There are two ways you can die. You can stop breathing or you can stop dreaming.
It’s unhealthy not to have dreams and aspirations. The bigger the dreams, the more alive and excited you are. Dreams are good for us. Dreams tell us who we could and would be, it we have the courage to listen and pursue our desires. It’s a good mental health practice. There is a high correlation between the lack of dreams and depression. We stay stuck when we don’t dream big enough. We don’t allow ourselves to see all the wondrous possibilities that life has to offer.
Thinking big can help put new projects into a less overwhelming perspective. As a beginning writer, I allowed myself to have the goal of writing a book a year for the next 10 years. This made the current book writing project less scary, more manageable and reframes the present endeavor as merely a stepping stone to greater things.
A book that I really find stimulating is The Wish List by Barbara Ann Kipfer. It lists approximately 6,000 wishes, fantasies, hopes and dreams. I periodically go through it and check the entries that intrigue and excite me and ask myself “why not?” and “if not now, when?” It’s an excellent source of inspiration. I often add checked entries to my own “things that I want to do” list.
In career counseling sessions, clients’ self-imposed limitations surface all the time. We have difficulty facing and confronting our own potential. Dreams force us to consider abandoning the comfortable ruts that we have settled in as we travel through life. We need to understand and acknowledge how hard change is. Staying stuck is a learned defense mechanism. Change (new thoughts, new action, new behavior) is uncomfortable, especially in the early stages. If it were fun, change would be easy instead of a struggle and everyone would be doing it. Most people shy away from change unless it’s forced on them by circumstance. It’s a small percentage of people that truly examine their lives and decide to undertake action that will lead to significant change. The vast majority of people let inertia rule. They follow the path of least resistance.
The avoidance of change, on a short-term basis, makes sense. Why change? Why do this sometimes painful soul searching and take action that makes you feel uncomfortable? But on a longer-term basis, staying stuck creates a feeling of staleness, a feeling that your life really isn’t working and something is lacking. Once you gain awareness about this and understand the dynamics of change, you learn to take action and make decisions that may generate initial discomfort, but in the long term allow you to grow and have a better life.
I encounter many competent, highly skilled and talented people who are being paid far less than what their talents are worth on the open market. When confronted with this reality, they defensively say “But that’s what I’m worth” or “That’s what I’m currently being paid” or “I’ve never made more than this amount.” They refuse to recognize their potential, because to contemplate their potential requires unsettling thoughts, unfamiliar behavior and new patterns that cause discomfort. If I encounter this roadblock with a client, I always say, “Humor me, lets pretend you are worth a lot more than you are currently making. What would your resume look like and what would you do differently?” These types of questions force us to think, to view ourselves differently and to consider our potential in a real way. This awareness can lead to newfound confidence that allows one to pursue higher paying and higher quality jobs. It usually results in the procurement of a position in which the pay is more in alignment with the individual’s true worth. As Les Brown says, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you land in the stars.” We are highly programmable creatures. If you believe you are only worth a certain amount, you are right; it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. On the other hand, if you really believe that you are worth substantially more, you are also correct.
Be aware of self-imposed limitations and ceilings that inhibit your growth and career advancement. When I decided to adhere to the philosophy of doing what I love and trusting that the money would follow, I honestly could not initially see how I could make more than a meager income. I set very low financial goals for myself. I discovered that when I reached a goal, I plateaued at my self-imposed financial ceiling and remained stuck there. I decided to think big and increase my financial goals by a factor of 10. What I discovered was that I again encountered the same problem. I reached my goal and plateaued. In order to continue growing, you have to continually raise the bar and set higher goals.
It’s important that your goals are consistent with your values and definition of integrity or your success will deplete rather than fulfill you. I’m not willing to abandon the path that provides passion and creativity to make an excessive amount of money. Greed (pursuing what you really don’t need) creates rather than solves problems.