I’m Alex. The fellow in the picture there. And this is my essay on Big Dreams. (well, the best version of essay I can manage after struggling through English class a LOT of years ago. I’m 46 for heaven’s sake. I know my arguments need work. Granted. So this is version 1.0, that’s all I promise right now. I have 2 children in high school so I DO have the rubric here in front of me.)
Introduction: In the REASONS below, I will first pose an argument as to why your dreams might be the thing that’s missing in your life right now, and then endeavour to give you good, solid, mainstream reasons why you should not do them. The mainstream, as we know, is really smart and to be heeded religiously.
The situation: Holy s**t. (That’s not in the rubric — that’s me going off-script.)
Life is so bloody busy! And you hardly have a chance to catch your breath or, in a sweet moment, catch up on the latest show you’ve been watching… let alone… make a dream happen?
And yet… life can feel empty too sometimes. Maybe a lot of the time.
I submit below a possible antidote to both the emptiness AND the busy-ness: Is it possible that you are, right now, sitting on something concrete and ready-to-go that addresses BOTH of these things in one neat package, and it might be the one thing you are not doing much of these days?
Namely: Dusting off one of your Small or Big Dreams. — a most likely antidote to: loneliness, emptiness, feelings of uselessness, not being able to figure out your way forward, stuckness, feeling too old to fix your life, lack of eye-twinkle, or feeling like a failure. It’s a powerful medicine.
Examples: You’ve been thinking, maybe for a loooong time, about:
- writing that book.
- taking a class: on cooking, dancing, economics, carpentry, self-employment, yoga
- doing some work with that Alex Baisley fellow. ;)
- starting your own business, or revolutionizing the one you have.
- trying your hand at art, poetry, learning an instrument, a language.
- doing a camping trip with your family, or going abroad.
- turning that spare room into your craft / scrapbooking / meditation / yoga room.
OK. Here we go.
- 5 non-obvious and ultra-important reasons why you should start a small dream. Now. Like yesterday. Or at least this week.
- And why not to.
To have a breakthrough in some of the chronic challenges and desires you’ve had in your daily life these days typically requires a new perspective. New energy. To continue to face them WITHOUT this new energy is a recipe for another 6 months of wheel-spinning and stuck-in-the-mud-ness. Do you need some new perspective?
Clue: You’ve got stuff you’ve been trying to fix in your life FOR-effing-EVER, months, years, and these things are in the same place as they were months & years ago.
The Fix: Dust off a Dream and start it right now.
Why: You get insta-new-energy, new perspective, and usually insta-meeting-new-people as well which’ll give you a quick dose of even more perspective. If you’ve been thinking of joining an improv class or putting your thoughts into poetry or a book, but are scared… Totally get that. I’m not a brave person. I’m scared most of the time about one thing or another. I seem to be a bit timid by nature. But… seems to me like most of us are going to be scared ANYWAY a lot of the time no matter what we do. Might as well have some fun too.
Why NOT to do it: You may still have the same challenges and desires after completing and enjoying your Small/Big Dream. Well, minus one — the dream you did. And that would suck. Boo. At least you’d have something.
You feel like you’re failing this game of life these days. Life feels boring, mundane, very not-you, maybe a bit empty. You’re feeling like a cardboard cutout of who you COULD be, and you can’t figure out what makes you tick to change it. Life is, well, it feels disappointing. Guh.
Clue: Biggest fear in the quiet moments for you is — you’re missing the boat. Life is passing, and deep down you have a feeling like you’re wasting your chance. And worried that it’s maybe too late.
The Fix: Start a Small or Big Dream.
Why: You have a lot of capability inside. You know this bigtime. You feel it every day, and you often find yourself thinking ‘I’m better than this.’ Making beautiful things happen in your life is like a muscle, and to exercise this muscle requires tackling a suitable small dream and simply making it happen. Bam. Stronger happiness-muscle. The Small Dreams are THE gateway to your Big Dreams happening.
Why NOT to do it: Shit. I can’t think of any. It’s hard to feel like a failure and have a cool new experience bringing lightness back into your heart at the same time. I need to work on this for 2.0. I’ll get back to you.
