Adapted from Yes You Can: The Inspirational Kick in the Pants You Need to Take Control of Your Life and Go After Your Dreams
As my nephew Jason prepared to begin his first year of college, his thoughts naturally turned to potential careers. “What would you really love to do?” I asked.
Jason thought for a moment before replying, “I’d just like to have a job I don’t hate too much.”
Did he really just say that?
After a little auntie-to-nephew pep talk about the importance of shooting higher than “one notch above misery,” we got to talking about his great love of baseball.
When I suggested he look into an internship at the minor league baseball stadium just 10 miles up the road, it was clear I’d tapped a Big Dream.
It takes not one ounce of energy more to dream big than it does to settle.
Settling is the emotional equivalent of idling at a red light.
A Big Dream, though, is like soul fuel to your inner engine. A Big Dream jump-starts real change.
I received an email from a guy named Jerry Bennett – a 50-year-old airline employee who, in his words, “dreads” going to work.
His real life’s pleasure, is carpentry. Jerry writes…
“Whether it’s building a house, cabinets or whatever, I get lost in the project. I can sit for hours and watch [the PBS program] This Old House.”
Adding, “So many people are trapped in jobs they only tolerate. I guess the fear of failure is our biggest problem, I know it is mine.”
I could practically hear the sigh on the other end of the modem as Jerry ended with a wistful, “Wish I could get the courage to make the change.”
Something in Jerry’s message told me fear wasn’t the whole problem. Part of Jerry’s “stuckness” came from the fact that he was wishing rather than dreaming.
Wishing is passive.
We wish for things over which we are powerless.
We wish we’d win the lottery, that we were taller, that the waiter would hurry up.
Oftentimes wishes are tinged with regret as in, “I wish I’d…”
Dreaming is different.
Dreams are active. They invite possibilities. You can see a dream.
That’s why Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t say, “I have a wish.…” Dr. King knew that dreams are visual, positive – and contagious!
Jerry is pretty lucky really.
Lots of people don’t have the foggiest idea what it is they’d love to do. Here’s a guy who’s plugged into his passion and yet is letting something as natural – and manageable – as fear stand in the way of vocational heaven on earth.
The first thing I did was to remind Jerry of what he should really be afraid of, namely, spending the next 15 years dreading his work.
Next, I suggested some steps he might take to turn his passion into his livelihood like: teaching carpentry classes, writing a how-to-build-it column for the local newspaper, creating his own television segment featuring improvements he’s made to area homes (This Old Carpenter?).
None of these ideas would require Jerry to quit his full-time job right away. Each, however, has the potential to nudge his dream to the next level.
To my surprise, the idea that most intrigued Jerry was also the one most would consider to be a Big Dream – the local television show.
When he told me about a friend with a passion for video production who he could enlist to launch a joint venture, I knew Jerry just upgraded his wish to a dream.
“I am ready to start following my dreams…” he wrote. Adding, “I sure want to go out doing something I enjoy.”
That same week I had the pleasure of talking to a man with a wonderfully Big Dream. Lynn Johnson lives in his hometown of Erie, Penn.
His old neighborhood, he said, has changed a lot. What really concerns him is how few positive outlets there are for the young people there.
Lynn’s goal is to turn a boarded-up house into a multi-faceted arts program for kids.
street” complete with murals and community gardens.
As Lynn talked, a clear picture of a young people’s arts street came into view.
My mind raced ahead to corporate sponsors from Mellon Bank to Burpee Seeds.
If Lynn could make me see his vision, he could make the corporate grantors see it too.
I even pictured Lynn proudly showing off his “arts street” on Oprah!
When he said he’d traveled to the capital to look into sources of state funding and has a friend who may go in with him on buying the house, I was hooked.
“If you really want this dream badly enough,” I told Lynn, “there is no doubt in my mind it will happen.”
By the long pause on other end I think he was a little taken aback by such a strong vote of confidence from a complete stranger.
But the reason I believed in Lynn was simple. It wasn’t just his passion for his community or his clear vision of how it might be different.
I believed that Lynn’s Big Dream would succeed because by taking action he’d set his dream in motion. And once a dream gets rolling it’s hard to stop.
What about your dream? Maybe all you really know is you need to make a change. That’s ok.
The important thing is to bump “make change” up a few notches and dream BIG.
If you dream of working at home, imagine doing it on an island or on a mountain top.
If you have multiple passions, picture being able to enjoy them all.
You may not get everything you want, but one thing is certain: you’ve got a lot more to lose by shooting low than you do by shooting high.
A year has come and gone. Next year will be here before we know it.
Where in your dream-building process do you want to be this time next year?
No further along?
Laying a foundation?
Living it fully?
If you opted for either of the last two options, expand your dream and reach for the stars.
Then, one day at a time, honor your dream with action.
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