A little boy went to his favorite fishing hole day after day where he watched an old, bearded and hunched fisherman cast his rod and wait. For hours the fisherman sat patiently until he got a bite. The boy noticed that the old man filled his bucket with only small fish. When he got lucky enough to catch a sizable fish, the fisherman would reel in his catch, admire it, examine it, measure it with a ruler and then throw it back. Day after day, the little boy witnessed the old man keeping only the smallest of fish while releasing the large ones. Finally, the little boy mustered the courage to ask the veteran fisherman why he threw back the prized fish and kept only the scrawny ones. To this the fisherman replied: “You see, my son, my frying pan at home is only 8 inches wide, so I can only cook up the small ones.”
We are all guilty of it. Dreaming small or worse, not dreaming at all. Too often, we convince ourselves that our lives can’t accommodate our dreams. We don’t recognize it as dreaming small of course. We call it being “realistic“.
I’m convinced that when adults ask little kids: “What do you want to be when you grow up,” they’re actually looking for ideas. Children really believe they can be the President, a courageous astronaut or a famous marine biologist. We encourage this creative thinking in our kids, but we censure it in ourselves. Landing that dream job may indeed require some dreaming. But how do you exercise that dream muscle after not working it out for so long?
1. Pay attention to what your gut tells you. Even the person who complains “I have no idea what I like” does know in her gut; she’s just not noticing. In feeling overwhelmed or dissatisfied or bored, the fewer moments when you feel good may be overlooked. Ask yourself: “What are you doing when you lose all track of time?” What do you do early in the morning or late at night when the kids are sleeping? What stories do you find yourself always reading in the paper? The ones about rescues, making money, crime? What magazines do you pick up when you’re waiting in the grocery line to checkout? What are the last two books you read and why did you choose them?
2. Think about which strengths boost your energy. Just because we’re good at something doesn’t mean that doing it makes us feel energized and eager to do more of the same. I’m good at doing laundry, but that doesn’t mean I like it. Be as specific as possible. “I feel energized when I meet with other salespeople and set the year’s sales targets.” “I feel energized when I stand up in front of people and give a clear and interesting presentation.”
3. List careers or jobs that you would love to have if you didn’t have to worry about money or qualifications. Go to imagination land and stay there for a while, uninhibited. Examine the list and see what the jobs have in common. The list can be the basis for further research and informational interviews with people in similar real-world jobs.
4. Ignore the naysayers. It’s not uncommon for friends and family to challenge or belittle your dreams of opening your own company, changing careers from engineering to advertising or even switching jobs. They may label you as foolish, selfish or wonder why you just can’t be satisfied with the status quo. While it would be nice if get everyone’s approval, it’s just not possible. Remember that many times when people tell you that you can’t do something, they’re not actually talking about you, but rather about themselves.
5. Remember that big dreams can be chunked into small pieces for execution. Too often we don’t allow ourselves to dream because we’re worried about how it would ever really happen. Most career change is incremental. Knowing that rather than leaping, you can change directions gradually can help quiet your practical side long enough to unleash your true creativity.
Remember that ”Dreams are the seedlings of reality.~ Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich