Being a single (minded) person with no dependents is a relatively easy life. It allows me to pursue things that I want to do, such as travel or taking time to learn to play an instrument. Every so often I hear someone say “Oh it would be my dream to do (something exciting) / go to (somewhere exotic) / have (luxury item) but…”. This sentence, usually saturated with envy, is normally followed by a long list of reasons why they can’t. Who would look after the cat? Where am I going to get the money? I haven’t the time. My arm hurts so I can’t. Usually, I reply with an emphatic why not? I find it mildly appalling that most people place limitations on themselves like this. Like I want to shake em and say “YOU CAN! YOU CAN GODDAMMIT!”. Obviously I don’t though.
Many people fall into a linguistic trap of expressing their innermost desires in terms of dreams. Now there’s nothing wrong with having dreams, I happen to be a bit of a dreamer myself. In fact, I think everyone would benefit from having some sort of dream to aspire to. The thing is, how do you turn a dream into a reality. By turning the dream into a goal. Let’s take a closer look at the language used and see if we can’t make a small adjustment to manifest the reality that you want.
Dreams, by the very nature of the word, are an ethereal, intangible concept that often have a soft, unfocused, hazy quality in the mind. We dream whilst we sleep and those night-time jaunts are rarely remembered in the morning with any real detail. The Collins Dictionary on my bookshelf defines the word dream as: 1.Vision during sleep. 2. Fancy. 3. Reverie. All of these are abstract qualities, like vapour they blow away on the slightest breeze. I put to you that you take your vague, airy dream and make it into a concrete, achievable goal.
I first became aware of the power of goal setting during my days working a sales job. Selling useless shit to people that don’t want to buy is rather tough, especially if, like me, you’re not particularly persuasive or charismatic. To try and make up for these deficits, I was introduced to the world of personal development in the form of a book called The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz (https://www.worldofbooks.com/en-gb/books/david-j-schwartz/the-magic-of-thinking-big/GOR001193686).
In this book the author outlines ways in which we can adjust the way we think in order to gravitate towards the life we truly wish to lead. Rather than playing out the same old narratives that we’ve been force fed since birth by a culture who’s primary mantra seems to be “Work, buy, consume, die”, the author suggests we can take ownership and become the author of our own tale.
On the subject of goal setting, the book advises us to engage all the senses – visualise an image of the goal, then saturate it with colour, light and detail. What does it feel like, does it have a texture? What can you smell, taste and hear when you imagine achieving that thing you’ve always wanted to. This sharpening of the image and adding all the sensory modalities takes ones dreams out of the realm of la la land. When applied properly your behaviour and actions begin to reflect this naturally and, almost like magic, things might start going your way.
Always wanted to travel? You might find yourself saying “Fuck it”, throwing caution into the wind and going and booking a flight, regardless of the fact you’ve no spending money saved up. The goal is now set and you start to save, cutting out all the unnecessary little expenditures that you used to pay no heed to. This level of commitment leads one to doing all that is required to make it happen.
Not to oversimplify a complex subject, because obviously chance plays a massive role here. Shit happens and you might not succeed. There’s a certain, very successful book called The Secret by Rhonda Byrne that posits all you need to do is believe and so you shall receive. This sort of hogwash is dangerous and more likely to result in failure and anxiety than success and riches. I simply suggest a foundation from which one can begin to take control of outcomes and have amazing things happen. Stop wishing and start doing.
One important caveat that is outlined in The Magic of Thinking Big is not to broadcast ones goals too widely. Counter-intuitively, rather than being propelled by the encouragement of our peers, the more people you tell, the less likely you are to realise your goal (https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/ulterior-motives/200905/if-you-want-succeed-don-t-tell-anyone). The reason for this is when we tell everyone and their aunt about that book you are finally going to write, you will often receive premature praise from well meaning loved ones who want to encourage us. This gives us a dose of endorphins and dopamine which makes us feel as if we had already achieved what we were aiming for. This makes it harder to maintain motivation in the long term and you may find your zest petering out during tough times. It’s the difficult things that are truly worthwhile.
What I do now, armed with this knowledge, is to tell just a few close friends what I am trying to achieve; friends who I would hate to disappoint; friends who I know will hold me to account and kick my ass if I’m being lazy, reminding me I need to put in the work.
I hope I don’t sound all preachy and “Yay me”, I just see too many people falling into this same trap, habitually posting on Facebook stuff like “New year, new me!”. The intent behind such a statement is to be encouraged in every sense, for me the meaning of life is to become the best possible version of yourself in order to help as many people as you can along the way. I just see so many that never really get the things that their souls yearn for and that is a crying shame. I also believe that to be one of the reasons people commit violent crimes – suppressed, unmanifested desires.
I wish for everyone to be the best they can be, to achieve their identity goals and fulfil their journey of self actualisation. I’m not suggesting it’s easy, especially if you have weighty responsibilities such as a business to run or children to raise. I’m simply trying to suggest an alternative way of approaching this issue. Responsibilities need not be a barrier between you and getting everything you want out of life. You just need to take your dream and make it a goal. Turn the fantasy into a target to hit. Even if you are unsuccessful in your endeavour, the knowledge that you put in the work and effort will go a long way to mitigating any regret you feel about it later on. Would you rather feel the regret of failure, or the regret of having never really tried?