If there were ever a time to do it, to make a difference in your life, to embark on something worth doing, it is now. Not for any grand cause, necessarily, but for something that tugs at your heart, something that’s your aspiration, something that’s your dream. You owe it to yourself to make your days here count. Have fun. Dig Deep. Stretch your mind. Be determined, and DREAM BIG!” – Anonymous
here was a time in my life when I felt like I lost the ability to dream – it just didn’t seem practical. My responsibilities filled my days with tasks, tasks that were important and tasks that I chose. Resources were stretched – it was difficult to be creative and think outside the box of our budget. And, at the end of the day, my discretionary time was limited and my energy was low. Then one day I received a flyer in the mail for a dome shaped houseboat and it captured my attention.
I’ve always loved the water and the idea of a little pod on the water in some quiet cove captivated me. It was fun to imagine trying this concept out, and although I never did it, I enjoyed thinking about the possibilities. This led me to realize that somewhere along my life path, I stopped dreaming. I can remember that as a child, I had no issue with dreaming about the improbable and sometimes the impossible.
The question that bubbled to the surface for me was, “When did I stop dreaming?”
Around that time, my life circumstances changed in a way that shifted how I spent my time. As I moved from a virtually full time volunteer position for a non-profit, to a paid position in a for profit company, I was challenged in unexpected ways. I had the opportunity to step into a work role that was unknown and untried. I noticed that as I moved forward and took on new responsibilities, I began to dream again and think about bigger, bolder goals to support my big dreams!
Sometimes we need to step outside the normal confines of our lives to be open to the grand possibilities that draw us. How can we do this periodically, to see where we may need to expand our thinking?
Mike Allsop shares candidly on a TedXAuckland talk about the big dreams in his life. From his childhood dream of becoming a pilot for Air New Zealand, to climbing Mt. Everest, and to running 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents – these are dreams that he committed to and achieved over time by making a plan, breaking it up into small achievable parts (goals) and tackling them one step at a time.
When we commit to big goals that move us out of our comfort zones something happens that benefits us and others. We lead by tapping into creativity, connecting with others to ask for help, modeling a willingness to take a risk, and inspiring others to do the same.
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
– Walt Disney
One of my big dreams was to move into a role that focused on developing leaders and, at the time, there was no position in sight. There were, however, several big goals that supported this journey towards my dream. I began by investing in my own leadership growth and skills development. At first, I was willing to take on new responsibilities and stretch beyond the comfortable in my current position, thanks to the encouragement from my leaders. Then, I was a part of a year-long program within my organization for developing leadership skills. This led to another goal, which was to attend an intense leadership week, to increase self and others awareness, and to dive deeply into the issues that kept me from growing in my leadership. Finally, I pursued a Business Coaching Certification at NC State, which unlocked new opportunities for working with leaders. Each one of these goals were instrumental in moving me closer to my ideal role. Remember to commit to small steps (goals) to support big dreams.
One of my big goals, after having a double partial knee replacement, was to participate in a 10K race. When preparing for my first race, I followed a weekly plan for increasing my mileage wisely and was part of a team that met every Saturday morning to train. During the last weeks of preparation, we participated in a 10K that was far more rigorous than the real event because of its substantial hills. As we began the last mile, we had a significant hill to climb. When we arrived at the top, I was horrified to discover that there was one last hill between me and the finish line. My walking partner that day was a 17-year-old football player who, when I groaned and exclaimed, “I can’t do one more hill, I’m done,” shared his perspective with me.
He suggested, “Don’t set your eyes on the top of the hill. Instead, just look to the five feet in front of you and keep moving. Before you know it, you’ll get to the top.” That experience has resonated often for me in the last decade. When I have a big goal ahead of me, a mountain that seems too tough to climb, I remember to break it down into doable chunks to ensure my success.Remember to focus on the next steps, not the whole journey.
With every dream we have and every goal we commit to, we have a myriad of choices along the way. We get to choose when to begin, what our strategy will be, what resources we need for support, and how we will break down our goals into small steps on a path that will move us towards our dream.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
– Lao Tzu
What will your first step be? Where do you need to dream bigger? What small steps can you take to move towards that big goal? How can you change your focus to encourage yourself to persevere when the path is challenging?