You’ve spent years looking after your responsibilities, and everybody else, and… though that comes with some satisfaction and bragging rights to those who will listen, it sometimes feels like a cop-out also. Like ‘I had a life to do something with, and though I appreciate all the people in my life… is there really not room for me to be fulfilled for my own reasons as well? Proud of myself? Excited by my own life?’
Clue: You wake up every morning and the whole day is laid out for you, and you don’t feel excited about any of it. And you feel guilty on top of that for not appreciating what you have.
The Fix: You’ve got dreams there in your heart. They never went away. Nor did the 37 good excuses why you can’t do them, I know. Nevertheless, at some point, the 37 excuses — even if they are real ones — do not outweigh your own innate desire to make something great happen in your life — even if it’s just a 1-day class you’ve been wanting to try for a long time. Or writing 3 poems. Let a small piece of your heart out again, and see what happens.
Why: It’s to prove to yourself that you DO still have life in you, a LOT of it. And it may be becoming less and less of an option for you to stifle it without becoming unwell.
Why NOT: Some people in your life may have to learn to do a thing or two for themselves. Bless ’em. Poor sods.
You’ve TRIED working on big dreams, and small ones too for that matter. And you just never seem to be able to make them HAPPEN! You’re understandably wary to even consider em again because you’ve failed a bunch of times in the past.
Clue: You feel you’ve been settling for a much dimmer version of daily life than is actually healthy for you. You haven’t felt a twinkle in your eyes for quite awhile. Thinking maybe it’s gone and you just have to accept that.
The Fix: Make a list of your dreams. A Bucket List YES, but more importantly: list your SMALL DREAMS. And find ONE of them that you could probably start right away. Wanting to learn Spanish? Irish Gaelic? Go to DuoLingo and begin your free lessons right now before reading another word of this article. Then come back.
Why: Momentum is the only important ingredient with dreams. So start a SMALL one. Today. And tell the world, or a close somebody, what you’re doing so that you can’t easily back out. And see where it goes.
Why NOT: You may fail again. It’s possible. It may be safest just to return to normal life, forget this essay. True that past failures were likely only a matter of not picking a small enough dream to get started with. The best small dreams are ones that can be completed in a day or a week. Like learning to say 3 sentences to someone in Spanish. But alas that spoils my ‘why not’ argument so I’ll back quietly away from this point.
Reason #5: The BIGGEST hidden Reason there is.
The world might need more of who you are a great deal more than you realize. I’m not waxing philosophic or hippie here. A story below. Please hear me out. This is a rubber-meets-the-road reason. Grounded. Practical. IMPORTANT to a lot more people than you alone.
The dreams you have still waiting in your heart are just that… inside you. And there is a HUGE, non-obvious, non-selfish reason to give them further attention and begin to let them out more. It’s to strengthen the fabric of our world, and unlock the budding solutions and gifts that are already in it.
Let me explain: I have a solid, experienced, and heart-felt opinion on this topic after being fortunate enough — and choosing — to work with a LOT of folks around the world — more than 1200 now — on their big dreams and figuring out their dream work — for nearly 2 decades. This daily work has given me a unique front-line view of what happens as a result of these good people’s endeavours — over time.
Aside from tremendous personal enjoyment for me, the following is THE #1 REASON I do what I do with my Big Dream Program, and why I feel there may be nothing more crucially important in the world than YOUR small and big dreams. They are un-lockers for others.
Your small and big dreams are HIGHLY contagious. CRAZILY contagious. It takes SO little of following your heart to have a MAJOR influence on freeing others to do so.
And why is THAT important?
Between us all, I think we already have more than enough dreams ready-to-go inside us that will solve the problems we face in our world.
Freeing others is, in my opinion, the most important and valuable contribution any of us can give to our world. It is THE solution that unlocks all of THEIRS. (Think of the high-school teacher that manages to inspire dozens of young adults, over many years, to become who they were meant to be despite challenges.)
