You’ve probably seen or heard this advice many times — from friends, colleagues, social-media posts, and personal-growth blogs: Dream big! Dream bigger!
And yes, oftentimes, this is great advice! After all, you want a dream that’s big enough to inspire you, to get your blood pumping, or at least to get you out of bed in the morning! And if you have a minuscule dream — for instance, to chew a piece of gum — that’s probably not exactly going to fill you with buoyant enthusiasm and zest for life. So, in this case, I would agree with the multitudes urging you to dream bigger!
But what if you’re on the other end of the dream-size spectrum? For instance, what if your dream is to earn $10 billion today?! Or to personally shake the hand of every living person this month? Or to walk on Pluto barefoot?!
In these cases, maybe dreaming bigger isn’t the best advice. For these dreamers, a better piece of advice might be: Dream smaller!
Yes, these are intentionally silly examples — ridiculously big and far-fetched. But many people have dreams that seem almost as far-fetched — not because they can’t be reached, but because on some level (perhaps not even consciously) the dreamer doesn’t truly believe that they can reach them.
And that really is the key to reaching and living your dreams: BELIEF!
Belief varies greatly from one person to another. The same dream might seem too big for one person to believe, but too small to inspire another.
For instance, one person might not believe that they could earn six figures, while another person might not find that dream big enough to inspire them…unless they add a figure or two! One person might not believe that they could write a book, while another wouldn’t be inspired by this dream…unless they also set a goal to make it a #1 bestseller. One person might not believe that they could reach their ideal weight, while another one sees this health goal as uninspiring…unless they also decide to run a marathon.
None of these dreams are “right” or “wrong.” Dreams don’t come “one size fits all.” It’s about finding a dream that you find both inspiring and believable.
Some dreams are so big that they seem impossible, some are so small that they hardly seem worth it, and others are “just right” (as Goldilocks might say) — big enough to stretch you to live more fully, but not so big that you don’t actually expect to realize/live it.
So, when setting your dreams and goals, find that “sweet spot” between uninspiringly small and unrealistically big. Sometimes this will mean enlarging your dream — to make it more inspiring, to stretch you out of your comfort zone and closer to your full potential. Oftentimes, however, it may mean scaling back (at least temporarily) so that you can actually believe and achieve your dream.
Let’s revisit our intentionally silly/enormous dreams from above. Maybe these dreams could be revised to make them more realistic, believable, and achievable: Perhaps the $10 billion dream could turn into a goal of increasing their income by 50% (or 100% or 200%) in the next 3-6 months. The hand-shaker could set a dream/goal of meeting at least one new person each day for a month (or beyond). And the Pluto trip might be replaced by a dream of visiting all seven continents (and/or other exotic locations).
Building on Smaller Dreams
One final point to remember about dream sizes is that they don’t have to be permanent! You can always start with a “sweet-spot” dream — one that stretches you yet still seems believable — and then, once you’re living it, make it even bigger!
I once heard Ted Turner bemoaning the fact that his father had set a too-small dream: to become a millionaire. Once his father reached this dream, according to Ted, he lost the zest that big dreams can inspire.
I couldn’t help thinking that, with all due respect to the senior Mr. Turner, he must have lacked imagination. Why, after reaching his initial goal, couldn’t he have built upon it? Why couldn’t he have decided to set a dream to earn $10 million? Or, like his son, why couldn’t he have set dreams about how to use that money in interesting ways? Or why couldn’t he have used the security that the wealth provided to dream new dreams in areas that went well beyond business or finances?
After all, you’re not allowed only one dream per lifetime! And your dream is not set in stone — you can build on it, revise it, scale it back, or enlarge it whenever you’d like!
A small, modest-sized, or even fairly large dream does not mean that you won’t be able to dream bigger and bigger as time goes on. What it does mean is that you won’t discourage yourself by dreaming a dream that seems absurdly unrealistic and unreachable. It means that you’ll get in the habit of reaching your dreams. You’ll expect success. You’ll create a body of evidence that you can and do reach your dreams — which will make it that much more likely that you’ll continue to do so…even as you dream bigger and bigger and bigger!
But you don’t have to start with $10 billion, shaking 7 billion hands, or walking on Pluto. You can start exactly where you are — by considering what you want, what inspires you, what you truly believe, and what vision fills you with passion.
And then you can experience the joy of moving toward this dream…and living it!
Is your dream big enough to inspire you but small enough to believe in it? How could you expand your dream to make it more inspiring (but still believable) or scale it back (at least for now) to make it more believable? Or, if it’s already in that “just-right” zone, how can you keep moving toward it and living this dream?
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[Photo by lindrik / 123RF Stock Photo]