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Rereading Don’s posts about tiny habits and obtainable goals, I was reminded of a movie quote that, at the time I heard it, quite honestly acted as a wake-up call for me. In the movie, the main character turns to a friend and asks a rhetorical question about living the life that’s around him instead of dreaming about a different one in his head.
At the time, I was stuck in an unhappy relationship, going to school without any goal or purpose in mind and working a ho-hum job. It seemed too overwhelming to deal with all of those things, so I mainly just daydreamed about my life suddenly changing for the better.
This line jumped off the screen and hit me like a glass of cold water. Instead of dreaming about huge changes instantly taking place, I needed to take whatever steps I could, however small, to improve my situation. I signed up for a poetry class at school, because I love poetry. I spent more time with friends, who gave me support and perspective on my relationship. I worked hard while at work instead of feeling sorry for myself. It took more than a year to make decisions about school, end my relationship and get a raise, and it was a difficult and often painful time. It was a necessary time, though, and my life changed dramatically for the better because of the small, simple changes I first made.
Dream Big, But Be Present
I still think about that movie line, because I think it applies to all of us, all the time. It’s not about giving up on big dreams, or never fantasizing. In fact, I think it means quite the opposite. I think it’s a reminder to be present in the life we are living, to pay attention and deal with what surrounds us so that we can make the changes we need to achieve our dreams.
Being a daydreamer at heart, this is something I still need reminding of. It’s great to dream big – it’s how we create goals for ourselves, how we flex our imagination muscles, how we envision new possibilities. What we need to remember, though, is that dreaming isn’t everything, and it’s up to us to make the changes necessary to bring those dreams to life. Sometimes those changes can seem enormous, or impossible, and it’s easier to keep a dream just that. Easier, yes, but not better. By starting with what we have, and working with what we’ve currently got, little by little we can get closer to those dreams.
Pushing Through To Reach Our Goals
Sometimes we have to do or deal with things that are unglamorous, tedious, and hard in order to take those first steps toward what we want. Pulling insulation out of walls, it can be hard to imagine living comfortably in your dream house. Walking around the block can seem like a drop in the bucket when faced with a surplus of pounds to lose. Researching loan options before going back to school or starting a business can seem overwhelming. Changing our mindset about these things can help us stay on track.
All of these things aren’t just preparation – they are part of our dream. They are what we need to do to make it happen, however far from our goal they may seem. When we stumble over the words of a foreign language we are learning, we are still speaking that language. When we run around the track at our local park, we are still running toward that marathon finish. Practice isn’t something separate from the goal; it is the journey towards its completion. Every step, no matter how small or commonplace, is a step in the right direction, a learning process.
I often have to break up my goals into ridiculously small parts so that I can conceivably achieve them, so that they don’t overwhelm me. It may take me longer than some to reach those goals, but that’s OK. It’s not a race against others, or myself. It’s taking the time to work at my own pace and deal with the life I have at hand, working at it and changing it little by little, and taking the time to step back and marvel at how far I’ve come.
[Photo Credit: Joanne]