In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I thought it was a good idea to talk about dreams. The kind you have when you’re awake. Dreams give you something to look forward to, to strive for, to guide you in your pursuits. And they’re free! Free to create, to have, to hold, to comfort, inspire, drive, or give purpose. A dream doesn’t have to be world-changing, life-evolving, or history-setting. It could be getting a degree you never got. Opening a business you’ve been planning in your head. Traveling the world.
I’m a dreamer. Whether it’s a blessing or a curse, I have always dreamed big. Really big. I don’t have a problem thinking outside the box, my imagination works just fine. My problem is when the analytical side of my brain kicks in to calculate the rate of success, predict obstacles, and map out every nuance of my journey. I’ve talked myself out of doing a lot of things by worrying about the details. How do I know if those roadblocks would have ever been encountered? It’s one thing to be prepared for anything, but it’s another to try to get an advanced copy of The Future so you can solve every problem before you meet it. Not productive, or possible for that matter. Truly, the only thing standing in the way of my dreams is me. And that is not a nice thing to do to oneself. Our brains often get in the way of our pursuits by over-thinking, over-analyzing, and formulating percentages of success.
We convince ourselves these dreams will never happen. They don’t fit into our plan, or our schedule, or our reality. It’ll be too hard, too overwhelming, too time-consuming, too…something. So why try? We want a crystal ball to discover the answers to our questions or get a glimpse of what the end result will look like if we were to take this leap. But there’s no way to see into the future. Maybe our dreams will turn out different, maybe even better than we could imagine. Maybe we’ll be led to something entirely new. These nagging thoughts shouldn’t stop us from having dreams and–if we decide they are important to us–going for them. Nike’s slogan “Just Do It” is pertinent to more things than sports or fitness. In life, if you aren’t “doing it” your dreams will always be just that, figments of your imagination.
I think we need to take our dreams one step at a time. Yes, our lives probably have to change. We might have to make some initial sacrifices. We may hit roadblocks. Things might get C-R-A-Z-Y. But if our dreams are fueled by passion, determination, and endurance, crazier things have been done. There have been those, in America’s recent history, who had big dreams–outrageous dreams–were told they could never be achieved, and reached them anyway. “Impossible” feats such as ending segregation, women winning the right to vote, an African-American becoming president. We’ve been shown throughout history that the “impossible” is possible. You know the saying, “When you shoot for the moon, you land among the stars”? I believe that. Who knows? Perhaps we can actually reach our moon target. That unthinkable feat was accomplished in 1969. If President John F. Kennedy hadn’t envisioned that goal and put in into action, maybe it never would have happened.
Here’s another example of dreaming big and taking action: There was a young man who came to this country at the age of 21 with little money and even less English language knowledge. His dream was to become a star and get rich. He was determined and persistent and hard-working. At age 23, he became the youngest ever Mr. Olympia, and still holds the record. This self-made man became an international movie star less than 20 years later. And now he’s the governor of California. Who would have predicted that? I don’t even think Mr. Schwarzenegger had planned on where he is now. You might laugh at this example, but he really is a success story of taking action on his dreams, no matter what was said of his pursuits. With his election as governor (TWICE!), he defied the odds, pushed past the parodies and jokes, and accomplished the unthinkable. Sure, Ronald Reagan was an actor-turned-politician, and Jesse “The Body” Ventura was Minnesota’s governor, but who in their right mind would have foreseen “Conan the Barbarian”/”The Terminator” becoming governor of the most populous state in our country! Just sayin’.
Remembering that people, such as Martin Luther King Jr., have achieved the most challenging and hard-fought dreams can make our own dreams seem a lot more manageable. I’m making a pledge to myself–with all of you as my witnesses–that I will support myself in my journey to the moon. I will focus on my moon (dream), deal with the complications only when encountered, and not worry about what I should wear or what I’ll say (the details) when I get there. Hope to see you on the moon. Or in the “worst” case, among the stars.