Dreams vs. Reality: Fearless Following

“How far would you go if you knew you could live your dream for sure?”

My dad often asks me this, and I often sigh reluctantly and sit in silence, pretending to think and hoping that the subject will magically change.  I wouldn’t be willing to spend two whole years building any sort of anything fully or partially related to dreams I would want to accomplish.  I have things to do in those two years!  Why would I want to spend them creating a business that would set me up for life financially?  Why would I want to spend so much time starting a chinchilla rescuing organization that is big and really reaches out when I just want to create something small so I have more time to go and do those five internships I am counting on getting in the next twelve months?

The next entry will elaborate a little more on the concept of “being realistic.”  Right now, let’s just talk dreams.

Dreams are meant to be accomplished, not stewed in your brain till you give up on them and move on to whatever complacency you were comfortable in before.   The reason we do this is that we have to work for them, and work hard; oftentimes, we become afraid of that hard work.  It’s natural – I’m not pointing any fingers, because I quite guilty of running from hard things myself.

But what if we were really willing to work for our dreams?  Could we conceivably believe in ourselves?  Or maybe we don’t actually.  Maybe it’s just too hard, or the dreams too far out to actually come true.  They are called dreams for a reason, right?

I don’t think so.

So how far would you be willing to work?  How far would you be willing to go?  How high would you climb?  How long would you take?  What would you do if you knew you could live your dreams for sure?

This is a two-step process, the dreaming and the working for the dream.  But you have to do the dreaming first, right?  Right.  Here are some things to keep in mind:

Make sure to dream big.  Don’t limit yourself.  If you want to be a famous author, singer, or movie star, dream it!  At the same time, don’t limit yourself in the opposite way – if you want to be a farmer, prep cook, or a ditch digger, those are not simple, undignified dreams.  Whatever YOUR dream is, dream it YOUR big and don’t let anybody else define it for you.

You’re never done – always doing.  I believe it’s a common misconception that there is a point in our lives in which we “accomplish our life goal.”  Yes, I suppose that applies if your one life goal is one very concrete and specific thing, such as skydiving with your true love over southern New Zealand; however, is that really the one and only thing that you have lived your entire life to do, and now you can live mundanely and be bored for the rest of your existence?

I am a “List o’ Goals” maker.  Things to do in my life are always popping up in my head, and I have to write them all down in order to keep track of them.  One thing that was on my list for basically my entire life was, “Be the one who holds the snake.”  To me, this meant that I, for once, would be the person holding the snake and showing him to other people, namely kids, educating them on how amazing snakes are, and, best of all, letting them pet the snake.  I had always wanted to do this because I was always that kid who got to pet the snake that the person was holding, but I couldn’t hold it myself/take care of it for legal reasons, of course.  As I grew older, I became more and more discontent with this role, and was determined that it shouldn’t be forever.  It was a big, important goal of mine, which I recently got to accomplish while working at the wildlife center this spring.

After working my first festival (where I met many little Jessicas), I came home beaming, talked forever about it, and wrote a very long entry in my journal.   And, while I felt very accomplished, it was then that I realized that this was not a finite point, or the end of this goal necessarily.  It was just the kick-off.  I wasn’t discontent; to the contrary, I felt amazing.

All of that to say, goals are very progressive, which is a little hard to see when just dreaming them up.  Some people like to plan out their goals in steps of smaller goals; personally, I like to just set a goal and see what comes of it.  “Live in a hostel” became a work-trade in the beautiful town of Ashland that planted the seed for an interest in the hospitality business.  “Work at a summer camp” became a dishwashing position at one of the freest and most accepting summer camps outside of unschool camps which wants to hire me back next year.  “Travel to cool and interesting places” became an undying wanderlust, all because I finally decided that maybe if I actually went somewhere for a change, the concept would become a little more like second nature.

Doubt is inevitable.  So, what are you going to do about it?  Cures for doubt are not one-size-fits all: different people have different ways of dealing with different types of doubt for different things.  But when it comes to dreams, doubt plays your biggest antagonist, so the first and best thing to do is nip it in the bud, and beware of it at all times, because like telemarketers and little siblings, it doesn’t just go away.

On that note: also beware that occasionally, doubt comes in the form of laziness.  Don’t be fooled.

Live in the moment, for the moment.  One thing I have to fairly regularly remind myself is to stay in the present.  Being the dreamer that I am, it is often easy for me to get caught up dreaming and planning and working out details that don’t need to be worked out for another three months, or packing two weeks in advance, etc.  I am very guilty of not living as fully in the moment as I could.  I am aware of it, and I am very aware that I end up not being entirely in the present, which could even consist of things I planned!  It’s a horrible habit that I have to consciously work on.  I’m not saying I’m never “there” or that I never enjoy things; I just have to be careful sometimes.

That said, I just want to remind everyone to “do what I say, not what I do.”  Half the things I plan don’t end up happening anyway, because I plan too far in the future, and then life happens, interests grow, fade, and change, and different and invariably better things actually happen.  Having some structure and planning of great things is okay, but flexibility is very important (ALSO more on that later).

All in all, never forget that you only live on this earth once.  The least you can do is not purposefully do something you would rather not do.  Like I said, in my next entry I will talk more on the subject of being realistic.  For now, just dream, for real.

Here’s an “assignment” (no cringing allowed!): in May when I worked on the Homeschool Leadership Retreat, one day Blake had everyone, staff and campers, write down a list of 100 goals that we would like to accomplish in our lives.  Believe it or not, it took me a good part of the day to think of 100 things, but I did it, and had lots of fun.

Some I have already accomplished now, like:

30. Dye my hair blonde (it looked horrible)

Some I have accomplished but I have to keep up, like:

89. Write much more often; every day if possible

Some I’ve technically done but were not concretely defined:

49. Get better at tango (since I made the list, I have gotten much better, but I still want to get even better than that).

Some I have recently made plans to accomplish in the very near future, like:

43. Go WWOOFing (the majority of what I will be doing next “semester”)

Some are set far in the future and rather depend on other people:

20. Be an old maid librarian who keeps a live albino Burmese python in the natural sciences section

And some I might actually not get to do, and I won’t be crestfallen if it’s the case, but I would certainly do them if I was in a situation where they would be possible:

64. Play classical guitar on a gondola in the Venice twilight

So here is what you should do RIGHT NOW, or over the next 24 hours or so as you have time: make your own list of 100 goals.  No less, though more than 100 is certainly acceptable.  And feel free to list some/most/all of them in the comments here if you’d like!  I would love to see what y’all come up with.

~Jess

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5 responses to “Dreams vs. Reality: Fearless Following

  1. interesting! Dave Ramsey and Zig Ziglar say that goals have to be in writing in order for people to be able to accomplish them. Nice article.

  2. Thanks! A much needed assignment. And writing them down certainly allows them to grow. I’ve been reading your blog lately and you’ve spoken some inspiring words. Much appreciated, like a breath of fresh air in a really big city.

  3. Love this quote which is relevant to some of the things you are saying in your post:
    Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. — Thomas Edison

  4. “How far would you go if you knew you could live your dream for sure?” – I LOVE that question! I want to write it on everything I own, just so I never forget it. I would/will go ALL THE WAY and never accept anything less. Even if it’s not “realistic” other people’s opinion, it’s the only reality I want, and I’m not going to give up on it.

  5. Pingback: Ask Jess: Fear of Success? | Life Without College

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