Imagine you are leaving for a vacation. You get everything packed in the car and you are ready to leave, but you have no idea how to get where you are going, and you don’t even really know what the place your going looks like? So you just take off in a random direction and hope for the best..
As crazy as the above scenario may sound, it illustrates a common way that many people revert to in running their lives. See whenever we move to a new place, start a new job, enter a new relationship etc.. We start with the greatest of intentions, we set goals, we dream, we cast vision, and then life happens. We become crippled by stress and life’s circumstances and we quickly revert to this survival mode where we simply live from week to week trying to survive the next day, only focusing on what the next step is.
The core definition of life is change.. When something ceases to change, adapt, move, adjust it is dead. Ironically when we stop changing, and moving, and driving towards goals, our lives tend to become dead as well. Our tasks become remedial, and the events and experiences we once found joy in, tend to become empty, a mirage of empty hope.
What causes this emptiness? Personally I believe a big portion of our happiness thrives on a sense of purpose in life. When our lives has purpose, and we feel like we are making a difference, or accomplishing something meaningful, the quality of life goes up and we enjoy all aspects of our lives a bit more. Likewise when our lives are void of purpose and we feel like our efforts are in vain, the quality of life goes down and we find ourselves struggling to find happiness in even the most enjoyable of experiences…
So how do we go about maintaining a sense of purpose through life’s challenges and obstacles? I believe the answer is in dreaming, vision casting, and goal making…
It all starts with a dream. Dreaming is one of the few things in life that we are best at in our infancy, and progressively lose the ability for as we grow older. When I was 6 years old, I can remember having a knight rider big wheels, and dreaming that I would be able to jump it over a ramp and fly over my garage. After 4 hrs of ramp jumping in the morning I did not succeed at jumping my garage. I promptly went inside for lunch, ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and returned undeterred to continue to reach my feat.
I obviously never made it over that garage, and it’s the failure of some dreams, or “reality” that sinks into our lives and cripples our ability to dream. As some dreams fail in life, we caution ourselves and try to prevent ourselves from disappointment, and thus choke our our ability to dream. We look for realistic or practical options as opposed to daring or challenging ones.
The problem with this is two fold, first how many of life’s wonders have been achieved because people refused to give into reality, and practicality and dared to dream for the impossible. Would we ever have flown, or reached the moon, had someone not dreamed about doing so, long before it was ever possible? Second, if we only strive for what is within reach, do we not doom ourselves to a life of mediocrity?
I wish I could say that we lived in a fairy tale land where all dreams come true, but that is not the case. But the fact that some dreams fail does not mean that we should give up dreaming altogether. Even when dreams fail they often times take us farther than if we had never dreamed at all, and when dreams do succeed, we excel beyond what we could have imagined, we exceed our capacity, and we experience life at it’s fullest.
Dreaming is humanities way of gaining flexibility through stretching. Everytime we dream / stretch, we get more flexible, we are able to push ourselves further, and in turn reach greater distances than was possible before… Two places that are very dear to me are my shower and my bed. Quite simply because they are two places where I love to dream and dream daily… I commit myself to dreaming daily because it reminds me of what could ultimately be, it gets my eyes of of my circumstances. We humans LOVE to stare and dwell on the negative in life, and often times even exaggerate that which is holding us back… So it’s important to dream about the future to find freedom from the present…
Once you have dreams, the next step is vision casting. I like to think of vision casting as the qualitative bridge between dreaming and goal setting. Vision casting starts with thinking through the process between your present day self and the dreams you have laid out ahead of you. It involves thinking through the different scenarios that could exist, and laying out some ways to get from point A to point B.
Vision casting is the best of both worlds(dreaming and goal making), but plays a distinct role. Where dreaming allows us to come up with an end destination, and goal making allows us to determine our map from point A to point B, vision casting allows us to choose our method of transportation, and what we would like to see along our journey…
When I vision cast, I like to think of my ideal trip between where I am and where my dreams lie, without getting bogged down in the details. Here is a practical example… Let’s say my goal was to lose 20 lbs.. My dream would be me buff and ripped at a hawt 165 lbs of lean mean fighting machine. My vision casting would involve picturing myself in a regular workout routine, successfully eating healthy, and seeing progress along the way. My goal making, would be where I would nail down the exact process, what I was eating, and how my progress should take place.
