Dream with your eyes open

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreams of the day are dangerous mean, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”
T.  E. Lawrence

We all dream. As children, we had a naïveté that allowed us to dream big; we wanted to be doctors, lawyers, presidents, cure inventors, and saviors of the world. And then – life happened. It smacked us in the face with heartbreaks, responsibilities, and bills. Reality smothered our dreams and ambitions, and we started to settle for less than we knew ourselves to be.

Now, you’re in your 20s. You’ve lived a little on your own, making mistakes, finding your way, cutting your own path through life – and your wheels have started turning. The more you do and the more you engage the world, the more you see “big things” for yourself. You feel nervous and anxious because you’re not really sure if you can make anything in your head work in real life, but something in you wants to try. When you sleep, you see these “big things” coming to life, but when you wake up, you feel like there is no time to make these things happen.

Within the last year, I’ve found myself in this position. I go to bed at night and dream of who I could be and what my life could become – I am really stellar in my dreams by the way! – and then I wake up trying to figure out how to make it all happen. What feat should I tackle first? Or wait – do they fit together somehow, which would mean that I could tackle them all together, right? Who do I need to talk to? Am I moving too fast? Omg, I’m about to turn 26; am I moving too slowly? What kind of value do I bring to the conversation and to special education? In five years, where do I want to be? Heck, where should I be next year? Should I still be with the same company – or man, should I even be in the same city? So many questions, so little time.

Dreaming with your eyes open starts out this way – so many feats to accomplish, so little time to do it. For me, it starts to happen when I let the ideas and desires that God has put on my heart flow out of me freely; I began to recognize my purpose on Earth, and knowing what I am supposed to do on Earth (at least for right now) has opened my heart and mind to endless possibilities for success.

A little while ago, all these grand ideas and overflowing questions became a little overwhelming. That’s when I determined – or maybe, I just remembered – that dreams need a direction if they are to be useful and become anything other than an idea or wish. So – what did I do? I’m glad you asked.

First things first. Focus. In order to create a sense of direction, you need to determine what’s most important. My brain runs at 1000 miles a minute, so I start and end each day with some kind of “brain dump.” (Taking 10-30 minutes to do this may seem like a waste of time, but trust me, you’re wasting more time spinning your wheels. Go get a piece of paper and a pen.)

Any and every idea that is running through my head ends up on paper, so I can see it and then sort it. To focus your dreams, take everything in your head and put it on paper – then determine categories (long-term goals, short-term goals, conversations to have, action steps, etc.) and file accordingly.

Once you have focus, assess your goals – long-term and short-term – and create a vision. God tells us to “write the vision and make it plain” and to understand that the vision will come to fruition at an “appointed time” (Habakkuk 2: 2-3). Vision guides your decisions and actions; it keeps you from wandering aimlessly and dedicating time to pointless tasks. In the past, I have created vision boards to help me keep my long-term focus; they have helped me to persist in the direction of my dreams when I’m too tired, caught in disappointment, or not seeing immediate results.

Now, decide what you’re going to do to get there. You have people to meet, conversations to start, plans to draft, emails to send, edits to make. Create a priority list of the action steps you need to take right now – and hit the ground running. No dream works unless you do! Colin Powell said, “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.”  Step number four – work!

You’ve narrowed your focus and created some direction; you’re in the midst of your work, and you’re feeling good. What’s next? Evolve and repeat. You never stay the same, so neither should your dreams, your goals, or your approach. As you grow and accomplish feats, let your dreams grow too. Set supernatural visions, and let God and the universe work through you to change the world.

Stay open, and stay childlike. Big dreams and hard work go far! 

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