StoryTime to Illustrate: You’ve been wanting to take a cooking class. And you do. (maybe because you read this email and thought f**k it! Carpe Diem. I’ll go online, find one in my town, and sign up.)
Week one: Another participant, as it turns out, has been feeling lonely and unloved for quite some time. It’s like her own family doesn’t even notice her anymore. She feels invisible, unimportant. Without knowing this background, you happen to smile at her across the room when your eyes connect, and you feel a connection with her simply because you like her.
She goes home that night after the class, and though she’s not said a word to you — and you don’t know it, she suddenly feels ‘seen’. Someone noticed her, and smiled (which simply wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t signed up for the class.) A private, perfect moment that might not have happened. She goes home that night with your acknowledgment and smile in her mind and… she finds herself smiling at her children. A big warm smile. They notice, and cozy up with her. Something in her heart opens up a bit more. She starts to feel differently about her Tuesdays, her Wednesdays… A little more of her starts showing up at work. After being distant for a few months, her co-workers notice and enjoy her new warmth and it makes them smile too. One of them carries this smile home to their family that night. And her husband’s heart drops its burdens when he sees it. A long-awaited hug happens.
All great trees, with all of their branches, started as a little seed. One. Small. Seed. A seed of possibility.
THIS is the solution in our world. Right there. That’s it. Us being us, doing our thing, taking this class for ourselves, but who we are naturally can make a MUCH bigger difference than we realize. And this whole thing plays out vice-versa. Sometimes we don’t even have to talk with someone — we just see how they ‘are’ in the world, in their eyes, their heart, and it instantly nourishes something inside us that’s been hungry.
And… the story’s not over yet…!
Week 3: There’s a young man in the class who doesn’t know yet that he’s got a book inside him that in 10 years is going to help thousands of people have way way WAY better marriages or partnerships. Tens of thousands of lives, maybe hundreds of thousands all told — including children — will have so much more love and happiness in them as a result. And unbeknownst to either of you at the time, you’re the reason behind this future event. It’s all because…
You were partnered with him that week in cooking class. He’s such a friendly, personable fellow, and as you roll out your pasta together, he asks you why you joined this class. You decide, in the moment, to tell him the truth.
You tell him that you hadn’t really been doing anything purely for enjoyment and interest since life got busy. You have a marriage, kids, a mortgage, a career. Life got crazy busy and full, and… well it flew by, and quite honestly you felt a bit empty despite it all. You and your wife decided recently that something had to be done or even the marriage was going to suffer further or fizzle altogether. Something was needed. You decided together you’d each start a small dream. Bring a bit of new life into the home. She started a knitting class, and you joined this cooking class.
He is curious and asks more. You share with him that, bizarrely enough, your wife and you have been surprised. You’ve already found yourselves suddenly a good deal closer and having more fun together — just within a couple of weeks. Closer than you’d been in years. Doing something separately just for yourselves was exactly what your marriage needed. And because you felt you could tell him anything, that ‘twinkle in the eye’ started bringing back other things too. ;)
The young man listens, smiles, nods. He’s happy for you. Pasta is done, and the class resumes.
Five yrs later… he’s married and has never forgotten. He tells his new wife the story you told him that night over your pasta-rolling. She likes the story very much, and so they decide they’re going to try this very strategy from the beginning, to see how it works for them. They each pursue and make time for separate, independent small dreams, and they further went on to create a little small-dreams-date-night once/wk that starts with them each sharing 3 things they learned or loved about their personal dream they’re working on. The strategy stuck, and worked brilliantly for them.
Over the next few years, it continued to keep things infinitely fresh, and interesting. In fact it led to her dropping the pharmaceutical rep career and opening up a knitting shop! This approach not only influenced their individual lives so much, but led also to some of their best experiences, and a solid beautiful marriage. They fully plan to share this same strategy with their 2 children when they are older.
Another year later he decides, after taking a writing workshop — another small dream, that he’d like to write a book about this perspective in his marriage and what it’s done for them, and tell the story of the man who gave him the idea. He hopes he might inspire other couples to try it too.
