The First Step in Accomplishing Your Big Dreams

I’m a huge fan of the book Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. One of my favorite quotes in the book comes from the Queen of Hearts, in response to Alice’s assertion that “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen.  “When I was your age, I always did if for half-an-hour a day.  Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

I keep this quote framed in the front of my classroom. It’s a sentiment I’m eager to pass on to my students, particularly my graduating seniors, and I’m not the only one.  This same theme appears on posters in schools and pervades speeches given at commencements across the globe.

“Dream big.  Make your mark on this world.  Break limits and go beyond.  You are capable of amazing things.” 

We give a lot of lip service to this idea of achieving the impossible, but I’ve been reflecting lately on how much we actually believe in this idea. Of course, imagining incredible things is cute when you’re a child.  When my son says wants to be a superhero when he grows up, I find it adorable that he thinks, if he practices hard enough, someday he will be able climb buildings, fly or shoot fireballs from his hands.

But I’ve noticed that, when teenagers and adults believe “impossible” things, they are usually met with skepticism.  We tell our kids to dream big, but what we really want is for them to follow the “beaten path” and be safe and secure in their choices. When they tell us their fantasies, we ask if they can make a living in such a career path. The bigger the dream, the more skeptical we tend to be. In reality, we tend to believe that only the truly gifted or lucky few make a mark on this world.

I’ve felt this personally in recent months. I decided in November that I wanted to write a novel. Writing fiction is something I loved to do as a kid but gave up somewhere along the way. When I began doing this work with Pace, I started asking my clients to think about the things they loved to do as children, and I couldn’t help but remember my own love of writing from my childhood. Without much effort, I could recall the smell of a new notebook, the feel of a sharpened pencil in my hand, and the excitement as I envisioned the characters and stories I would create with my words.

Last summer, I decided to practice what I preach. I began by writing what I knew and I started blogging for websites like Scary Mommy and Pittsburgh Mom’s Blog. It was a great way for me to get my feet wet, since I felt comfortable writing about my life as it is now. And then, in November, I got an idea for a novel. At first, I was scared. I haven’t written fiction since I was in elementary school and I haven’t trained to write fiction ever as an adult. But something in me told me I had to write down this story, whether anything became of it or not.

One of my fears, of course, from the time I started writing my novel, was that I wouldn’t be good enough. My second fear was that people would think I was crazy to imagine I could write a best-selling book.

In order to conquer my first fear…

I began to write, despite my lack of confidence in my abilities. I am not done with the novel, but I am about two-thirds of the way through with my first draft and, in addition to boning up on my knowledge of best practices in fiction writing, I’ve enlisted a colleague who teaches creative-writing to give me feedback.

In order to conquer my second fear…

I dove in headfirst, sharing with friends and family my plan. I wasn’t surprised by peoples’ reactions, but I did take notice that almost everyone I shared my plans with assumed I was joking until I explained that I was, in fact, really writing this novel. At that point, most people said encouraging things but with an undertone that generally indicated they thought I was dreaming.

I realized that in the past, I too have been guilty of doubting others’ big dreams. When people I knew spoke about quitting their jobs and traveling the world, writing a sitcom pilot or buying a mansion, I never took their dreams literally; I always assumed they were imagining a different life that they didn’t truly plan on pursuing. After all, “practical, clear-headed adults don’t make irrational choices like that.”

This paradigm shifted for me as I started doing personal development work with Pace and started embracing my own big dreams. Now, when people communicate their fantasies, I’m more inclined to ask what steps they are taking to make it happen, instead of balking at their audacity to imagine a life bigger than what they now have. In writing my novel and sharing my big dream with others, I’ve realized how unique that perspective really is.

I’ve come to believe that we all probably take ourselves and our choices a bit too seriously at times. Maybe you aren’t ready to dive in and start pursuing a dream, but I would encourage you to at least take the time to imagine something impractical as being not so.

Where would you need to start to make that big dream a reality? After all, allowing yourself to believe in something impossible is really the first step.

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