Being back in the North of England feels a bit like being in a new country. And although this is the town I grew up in and feels very familiar in many ways, I also feel like a child at Christmas, discovering all sorts of new gifts.
Yesterday morning I ventured into town to run a few errands and popped into a vintage clothing store I'd been meaning to take a look at. Lancaster isn't known for its quality clothes shopping and I was keen to find something - anything - that might stock the sort of thing I'd wear.
I couldn't believe it when I got in there. An Alladin's cave of high quality second hand and vintage clothing. Alison, behind the counter, was a delight, and we chatted for a while about Lancaster's shopping scene.
Everywhere I've been since arriving back, I've been hearing the same story: Lancaster ought to be thriving with successful local boutique shops. It's on a direct train line to London in only ninety minutes; it's a stone's throw from both the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales; it's a University town; has a beautiful castle and cathedral and is full to the brim with fascinating history. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, really.
And yet Lancaster isn't truly thriving. Its edges are a bit run down. Eager entrepreneurs and crafts people open up shop only to close a year later. So many shop fronts sit empty and decaying. There are more homeless people on the streets here than I ever noticed in London. Perhaps this is the story of every town centre across the country, but it's not one I want to continue.
Moving back here has opened up something forgotten in me - the love of the North. The people here are as friendly as they come and, as my coach so rightly pointed out - we've got balls.
Last night as I was getting ready for bed, the beginnings of an idea downloaded into my mind. I've met several entrepreneurs running wonderful businesses since I arrived home. Last week I bought a bar of hand soap from a lady at the farmers' market who hand makes all her naked skincare products in small batches in Lancaster itself. I came across a small pottery shop run by two young gentleman and over the road, a bakery that wasn't there last time I was home.
I feel called to get involved. This place is now, once again, the place I call home, and I feel a responsibility to support it, using the gifts, talents and resources I have available.
Ideas started bubbling up about a website to promote local crafts people and businesses in Lancaster, live events, perhaps a series of stories interviewing and showcasing these wonderful entrepreneurs.
And then, as is always the case when an idea that feels exciting pops in, it started getting really big really quickly and I didn't know quite what to do with it. And when something gets really big really quickly and I don't know what to do with, I always come back to this:
What's one tiny first step I can take right now?
And the tiny first step that called to me was to make a list of the businesses I've come across so far and post them to my personal Facebook page. So many of the friends I went to school with here now live away but tell me all the time how they miss this area so much. So I can start there. It's nearly Christmas and perhaps they'd like to buy something handmade and local to support this place we all have so many fond memories of.
What's here for you today is this:
Big ideas and dreams are, by definition, bigger than what we feel able to achieve right this second. And oftentimes, what that means is that we don't get started at all. You can't see how it will be possible. You can't see how it'll make money. You tie yourself up in knots thinking about all the reasons it won't work. And in the end, you just let it drift off to the idea cemetery, where all those brilliant things that passed through your mind one day now lie, heaped and rotting on top of one another.
No matter how big, crazy or out of reach that thing you dream of feels, there's always something you can do right now. One tiny action that can light a fire inside and start the momentum. Being in action is like magic. Once you take that first step, it opens up doorways or leads you'd never have known or thought about otherwise.
One tiny action is all it takes. And you can start right now. Like, right now.
Love and courage,
Help someone take that first step today: Tweet it out: No matter how out of reach your dream feels, there's always something you can do right now.