Dream the Impossible Dream

“If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” - Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Following your dreams is never easy. When the going gets tough, do you ever wonder why you put yourself through the drama? Instead of pursuing a difficult-to-achieve aspiration, you could just be appreciating day-to-day joys or keeping up with laundry.

Seriously, why do we do this aim-high nonsense when it can end up being a form of torture? Why don’t we at least choose easier wins?

Because… if you hope only for a “decent” job, as an example, you’re setting the finish line pretty close to the start line. And while that lifestyle can seem satisfying, many folks who set no-fail objectives are not happy. Oftentimes, humans like to simply go for the sure thing to prop up their esteem and avoid failure.

Big dreamers may seem to suffer more, but what we know intuitively is what the scientists know through study -- goals have to be challenging to be both effective and satisfying. And we need our dreams to inspire, give purpose and define a trajectory for our lives.

That said, let’s get real about all this dream big talk. If you’re a 5 ft. 4 in. chubby 45 year old, trying to be a supermodel is more of an "aim nowhere," versus "aim high," sort of goal. There is a dreaming sweet spot. Too easy and it’s pointless. Too vast and it’s a pipe dream.

According to this Harvard study, our hopes for our futures, our goals, need to be “specific, meaningful and challenging,” and also need to take our skills and commitment levels into consideration.

The study isolates a few key ways to find that level of meaningful commitment and skill. One important way is to define our dreams by answering both how and why questions. Everyone knows that the “how” is important and that breaking larger goals into smaller ones is effective. But the why questions are just as essential since they measure both commitment and motivation levels.

In fact, first establishing the why of a dream helps you become a wiser dreamer because, “People are more likely to seek and receive feedback when they have a commitment to attain their goals.” And that matters because, as they also say, “goal setting is a skill,” and as such benefits from “collaboration and feedback.”

So, yes, dreaming big is more difficult. It’s harder to achieve, can feel daunting and opens you up to all kinds of possible failure. But it is also more satisfying, not just when achieved, but in experiencing the process as well. Settling is setting you up a potential lifetime of regret. Trying and failing is guaranteed to put regret to rest, even when risk doesn’t pay off.

Consider the wise words about dreaming from Carnegie Mellon professor, Randy Pausch, who turned his terminal cancer into an inspirational movement with a final lecture titled, Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.

He says, “The permission to dream is HUGE... Remember, the brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. They stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.”

Rocky Lewis
Rocky Lewis