The Care And Feeding Of Big Dreams

If you have big dreams, you have already reaped big benefits, regardless of whether or not your dream materializes into reality.

I’ll bet you didn’t know that Albert Einstein once said:”imagination is more important than knowledge.” Dreaming stretches our imaginations and is a worthwhile endeavor for that reason alone. Using our imagination leads to knowledge and wisdom which makes for great dreams and goals. And if dreams are good , dreams that come true are even better. For the best chance of seeing some of your dreams come true, consider these suggestions:

  • Divide and conquer. The movie What about Bob starring Bill Murray is about Bills zany character Bob who  becomes the overzealous fan of a psychologist who writes a book encouraging “baby steps” toward mental health. Of course, the goal of the movie was to make viewers laugh, not provide a commentary on achieving our dreams. It accomplished both because Bob wrote a best seller book and found true love. His dreams came true because he did everything in moderation or as he called it “Baby Steps.” Dividing a big dream into a series of baby steps can take something that once seemed unattainable and put it very much in our reach. Writing a 200-page book, for example, may seem formidable. Writing a single page, however, is well within our reach. Repeat that same baby step five days a week for one year and your book is done. Think about some of your goals. Can you break a major goal into a series of tiny ones? If so, you’re halfway there.
  • Redefine failure and success. Sandra Glahn writes about a ten-year struggle with infertility n her book. When Empty Arms Become a Heavy Burden. ( Broadman and Holman, 1997). Eventually Sandra and her husband conceived and gave birth to daughter Alexandra. But by then , Sandra had learned how to look at “success and failure” in a whole new light. She writes: “God defines success not in terms of what we allow. He defines it in terms of the transformation we allow His word to make in our lives. I am a success if I can get through my experience with a greater love for God and my spouse that when I started. I am a success on some days if in spite of my lack of ‘success’ I manage to drag myself out of bed, get dressed, and find reasons to be thankful for one more day.” Don’t limit yourself by viewing success and failure as single, narrow path. Ask God to show you his perspective when it comes to your dreams and goals.
  • Embrace risk. Yes, yes, I know what I just wrote about baby steps. But now and then, making a dream come true means taking a gigantic leap. If a rare opportunity presents itself weigh the cost, then consider going for it. Of course pray and pray some more about all the risks involved and seek wise counsel. Notice I said, “weigh the cost,” not  “weigh the odds.” Even if the odds are against you, if the cost in dollars, time, or emotional and physical energy is one you are willing to pay, then don’t let the slim odds deter you. That’s why it’s called “risk.”
  • Admit who you are. “Stop thinking of yourself as a wanna-be. Begin today telling yourself and others who you are.” When I was in high school my friend Elizabeth wrote many articles and a poems for a magazine for Girl Scouts. Elizabeth still has the first five dollar bill she received framed in a glass shadow box hanging on the wall behind her desk in her office. For many years Elizabeth thought of herself as a wanna-be writer and would not submit her articles and short stories for publication.Then one day she suddenly started thinking of herself as a bona fide writer, it became easier to do the things real writers do, like be consistent in sending queries and honing her skills. Elizabeth is a published writer as a result of her changing how she saw herself.
  • Mingle with cheerleaders. The truth is, some people bring doom and gloom wherever they go. They are “killjoy’s.” Their negative attitudes could depress a roomful of monkeys on a caffeine high. I’d wager even Norman Vincent Peale would have a hard time harnessing the power of positive thinking in their presence. When my friend Elizabeth began writing short stories for magazines she made the mistake of showing her first story to a friend who spent twenty minutes giving unsolicited advice. Elizabeth is not particularly thin-skinned about her work, but the comments were about her work. They were quite personal in nature. Elizabeth didn’t think her friend was trying to be harsh but her friend wasn’t being careful, and Elizabeth came away from the encounter crushed. It took her six weeks to brush herself off and begin writing again. In order to survive and thrive, our dreams need TLC. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism, but make a habit of surrounding yourself with friends who are, by nature, encourager’s rather than pessimist.
  • Bond with a mentor. Do you know someone who has traveled a little father down the road you are pursuing? If you do, there’s a chance she would enjoy sharing with you her secrets of success. Be sensitive, however: If you sense that she is evasive, or might be feeling threatened by your pending success, then find another mentor. Look for someone who has experienced the dream you would like to claim for your own, someone who talks freely about her own journey and is willing to help you on yours. Inspire yourself with “can-do” stories and people. Don’t you just love stories where someone beats the odds to make a dream come true? These kinds of Rocky Balboa stories are everywhere we find them in biographies, autobiographies, movies, on-line news stories, and very likely among your own friends. If you are trying to pursue a dream or if your dreams have died and you wish you could rekindle the old sparks again. Build up your heart and soul by watching and reading”can do” stories that celebrate the strength inherent in the human spirit.
  • Give yourself a mental picture to follow. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So give yourself a picture of what your dream might look like in real life. Start a scrapbook and begin filling it with images that say something to about your dream. Want to run the Boston Marathon? Look for images of runners and other athletes, well as articles about people who have achieved impressive athletic fets. You will, quite literally, be providing your mind with a blueprint you can follow as you continue working toward your goal. 

Once again, here are the steps: Divide and conquer. Redefine failure and success. Embrace risk. Admit who you are. Mingle with cheerleaders. Bond with a mentor. Inspire yourself with “can do” stories. Give yourself a mental picture to follow.

The unfortunate fact is that, despite our best efforts, our dreams don’t always come true. Indeed, we can experience great pain when a beloved dream crashes and burns.  And yet, even as we sift through the ashes of one dream, we often find the stirrings of hope for another. That’s the beauty of the human spirit. In fact, the capacity to dream can be a key indicator of mental and emotional health. After all, a dream is little more than a kind of passionate hope, and without hope, we die. It’s as simple as that. Take stock of your dreams. If necessary, look back through the years and resurrect some of the dreams from your childhood. Nature your dreams, and they will nurture you in return. 

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