To round out our January series about goal-setting, I want to address the topic of dreams.
“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.” – Gloria Steinem
I can sometimes be mistaken for a goal-driven person, because I make lots of detailed lists of things to get done and the order in which they should be accomplished and how my world will look different once they’re finished. But the truth is that actually, I just like to dream. Making these lists is a way of imagining I have infinite time, energy, and creativity to shape my world.
“Usually, when the distractions of daily life deplete our energy, the first thing we eliminate is the thing we eliminate is the thing we need the most: quiet, reflective time. Time to dream, time to contemplate what’s working and what’s not, so that we can make changes for the better.” ― Sarah Breathnach
One of my favorite writers and bloggers, Laura Vanderkam, offers an exercise called “100 Dreams” in her book 168 Hours (the premise of the book is that we all have sufficient time to pursue dreams that we really want). The exercise is simply brainstorming 100 dreams – large or small – that you have. Once they’re on paper, you can start to consider which ones are actually goals that you want to spend your precious time working toward, and which are the more fantastic dreams you’ll turn to in the unlikely event that you win big in the lottery.
“Just because you don’t know how on Earth something might be achieved doesn’t mean you shouldn’t allow yourself to really, really want it. That’s the essence of a dream, the realms of magic and of miracles.” ― Silvia Hartmann
Writing this list of dreams was a helpful exercise for me. My personality type is all about imagining wonderful, exciting possibilities, and less about actually following through and getting them done. Putting all my dreams on paper without any pressure to actually accomplish them did a number of things for me: It gave me a parking lot to put all those ideas floating around in my head, so they wouldn’t be so distracting on an everyday basis. It helped me organize those dreams into categories so I can see how they relate to each other (the sum total of all my house projects makes me think that perhaps I should just consider moving instead). Most of all, it helped me see that not all my dreams are big and grandiose and expensive and unobtainable; some of them are well within my reach, should I choose to devote some of my 168 hours toward them. While I may never “earn a PhD” or “hike the Australian outback”, I can “finish the quilt” I started when my daughter (now 9) was a baby and “improve my public speaking skills.” And the fact that “learn to swim” showed up 3 times in the list has motivated me to sign up for lessons.
“..and dreaming is very pleasant as long as you are not forced to put your dreams into practice. That way, we avoid all the risks, frustrations and difficulties, and when we are old, we can always blame other people-preferably our parents, our spouses or our children-for our failure to realize our dreams.” ― Paulo Coelho
This last quote really struck me. Writing down my list of 100 dreams forces me to accept responsibility for them. It will not be anybody else’s fault if I don’t achieve them, when all I need do is keep my promises to myself. At the beginning of the year, I selected 5 dreams that I would work toward this year (“blog” was an item on the list, btw). I was surprised to realize that I’m already pretty far along in accomplishing all 5, that 2 others were getting done without much conscious effort from me, and 1 of them happened serendipitously on its own in the first week of the year. It’s as if the act of writing them down and taking ownership has created the space and yes, the time, for me to work toward those dreams.
“In response to those who say to stop dreaming and face reality, I say keep dreaming and make reality.” ― Kristian Kan