Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Decaffeinated Dreams

Dreams differ from the everyday projects and tasks we accomplish. Don’t get me wrong a clean house, a homemade dinner, a freshly painted room and a thank you card written all bring a sense of accomplishment. I’m also not saying that these come easy. Sometimes the bathroom gets cleaned a few days later than it really should and other times popcorn seems to be the only thing I can manage to make for dinner. Everyday projects and tasks can feel just as daunting as the dreams we have inside but we find a way to get them done sooner or later. But many of us struggle to see our dreams become reality.  Most of our dreams are bigger than we are. They don’t come easy. They require thought. They demand perseverance. They frustrate us. They excite us. They necessitate sacrifice. They develop character. They change lives. They are worth it all.

Daydreaming about our dreams affect us much like a vanilla latte with an extra shot of espresso, first a high with a low not too far behind. Once the high wares off the low sets in as we consider the huge gap between where we are and where we want to be. Doubts in our ability, doubts in our calling, and doubts in our significance flood in trying to pull us down from the places we just imagined ourselves to be. How can we avoid the lows, ride the highs, and see our dreams come alive?

Dreaming big but starting small

Often times we dream big, try to start big and end with a big disappointment. We envision ourselves singing before thousands or picture our first book on the shelves of Borders. We see ourselves running a non-profit that changes the lives of millions. We see ourselves a few dress sizes smaller.  Dreaming big is exactly what we should be doing but we need to start small. I have fallen into the trap of dreaming big, starting big and ending big. Never getting very far in my dream making has left me with the feeling of defeat and a wagon full of doubts. I’m believing 2015 will be different. Mainly because this year I’m dreaming big and starting small. Instead of just imagining myself where I want to be I’m taking little steps day by day and week by week ensuring my dreams come alive.

On January 2nd Joe and I spent several hours writing down our dreams and goals for the year. Side note: this is the first time in our 8 years of marriage that we have ever done such a thing. We created amazing goals and I will share about that shortly but we also discovered that our communication skills have matured much more than we knew. Let’s just say that Joe and I have different ways of thinking. He’s a boy and I’m girl. He thinks in a straight line and my thinking looks more like scatter chart. We both get to where we want to go but our methods are very different. I think we found a happy balance between straight line and scatter chart thinking this time around. We actually had a lot of fun dreaming and planning together.

What did the balance between straight line and scatter chart thinking look like?
First we started by thinking in categories. Below are the seven categories we felt sufficiently encompassed our lives.


Secondly we took a few minutes to write down whatever came to our mind when we thought of each category.  For example I jotted down the following notes for professional: writing, speaking, blogging, Shaklee.

Thirdly we spent time thinking about measurable, specific, time bound and realistic goals.  I created concrete goals that could be measured rather than just saying “I’m going to blog more this year” or “I’m going to pursue speaking”. This involved figuring out how many free hours I have in my week. I found that after working full-time and allotting time for my other goals that I have about 8-10 hours to invest in my professional goals. I decided that every Sunday I will go to church early with Joe and spend that time (1 ½ hours) working on my blog. I allotted time on Tuesday and Thursday nights to work on my blogging and writing endeavors. Also I will spend an additional 2 hours on Saturday or Sunday to work on building my speaking ministry.  A friend let me borrow a curriculum she used to launch her speaking ministry and with each lesson I’m getting a step closer to where I want to be.

In the past I would have just said “I want to speak” or “I want to write.” Sometimes I wrote and sometimes I found opportunities to speak but I never reached the dreams that stirred within.

Being specific in my goal setting helped me realize that I had too many goals in my professional category. Originally I thought I would pursue being a part of Shaklee, a company I trust and have benefited from. I had talked with a friend about joining her team and sharing Shaklee with others but when Joe and I looked at the number of hours I had each week we realized I couldn’t do it all.

Eliminating one goal created room for quality time spent on my other goals. It doesn’t mean I can’t pursue Shaklee at another time but this year just isn’t the right time.  I’m learning. Slowly but surely I’m learning to do a few things well. I’m learning to dream big and start small. I’m learning the decaffeinated route may not seem as exhilarating but it keeps me focused and moving ahead.

Fourthly we wrote down our goals and displayed them. Everything we read mentioned the importance of writing down your goals and putting them somewhere so you will see them daily. We found matching frames and placed our goals on our night stands. I know, isn’t that cute? But hey we did it. They are there to encourage us, focus us, motivate us and help us remember that 2015 is the year to Dream Big.

I also decided to make a vision board at work. Printing off pictures that represent my goals and stringing them together so I could be reminded that by living one day at a time all my dreams are possible.

Fifthly we planned a time to review our goals. On the first Saturday every month we plan to take a few minutes to review how we are doing with our goals. This will help us see where we need to make adjustments, help us celebrate our successes and encourage us to keep on moving.

How did the first month go? Let me just say be prepared because writing down our goals somehow led to opposition from every direction. Both our cars ended up needing repairs. Our budget for car repairs was exceeded by five times what we allotted. I struggled all month with health issues and had to have a procedure that put our health care budget in the same shape as our cars. There are days when having goals and dreams made me a little angry. I just wanted to come home from work and give up. I wanted to sit on the couch, watch TV and not care about anything. I did that quite a few times. But I didn’t give up. Just this morning I realized God will never give up on us or our dreams. When we sit down he waits for us to get back up. Yes I had moments this past month that made me want to cry but I also took really good steps toward seeing my dreams come alive. I spent time writing. I spent time journaling. Joe and I went on a date. We rearranged our morning schedule so we could spend a few minutes with God. Most of the steps I took were small but I took them. I experienced the difference between just vaguely having dreams and having specific goals to reach my dreams. Specific goals that are time bound and measurable allowed me to see every little success I made along the way and that is enough to keep me dreaming big.

I didn’t mention this earlier but remember to pray. We spent time praying together before we worked on our goals. We also carved out 15 minutes each Monday to pray together before work. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to achieve our dreams and it’s also easy to try and be in control but this month’s craziness reminded me that no matter how much I plan and schedule I’m not in control.

Are you wanting to Dream Big? Do you want to avoid the lows, ride the highs and see your dreams come alive? I believe you can do it. Take a few hours this week to begin your journey of Dreaming Big & Starting Small.

1. Think in categories
2. Jot down the first thoughts that come to mind for each category
3. Create measureable, time bound, specific and realistic goals for each thing you jotted down (eliminate goals if you find you have too many and not enough time)
4. Write down and display your goals
5. Plan a time to review your goals

As I mentioned in my earlier post Resurrecting Your Dreams you never know how your dreams will influence your life or the world around you. Your Dreams might just change your world. Instead of an extra shot of espresso how about taking the decaffeinated route and move slow and steady through 2015.

Don’t forget that most of our dreams are bigger than we are. They don’t come easy. They require thought. They demand perseverance. They frustrate us. They excite us. They necessitate sacrifice. They develop character. They change lives. They are worth it all.