How can you dream bigger and better?

I attended a Big Dream Gathering event recently where people elected to post their dreams to a wall. These dreams essentially encompassed their goals in life. Big things they wanted to realize. But I was shocked. Many of the dreams I saw were not really big dreams, or even admirable goals…but aspirations to mediocrity. Safe bets. These posts were dreams of University of Wisconsin students who chose to attend a Big Dream event. They were certainly qualified to be big dreamer (we all are) and they had already achieved a big dream by enrolling at a great institution like the University of Wisconsin in Madison, one of the country’s best places to live. Needless to say through, many of their dreams now were hardly as big.

The first dream I saw on the wall was to “help my friend get a job in Madison.” The dream sheet said that the friend is getting a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering. Should be pretty doable to get a job with that degree. The next dream was “to graduate.” Pretty doable…more than 85 percent do. The third I saw was the most alarming…”pass Math 222.” The dream wasn’t to get an A or even a B…but to pass. A grade of D would mean dream realized. These students can dream bigger. They have a lot greater potential than the dreams they elected to share. But what I was noticing was that many did not have a very long term view of their own lives…their dreams were things that could be realized within the year. Also, the dreams seemed too small to fail instead of too big to inspire. Plus, many of the dreams were not specific or unique…they were trying to hit the mean, be normal, do what everyone else does, and be a part of the herd.  But one thing we’ve definitely learned here in the state of Wisconsin: If you are just part of the herd, expect to get milked!

Later on in the evening, it occurred to me that many of these people had actually already realized big dreams. If you are accepted to and attend the University of Wisconsin, or any great university, that’s a big dream! That’s something you look back and take pride in your entire life going forward. From what I could see, many of these people who had achieved a laudable dream like this were already failing to continue dreaming big—to push the pedal to the metal and give their own vehicle some acceleration in life. No. Instead, they were shooting for the mean—to be normal.

I talked to a guy I met there, Kevin, who was achieving his dreams. He grew up on the southside of Chicago, loved microscopes as a kid, and wanted to be a scientist and fight cancer. So, as a student, he sent 200 inquiries for internships and got one. He dreamed big and took action…and he is. We talked about the kinds of dreams we saw posted on the wall and both agreed with the desire to “fit in” and be normal as well as the short term view that people had vs. the long term view or vision necessary for dreaming big dreams.

I am aware that a dream like “graduate from college” is actually a very big dream when compared to the population of the world. Less than 7% of people in this world do! The point is that, once you get to college and graduate from college, you need to keep dreaming…and dreaming big…and in our time of rapid change and acceleration..dreaming the things that may not even seem possible.

Also, I saw some of the BIG DREAMS were things I’d actually done…they seemed really big while I was a mediocre high school student in a small rural town, but while I was doing them they were easier than they seemed. Some of these students expressed their dreams to get a Ph.D., start a business, or reach one million people through their own work. And I’ve realized those dreams myself, for instance. This made me see that I can go bigger…and that the big things weren’t that big when you actually are doing them…they seemed big. AND, that I want to help people also achieve these dreams, dream bigger and better in their life, and take action towards those dreams. I am grateful to have learned the art of dreaming and achieving while I was in college. I hope others can also learn it at that critical stage. This event was a start but they need to seek on their own now.

Go wild. Some of the dreams I had require a medical breakthrough or new technology to be created…but at the rate of technology acceleration, this is quite possible and probable. So, we need to dream bigger and more unrealistically because reality is becoming unrealistic.

A motivational speaker that inspired me when I started my dreaming journey, Les Brown says, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” It’s OK to not achieve a big dream…but you will achieve more meaningful things on a journey to a big dream than if you didn’t have a dream or one so small achieving it is almost guaranteed. Some may not go for big dreams because they feel like they would need to achieve it. If they didn’t achieve it, it would be a failure. No, that’s not how this dreaming business works. Dreams not achieved are not failures because when you pursue a dream who end up oftentimes achieving something worthy (maybe different, but better than your original dream). You also learn new things you can apply in your next round of dreaming and doing.

What are some of your big dreams? Things that are BIG (maybe don’t even seem possible) and far out into the future. How about 5 years from now? 10 years? 20 years? With the acceleration of opportunities maybe your 20 year dream could be realized in 2 years? You never know unless you dream and do.

We need to learn how to dream bigger and better. How can your dreams leverage the best of you…your specific strengths, passionate interests, values, and what the world needs? Many of us were never taught how to dream for the future…much less how to strategically work toward realizing a big dream. How do you learn that? By doing it. Let’s do it now. Grab some paper, your favorite note-taking app on a mobile device (I like Google Keep), or your computer.

Take action to learn to be a bigger and better dreamer.
Start small. Take dreaming action now.

What is a thing you could do now to dream big? Here’s an idea. Spend 3 minutes with your eyes closed visualizing the future you want in 5 years. Describe that future vision in a note or draw it out on a sheet of paper.

Next, based on that future vision, write each specific dream that is a part of that future vision out on it’s own note or sheet of paper. Get specific and go big. What do you have now and what do you need to do?

Now, what is something you can do today, a tiny thing, to start momentum and action towards a big dream. Start small and take action again. What can you do today to move towards that dream? Do it. Dreaming and doing takes courage. Dreaming and doing with courage leads to more courage and more dreaming.

For now…just get started visualizing the future and dreaming big and specific! We go deeper into this process in our “design thinking your career for your life” online program. We’ve brought this program to universities across the country and I’m motivated to help more people (students and anyone) who can benefit from dreaming bigger and better! Our world needs this now more than ever.

Reflect on this…and let us know in the comments!

What do you think the state of big dreaming is today?
How have you learned how to dream bigger and better?
How can you be strategic with taking action on your dreams?

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