06/25/2014 03:39 pm ET Updated Jun 26, 2014

Dream Big: 5 Steps to Having Everything You Want

Your history is not your destiny. Who you were, what happened to you and all the struggles in your story do not have to determine who you will be. That is, unless you let it.

I've always loved parables and "The Fisherman and the Frying Pan" is one of my favorites about self-imposed limitations.

A young fisherman went down to the river at dawn, and there she saw an old man fishing out of a calm shallow tributary. This older fellow was having tremendous success catching and pulling in one fish after another. The young lady decided to watch him and see what she could learn.

Every time the old man pulled in a fish, he laid his catch next to a ruler that had the end snapped off at eight inches. If any of the fish were bigger than the broken ruler, he would release the fish back in the river. If the fish was the same size or smaller than the broken-off ruler, he would toss the fish into his bucket.

This pattern continued all afternoon with many large fish getting tossed back into the river. The young fisherman was quite curious about this strange routine. She wondered if there was a catch-and-release law she wasn't aware of regarding the size of fish you were allowed to catch from this tributary. Otherwise, why would the old man throw such ideal fish back into the river?

When she couldn't contain her curiosity a moment longer she walked down the bank and asked the old fisherman, "Excuse me, but I was wondering why you're throwing all the big fish you catch back into the river? Is there a law here about the size of fish you can keep?"

The old fisherman adjusted the brim of his hat. "What do you mean?" "Well," the young woman replied, "I've noticed you all morning. You measure the fish and if it's bigger than your ruler you throw it back. Is there a catch-and-release law here?"

"Oh, no," the old fisherman explained. "This ruler is the same size as my frying pan at home. The bigger fish won't fit."

Stories like this exist for a reason and that's to highlight truth from a different perspective. In this case, the different sizes of fish represent the many opportunities, dreams, ideas and possibilities we all have. And when we encounter them, we may unconsciously measure them up against our frying pan.

That "frying pan" is the perception we hold regarding the conditions of the life we know now. It's who we believe ourselves to be according to our history and past successes or failures. In other words, the frying pan represents self-imposed limitations and beliefs.

When life tosses us a new idea or opportunity, we tend to measure that inspiration by our education, background, bank account balance, past failures -- even by our family, the economy, our current employment or health.

We all have done this. We come up with reasons like, "I can't do that because I'm not educated or successful enough" or "People in my family don't do that" or "I'm too young or too old." The list goes on and on.

Guess what? If you argue for your limitations, you get to be right and you don't get to bring home any big fish!

We often throw away perfectly great ideas and opportunities because they do not fit into the life we know now. We limit ourselves in the same way the old fisherman does.

Part of learning to build your dreams and live the life you would love is learning to pause when ideas come to you that seem bigger than your frying pan.

Instead of sizing up a new idea or dream as to whether or not you believe it is possible based on your circumstances or history, look at that dream and see if it brings you energy and brings you alive. See if the vision of it expands you, because then you know that it's life speaking through you asking to unfold as an even greater possibility.

Now here is something important to pay attention to: Your dreams will speak to you in inspiration, certainly, but often your dreams will show up as your longing and discontent. When you are longing for something it is because you want to experience a dream that is trying to emerge.

For instance, if you are experiencing discontentment every time you cook, the real dream there may be for a big kitchen that enables you to entertain and throw dinner parties. But in your current circumstances, you may be irritated by the way you bump into your family members in front of the oven or disappointed that the sink isn't as big as you would like. But the dream is the big new kitchen and the fun of connecting with others through food.

Pay attention to your longing and discontent, embrace these feelings and learn to recognize them as signals that a dream is trying to emerge. Something is not wrong if you're feeling discontented. It is simply life telling you it's time to expand. And there is a joy in that!

So you may be wondering, what should you do when your longing appears? What should you do with any discontentment?

When you're feeling this way pause for a moment and take a deep breath. Spend a little time just exploring within. Ask yourself, "What is it that my life is saying to me right now? If I could wave a magic wand, and if money were no obstacle, and if I truly knew I wasn't limited by my background, my education, or my past then what would I love to have happen?"

Your history is not your destiny.

When you let your circumstances determine what you choose, you are holding the fish up to the eight inch ruler. Your circumstances can only control your life if you are in the habit of letting them and you don't know you can have any size ruler you want. Remember, a big dream doesn't take any more energy than a small dream! Only you can decide the size of your ruler. Only you can decide to expand yourself and the size of your frying pan.

Here are 5 steps to take today to expand your possibilities and create a life you would love living:

  1. Pay attention to your longing and discontent. Ask: What dream is emerging here?
  2. Pause for a moment; see if your dream brings you alive and really makes you feel good inside.
  3. Ask: "How big is my frying pan? How big is my life now? How can I open to new possibilities?"
  4. Ask yourself: "If I knew I wasn't limited by anything: What might I do?"
  5. Give your consent to expansion.

Your dream is the next version of who you're meant to be and the expansion of your possibilities. Decide to listen to your dream, honor your dream, and let it unfold as your life.

For more by Mary Morrissey, click here.

For more on emotional intelligence, click here.