I have a problem with dreams, those pie in the sky visions that we’re told to have when we are little. “Dream Big!” The posters of our classrooms read. “Never let go of your dreams,” we’re told after our first failures–like tripping at a ballet recital or losing the big game. We’re taught to dream big, follow the rules and to keep “trying”. But we are rarely given the tools we need to actually reach those dreams. There is no curriculum for recovering from a failure or a seminar to show you how to chart your way to success. We’re taught to dream but not to properly goal set.
I loved school. I loved going to a place where I knew the rules, and how to work them, and how to succeed within them. I understood exactly what my goal was– to get good grades, to get to college, to do well in the eyes of the adults around me. And I did that…for the most part. Enough to get through college at least. It wasn’t until I graduated and put school behind me that I noticed that I hadn’t learned a lot about achievement. Without a pattern to follow, I didn’t know where to begin. Where do I go from here? I wondered.
Recently, I started applying certain goal setting tactics and organizational skills that I have acquired through working full time and living alone, to my “dream” of writing. It sounds so silly but I hadn’t really thought of writing as a goal–it was a thing I did, I thing I wanted to do badly, a thing I wished, and wished would happen to me. It was…a dream. I had made goals out of so many other things–fitness, my work, reading, training my dog– but rarely to writing or with any true conviction.
I’ve been writing without any goals of publication, no targets, no deadlines, just self-motivation to get better. Two weeks ago I catalogued every single piece I’ve been working on for the past year or so, and where it currently stands in the process, in an Excel spreadsheet. It never occurred to me to list out my writing projects like I do with my work projects. The moment I was able to see every piece in progress in a snapshot, I knew that I have been wasting my own time. Every day. For years.
That’s a hard realization. It’s even harder when you decide you’re going to share with a wide readership that you’ve been mucking up your writing life for years. But I felt I had to. When we’re off busy dreaming of what our lives could be, we forget that we can make active change to get there. Dreaming is so easy to do because it takes little energy. Goalsetting takes work. And it’s scary because you can see where you are falling behind… I fall behind a lot. Though I never let falling behind with my other goals keep me from moving forward. If I eat pizza, I still workout. If I let the dog slide with certain rules, I get back to them the next day. So why oh why wouldn’t I do this for my writing?
Moving my biggest dream to my goal list has been hard. It’s been weird. I’m not very good at it. I make mistakes almost constantly. But I’m keeping it there…because I’m stubborn and I like keeping lists.
I have to ask you now… What’s something you think about every day, something that’s stuck on your Dream list, something that could change your life? Have you thought about putting it on your long list of to-dos? Could you *gasp* move it to the top? I know we weren’t trained to operate this way, to take perfect dreams and make them real (because then they aren’t perfect anymore), but I’m thinking you should try. Your dreams are bored.
(PS – I’ll be sharing some super cool tactics in the coming weeks to help get you there.)