During my speaking programs, I often give the audience a chance to complete an Adultitis intake. They are asked to answer a series of multiple choice questions about themselves in order to determine what stage of Adultitis they currently have (yes, there are multiple stages!). On a question that deals with dreams, the statement most people self-identity with goes like this:
“I do have dreams, but I try to keep them realistic.”
No one likes to admit they don’t have dreams. But no one likes to be called a fool, either. Or worse yet, a failure. After all, the bigger you dream, the more likely you are to fail.
Claiming to have realistic dreams makes you sound smart. It gives the impression that you’re going places, likely to succeed, and are not to be sidetracked chasing any childish, crackpot schemes. But one of those words is terribly problematic.
The word? Realistic.
Who’s to say what’s realistic or not?
Do we really believe that Orville and Wilbur Wright were deemed “realistic” by their fellow townsfolk while they used their bicycle repair shop profits to try and build the world’s first “flying machine?”
And just 58 years after the Wright Brothers’ success, was John F. Kennedy being “realistic” in 1961 when he declared that America would send a man to the moon by the end of the decade? (By the way, the first handheld pocket calculator would not be invented until five years after Kennedy’s speech.)
Meanwhile, is it realistic today to think that we will ever find a cure for AIDS or autism or Alzheimer’s disease?
When it comes to dreams, this world is suffering from a bigness deficiency. I don’t think there’s anybody alive who is dreaming too big. In fact, I’m not even sure it’s possible. I don’t need studies about how much of our brain capacity goes unused to tell me about the potential of mankind. Just look at examples. Whether it’s the invention of the artificial heart, or the guy who climbed Mount Everest blind, or the inspiring examples of Holocaust survivors. We are created to do things that don’t, at first glance, seem very realistic. We are created for greatness.
“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” — Thomas Edison
No matter how big you think you’re dreaming, it’s not big enough.
According to the dictionary definition, to be realistic is to be “interested in, concerned with, or based on what is real or practical.” Most dreams start out neither real or practical.
If a dream is realistic, it’s not really a dream. It’s a to-do.
If you want to be realistic, be realistic about your fears. After all, most of the things you worry about will never happen. But when it comes to your dreams, leave realism at home. At least at the beginning.
A good dream has to be kind of crazy. And improbable.
“Big dreams create the magic that stir men’s souls to greatness.” — Bill McCartney
If you’re going to dream, you might as well dream big. And if you’re ever accused of dreaming too big, then you can rest assured that you’re on the right track.
Just pretend you’re a long lost member of the Wright clan.
Kristin Handwerk says
Oh gosh that was good to hear. I was just having the conversation with someone about dreams….goals. I stated I could never see myself leaving the USA. That when someone asks if there was anywhere in the world you would like to go where would you go and my answer is “up north.” This is because I need to think realistically. I don’t want to be let down and would rather just not dream. It made me sad to realize that. Now I’m going to try to think bigger, not worry about money or time or my station in life, but dream.
Good for you, Kristin, for noticing why you said what you did. Dream on, girl!
P.S. If by “up north” you meant Santa’s place at the North Pole, you’re on the right track ;)
This was a great post, Jason. I particularly like the sentence
“No matter how big you think you’re dreaming, it’s not big enough.” John and I have been talking a lot lately about our dreams (with empty-nest not too far away) and you are really challenging me to dream bigger and better. Thanks for, once again, shaking me out of complacency.
Happy to do the shaking, Belinda. :)