Little is more monotonous and platitudinous than the phrase, “Dream Big.” No doubt every few minutes someone on Twitter repeats or paraphrases the saying with emoji-filled sincerity. But what does it mean? Is it useful to think and dream big without a plan or framework for success?
Granted, many will interpret “dream big” in different ways, but generally speaking, the idea is that the stars are the limit. “Don’t let people downsize your vision when you could otherwise achieve so much more,” they say.
But the problem is not that most people don’t dream enough or don’t know how to have a bigger idea. The popularity of celebrity entrepreneurs with world-changing ambitions and larger-than-life plans is sufficient evidence that people do dream big. Arguably, people envision greatness all the time while they sit on couches and marvel at what others accomplish.
Perhaps they even imagine themselves achieving similar feats. But most people are distracted by some vision of what success looks like. Quite frequently the picture of perfection is so abstract and centered on externals that there really is no way to know how to get there.
Dream Big with Focus
One of the best ways to stay focused is to write out dreams and objectives and to brainstorm logical paths to achievement. If you can’t find a logical way to achieve something, then logically, you can’t achieve it. That’s not to say you have to know how to get from Point A to Point B in all circumstances. It’s just to say that you need to be able to hypothesize (and you need to be able to kill unrealistic dreams).
We’re a generation that prizes scientific inquiry and advancement but too often treat our hopes and plans like they are outside of the logical realm. That’s exactly how to make them unachievable. But the sooner we bring our dreams down to reality, the sooner we can analyze our situation and determine what to do next.
Dreamers are a dime-a-dozen. Those who can execute a plan by staying motivated and motivating others to get on board and stay on board are far fewer.
Other People’s Dreams
One of the most important and yet hardest life lessons to truly comprehend is that you need to focus your plans based on who you are. You aren’t your favorite entrepreneur or well-known personality. You have different skills, different capacities, different limitations and weaknesses. And all of that is an asset if you acknowledge it but a liability if you ignore it.
If you accept that your vision of excellence and achievement will be different than someone else’s, you are already way ahead of the pack. Don’t obsess over what others plan to do. Focus on what makes sense for you to do.
Perhaps this sounds cynical compared to the usual “Do whatever you want; achieve whatever you will” kind of talk. But that’s not because I want to sound like a naysayer. It’s actually because realism is a key ingredient to excellence, as is planning, review, and repeated incremental improvement.
The hotelier who only wants to make guests feel welcomed but has no actionable plan will never achieve his goal. The tech CEO who wants her new cloud offering to receive 5-star reviews has no hope of realizing that ideal without meeting targets consistently. The parent who wants their child to see them as their biggest supporter can’t only dream of being a super-mom or a hero-dad. They need to put detail to their designs, understanding what that really looks like. Then they need to begin to put one foot in front of the other and begin to climb that mountain.