sea.

Are you satisfied with merely dreaming and hoping? I hope not. If there's a dream you've cherished for years and you can't see the day it will become real, I hope you feel frustrated. Yes, I hope you're fuming, and I hope your frustration will be a powerful motivator that will propel you forward. I hope the call of the sea is still in your heart, and I hope you'll dive into your dream, one stroke at a time, with the determination of a famished shark.

About The Author

Marie-Pier Charron, career and life coach, is the editor of a monthly e-newsletter filled with coaching tips and powerful self-growth strategies. To sign up and receive your own copy each month, visit


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