It’s only when a man tames his own demons that he becomes the king of himself if not of the world. Maurice Sendak

Today the Chinese calendar ushers in the Year of the Dragon. And since we’re on the subject of dreams, I thought I’d explore the symbology of dragons and how important they are as we embark on the journey of our dreams.

Mythically speaking, dragons are often seen guarding the entrance to a cave filled with great treasure. Carl Jung believed that the cave represents our unconscious and the dragon is what stands between us and our true self: the treasure. So if we want to actualize our true selves and reach the dreams we hold so dear, at some point we must expect dragons…especially if we are getting anywhere NEAR treasure.

Dreams come with dragons.

It’s normal to feel fear when confronting such beasts. So I’ve provided accounts of warriors who’ve gone before us, successfully beat the odds, and lived to tell the tale. Here are three common dragons that can stand in the way of our dreams:

Dragon #1: I’m too old.

Colonel Sanders held odd-end jobs until he took $105 from his first Social Security check to open his first restaurant. He was 65 years old. Ten years later he sold the Kentucky Fried Chicken corporation for $2 million dollars.

Grandma Moses, a renowned American folk artist began painting in her 70s. No longer able to embroider due to a bad case of arthritis, she took to the canvas. After an art collector discovered her work she rose to the heights of the art world. Her work has appeared in the Modern Art Museum of New York, graced the covers of Life and Mademoiselle, and to this day her piece, Fourth of July, still hangs in the White House.

I could go on with countless numbers of other stories, but you guys get the point. Life isn’t over until we’re six feet under. Until then, everything is fair game.

Dragon #2: I don’t have the right background.

The best example I can think of is Oprah Winfrey. Growing up in 1950s Mississippi, she was on a fast-track to becoming a maid just like the generations of women that came before her. But a series of events in high school led to a job at a television station which launched her into a multi-billion dollar business as a television host and media mogul. Had she allowed her background to hold her back, she may very well have ended up cleaning toilets for a living.

Dragon #3: What if I fail?

Every successful person has had to slay this dragon at least once in their life. John Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, was rejected by 28 publishing houses, but he persisted until he found a willing publisher. Ludwig van Beethoven became one of the most famous and influential composers of all time despite being told he was “hopeless” as a composer and going deaf at age 26. As long as you keep trying, you haven’t failed. Like Thomas Edison said after thousands of failed experiments in creating the light bulb, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Illuminating wisdom.

So what dragons are breathing down your neck? What are some tactics you use to tackle your dragons? Why do you believe dragons are so frightening to us all, even when we do find success? Do you think success takes the dragons away? OR do they come back stronger than ever? Let’s play armchair psychiatrist and have some fun!