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Dream Big, Plan Small

Imagine if Barack Obama had told Michelle, ’I dream to be mayor of Chicago.’

Or if Usain Bolt said, “If I could just get into the Jamaican Olympic team. That would be amazing.”


Those are not small dreams. Anyone who did those things would be a high achiever. But these were men who  dared to dream big, bigger and then the biggest dream yet.  They had to dream of their destination before they got there.

Imagine something you would like to do. Then make it bigger. No, Bigger than that. Enormous. Elephantine! The biggest it could possibly be.

How does that feel?

I imagine there is a mix of excitement and anticipation mixed with a good dollop of fear disguised as pragmatism.

Dreams should be kept in check, right? I mean, we have to be realistic. Not everyone who dreams for being President or a multiple gold medal winner can get there. No sense in setting yourself up for disappointment.

There’s a nugget of truth in there.  I always feel sorry for the athletes who pull up injured in their heats or worse, the finals of their events. Their dream did not come true. But if they had not dreamt it? They would never have made it to the Olympics at all. They would be sitting at home on their sofas saying, ‘Better be realistic’.

Henry Theroux once said,

“In the long run men tend to hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.”

Big dreams are the best way to get to a big life.

But planning  small is the way to get there.

James Caan, multi-millionaire, start of Dragon’s Den and manager of over forty companies started his business life with his own recruitment business. It was him and a desk and a phone in a windowless office. His dream was to be successful enough to own a Rolls Royce Silver Phantom.

His initial plan? To earn enough to get himself a window. When he got the window he planned a room big enough to fit a colleague in because he was lonely looking out of the window by himself.

Some days, Usain’s plan was to get out of bed and go to the track and run up and down.

To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, there is a time to build castles in the air and a time to move a brick. The dreams are there as a destination to pull us forward to lead us in the right direction. But the daily tasks are to do all that you can do in one day and no more to get there.

Think of your outrageous dream. What is the smallest tiniest step you can do today to achieve that? Want an Olympic gold? Go and buy a pair of running shoes.  Want to own a business?  Ring the local chamber of commerce and ask for their advice leaflets.

James Caan got both a window and a Rolls Royce. But he is still investing in companies in pursuit of success.  Obama got a whole White House full of windows  but he is seeking a second term.  That’s the thing;  for successful people, the more baby steps they take towards a dream, the more audacious the dream gets and the more successful they get even if they never reach the ultimate dream.

How big dare you dream?

What is the first step you can take today, right now to get you nearer to do that dream? When you have done that, what will be tomorrow’s task?


3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Gwyned #

    I’ve really struggled with how to respond to this post. I have dared to dream, perhaps not big, but much bigger than I hoped to reach on many occasions. I have been delightfully surprised on how much sooner I reached those dreams even exceeded them. However, staring down 60, even with I hope many good years ahead of me, my desire is not to dream, but to relish the time I have to sit back and create. This has been my dream, the one I dabbled with, but never committed to, as I raised my family and then spent the next decade in care giver role to my father, my mother and her sister.

    Today, I finished a free motion quilting exercise. This afternoon I will continue to add to beads to my current WIP. Next week I will start quilting the next block in the series.

    Being able to live in the now; being grateful for being able to do so has been my dream for a long time. I am living my dream, albeit a simple one and it brings me great joy.

    November 9, 2012
    • plancrea #

      I am so pleased your life is as you want it. And you raise a point that is worth thinking about. I practice yoga and that teaches you very much to be in the present. How do we strike that balance between appreciating the here and now and planning for the future? After all even people who teach yoga will have had do plan and dream their yoga studio businesses into being!

      BTW I notice my phrase ‘seeking a second term’ gives away that I scheduled this post without appreciating when the election actually was. Which raises another point to about. Mit Romney dreamt big too but he did not quite get there. Whilst dreaming big we also need to work on building characters that can cope with disappointment I suppose.

      November 9, 2012
      • Gwyned #

        Here is the rub, Helen. Let’s say you are a practitioner of Yoga. You dream about becoming a teacher and owning your studio. You spend the next years training and certifying yourself as a teacher. After that you research and achieve setting up your own studio. Perhaps you expand it and open up several “local” branch studios. This process has taken 30 years. You are pleased. You would have been happy just to practice yoga and pass along what you learned when asked. You are content with your life. Do you really need to dream about bringing a national chain of yoga studios into fruition? Or is it OK to say, I am content, even proud of what I have achieved. That is enough.

        November 11, 2012

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