If you jump straight from the dreaming stage to the goal making stage, I guarantee you will find the tasks often times to be way too daunting and want to throw in the towel before you start… Vision Casting allows us time to absorb the dream and sell ourselves on it, before we face the practicalities of it. In vision casting we put ourselves in the drivers seat of the dream and take it or a test drive….
Once you have dreamed the dream, and sold yourself on the vision of getting there, it’s time to set goals. We hate setting goals for lots of reasons, one goals provide accountability, and we hate accountability. Two, goals mean the opportunity for failure, and we hate failure. Three, goals stretch us, and we hate being stretched…. But if you want your life to amount to something extraordinary you must have goals. A person without goals is like a person on a boat that just throws up a sail and lets the wind take him wherever with no regard for where he is going.
When setting goals there are some keys to follow that will help you be successful in your dreams. First of all set obtainable goals. Just because your dream may be impractical, or “unobtainable” doesn’t mean your goals should be. We have all heard the adage, how do you eat an elephant? One spoonful at a time. The goal is progress not perfection, and as long as you are moving forward even in baby steps, you are changing and growing(remember the definition of life is change), and not growing stagnant.
Moral victories are important in life, as they serve of a reminder of the dream and the vision that lies ahead, while providing us with a short sense of satisfaction in the midst of life’s frustrations. By setting short practical goals along the way we give ourselves lots of opportunities for small victories. Goals should compare to a season of baseball more than that of football. Where in football a team can try to go 19-0, No team in baseball will ever go 162-0. Ever. The goal is to win more games than you lose. You will fail at goals along the way, but if you set small and frequent goals, you can win more than you lose and make progress.
Another key to goal making is having the honesty and humility to adjust your goals… My senior year of high school I missed the state race for cross country by 1.2 seconds. Headed into track season, my dream was to qualify for state once in high school, track being my last chance to do it. In my first meet of the year I ran the one mile race, and crushed it with a time of 4:39.09. In the first week of track it was the third fastest time in the entire state. We immediately set my goal as qualifying for state in the one mile and competing for a state championship. Over the next 8 weeks, I ran the mile 12 times, and all 12 times I finished between 4:39.09 and 4:40.25. The 70 second quarter mile splits had locked into my body, and I just could not break that time. Now being 9 weeks into the season, 4:39 was only a top 40 time and was not good enough to get to state. We had to make some tough decisions that week and decided my best bet was the 2 mile run. I switched my training up and set some goals for the last 4 weeks of the season, and ended up qualifying for state in the 2 mile, and fulfilling my dream.
You have to be willing to reevaluate your life and change goals as necessary. Sometimes things that are out of control may prevent you from fulfilling your goals the way you originally anticipated. Sometimes you might get into the process and find out it’s easier or harder than you first thought. But the key is to continue to reevaluate these goals, measure them against the dream and the vision and lay them out again accordingly…
With any dream you should be able to lay out and tell someone what the next couple steps of the dream are, even if they are down the road. I have some dreams that I don’t think I`ll see fulfilled for 10 years or more, and the first couple steps may take a year or two to take place, but I do know what they are and could spout them off to you without having to think about it.
Having said that, you do not have to have every single goal laid out from start to finish. This is where the vision casting is paramount. The vision casting tells the whole story from start to finish, but you can set your goals out a few steps at a time and determine them as you go…
Think you have all this down? Ask yourself a couple questions to assess where you are going in life. How many of the top 5 tasks on your to do list have to do with things that aren’t due or coming up this week? When was the last time you thought about your future or dreamed about where you are going? Do you have large chunks of your past that you feel were wasted and fruitless? Do you struggle with your esteem, or your ability to make a difference in this world? Do you feel like your life counts for something?
I am a firm believer that everyone on this earth has major things to contribute, and that everyone has the “Potential” to change the world. The difference between those who do change the world, and the mundane, is simple. It lies in those who know where they are going in life, and those who don’t…..
Dream for the impossible, strive for the impractical, and be willing to fail…