You have a disfiguration or some form of obvious physical characteristic that isn’t the societal norm. Yet you dream of being a model or some other dream that requires society to see your physical characteristics completely different than they do today. But every day, you are looked at sideways, called names by kids who may or may not know any better, and treated like a disease or some charity case by society. Why can’t society see your physical differences more positively? Should you give up on your dream of being a model?
The thing is, dreams (strong desires/passions/big goals) can affect our mental well-being. Having unrealistic desires can leave us unsatisfied with life. Yet curbing our desires also sets limits on what we could potentially accomplish. How do we know how far to set our sights? How do we know what we can and can’t accomplish?
Is It a Dream? Or a Dream?
The first thing we have to understand is how bad do we want it. In many cases, dreams are just dreams, an imaginary world where we can go for solace or fun. For many of us, dreaming about being a millionaire is just fun imagining what we would buy, where we would travel, and what we would do.
But, we are willing to establish some dreams as a massive goal to fight for and accomplish. In both cases, dreams help us in some way. We have to decide for ourselves, however, if the dream is just a dream, or is there something about that dream we want to achieve?
Visualization -> Dream Meets Reality
The ‘secret,’ visualizing, and all the other self-help hoopla about thinking things into existence has some merits; they just do it in a barf-inducing way sometimes. When we ‘visualize,’ we are essentially having realistic dreams through imagination. For example, there are studies of basketball players performing left-handed shots via practicing and those who have imagined how the shots should feel. Apparently, the visualization group did almost as well as the practicing group.
We won’t take that to the bank, but there are some other, more obvious connections with ‘perception’ and ‘imagination.’ When we catch a ball, for example, we are *imagining* the path of the ball before it gets to us to make the best decision.
If we create a complex, realistic visualization of how we can achieve our dreams, we are essentially planning. Yes, visualization is a fluffy word for planning in our minds. If we can’t see the connection between reality and our dreams or end state, then we are missing important aspects and will have to think about whether our dream is reasonable or not. This doesn’t mean we eliminate things that we think are impossible; it means we see a possible path toward the impossible.
If we have a disfiguration and can’t see a reasonable way through hard work and smart planning to get on the cover of Vogue, then either we need to change our dream, or we’re lacking in self-confidence and can’t see other possibilities.
Ideally, we understand the dream enough to know if it is realistic or not. But when we have low confidence, we may have an inability to understand what we actually can and can’t do. The lower our self-confidence, the smaller our goals are to start. As we achieve smaller goals, our self-confidence will grow, and we can tackle larger and larger goals.
We want to establish that without a shadow of a doubt: when we set a goal, we can tackle it. It doesn’t matter how many times we fail; we have to build that confidence. If we don’t have the confidence yet, we have to start smaller.
If we want to be popular but have a physical characteristic that is ‘not normal’ for someone popular (and thus not confident), then we need to understand the details of what ‘popular’ means to us and use those details as smaller goals. Instead of just ‘be popular,’ how about get one person at a time to like us? We’ll find out if this is even a reasonable goal later.
Remove All Excuses
When we tell ourselves we’re going to do something but then always have reasons we didn’t or couldn’t, we are cheating ourselves. We may think that we are confident, but if we have excuses for why we couldn’t do something, then we may be confusing confidence with protecting our ego.
This is very dangerous because we can get stuck not achieving our goals, not moving forward, with constant reasons why we can’t do something. Often, this will be accompanied by anxiety and possible depressed thoughts if it lingers too long.
As with self-confidence, we need to set smaller and smaller goals until there are no more excuses. If we truly believe there’s a valid ‘excuse’ to not achieve a goal, then why are we chasing that goal?
There are times when we still want to achieve these big dreams, but we have valid excuses, or our visualizations and planning determine our dreams just aren’t realistic.
If we’re four feet tall but want to dunk on a regulation 10′ basketball hoop, that sounds unrealistic. What if we’re 60 years old but want to be the fastest runner in history? What if we want to sing professionally but can’t hold a tune? What if we want to be on the cover of Vogue but look like Shrek?
There are lots of things that we either have a major disadvantage with, or there is no known possible way for us to do. That is reality.
However, setting limits on what is possible is not something that we do. It’s not the Failfection way. We simply don’t know. There’s always infinity plus one. There was a time that it was thought to be impossible to run a mile in under four minutes. The first person to break that time had to have ‘unrealistic’ dreams. But somehow, they saw it as realistic for themself.
One of the best ways to stay in touch with reality is measuring our forward movement toward a goal. If we want to dunk, we figure we need a 45″ vertical and are currently at 25″. We need to see continuous improvement and measure ourselves against that goal.
When we no longer are improving, we have to change things up. This is the time most give up prematurely. When we are at this point, we have to truly know whether we have given it our all and attempted to adjust our methods of improving. If we ate, slept, and breathed improving consistently for a year or more and still are not improving, then it is time to adjust fire and change up our goals/dreams (of course, there is no real line in the sand, but don’t give up prematurely).
Journey > Finish Line
The right dream is one that emphasizes the journey while removing all limits. The person who broke the four-minute mile either thought it was possible or didn’t think about that particular finish line. We need our dreams to be a never-ending sequence of goals – a way to point in a direction but have no finish line. As we mentioned before, a path to the impossible.
The dreams of ‘being popular’ like Kendall Jenner, of ‘dunking’ like LeBron James, of breaking a four-minute mile, or of losing 100 pounds may be possible to some but not seem in the realm of possibility for others. But, in either case, they set forth a path that points in a particular direction. Whenever the dream starts to become a reality, we should start to ‘dream’ new dreams pointing us in the next impossible direction.
If we’ve taken all of the areas discussed into consideration and we can’t seem to find chasing our dreams fulfilling, there is a good chance it’s not really our dream. Perhaps it’s someone else’s dream: our parents, our family, our mentor, our coach, our friends, our political group, our church, our society, the ‘Jones,’ the popular person on Instagram, etc.
The never-ending list of influences we have on our lives cannot be stopped, but at least we can control our interpretation of them.
The bottom line is, it’s only natural that we don’t achieve all our dreams. They are never-ending, and when they do end, we should be creating another one. As long as they are our own dreams, our own path, and no one else’s, then we will find fulfillment in chasing them.