He doesn’t know it yet, but his book — and the workshops that evolve from it — are going to improve the lives of thousands, maybe millions, of couples. And even then, when it happens, he’ll share with his wife one night that he can’t even begin to guess at the value their book and experiment might bring down the road to the children of many of these couples, when they in turn have relationships.
If this story seems far-fetched, it’s not. You’re reading this now because something identical happened to me. I was the young man, and I met a fellow one afternoon that unbeknownst to either of us at the time is the genesis of my life’s work, the Big Dream Program. I have been helping folks figure out their unique work and Big Dreams since 2004 because of this chance meeting with someone living a dream. It shows the power you have right now with YOUR Big and Small Dreams.
The man I met: It was 1994, and I had a big dream that I decided I had to do something about. I was a commercial diver at the time, and had met the outrageously jaw-dropping Kathleen, my now wife, mom of our children, and the love of my life, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I dreamed of seeing the world. She was game, and has made stuff happen ever since. After a couple of false starts, with 2 backpacks we ended up moving to the Cayman Islands and I got a job teaching scuba diving and managing a dive shop. After diving for sea urchins through the east coast Canadian winters, a few times too many under ocean ice, it was a dream come true I can tell you. Working in Georgetown, Grand Cayman, I even wound up with a side-gig singing Irish music in a local pub every Thursday night.
But I had no idea what ELSE was going to happen.
One day a young fellow bicycled down the sandy street with his dog in a basket on the front. He came into my store, and we got chatting. He was from South Africa and had spent years sailing around the world, with his dog Berry, on his little 28' sailboat. He’d just sailed in to Grand Cayman that day. He had no more money than I had (ie — pretty much none), he simply stopped and worked in every island he landed on — to earn his passage to continue his journey.
He didn’t know it, but he changed my life that day, and you’re reading this essay because of him. He was my first exposure to a real flesh-and-blood person leading a VERY different way of life. We became fast friends, starting with my inviting him to come to Kathleen’s and my rented cottage to do his laundry and take a shower after many days at sea ;)
Simply by living by his own heart, doing the things he felt natural doing, and telling me about it when I asked, he blew my worldview wide open. He changed my life, and planted a seed for me that became the Big Dream Program many years later.
I had grown up around people living in a difficult economic climate, where folks scraped by mostly. Many of us were taught that the way to find happiness was to get a secure job, at the pulp and paper mill for instance, get a mortgage on a house, and hunker down for what often ended up to be a life of drudgery. Those who could sail the world were only the rich folks, those who were different from me. None of us were wrong in this, and in fact several friends and family who chose this security have helped support me in my desire to share a message. As a result, and for them and their generosity, I hold this candle flame now for you if you’ve been feeling in the dark.
Just like the young man in the cooking class, I didn’t know it then. But this chance encounter with my soon-to-become sailor friend Paul, and several others since — people following their hearts and finding a way to do it — had altered my life completely. Now, more than two decades later I continue to tend this flame that others have lit for me, and learn how to share this message with everyone who will listen to me. I’ve been blessed to be able to help and change the lives of more people than I ever dreamed possible because of it.
I don’t know if you want my advice right now, but if you do, it would be this:
Follow the messages from your heart. Start a small dream. Entertain a big one. To nourish everything that’s inside you — because you’re important, and as the biggest gift you could give the rest of us living on this small beautiful planet with you.
You just never know who you’re going to inspire, until you do it. Including yourself.
If you start a new small or big dream as a result of reading this essay of mine, and you are worried that such a small move on your part couldn’t possibly have such a large effect on the world…
Then send me a message and tell me what you’ve done. I will share it with hundreds of people on your behalf, and I guarantee you it will land with at least one person who needed to hear it.
Do something you love.
Every apple tree that feeds and provides summer shade to the people who live near it, and a playground for the imagination of adventurous children, began with one. small. seed.
Your small dreams, your big ones, are seeds in your heart. Plant em in the world. They grow into things.
Oh shit. I didn’t give you a reason not to do one of your dreams in this section. Drat. I suck at essays. I’ll come up with something and get back to you.
To you and the dreams you’ve been thinking about,
PS — You rock.