Our natural tendency is that we limit ourselves to what we see in front of us. We go day by day, not making any adjustments, just accepting our current reality. We often dream about change or success but not in the way we should. If there is one thing I have learned after paying off $107K of debt in 33 months and pushing ourselves to do things we thought were impossible it is that we need to dream big.
We Are Worthy
It is so easy to think we are not worthy of big aspirations. We simply accept that they are for other people only. We limit ourselves to thinking that doesn’t happen to people like us. Why do we do that?
While it is the path of least resistance we struggle with vision. Upbringing plays a role and negative experiences as a kid factor in as well. It is easy to play it safe if you feel you have been burned in the past. Maybe you just never had anyone around you that reached for the stars. Society loves to tell you the world is stacked against you.
I think media is in there as well. We see rich and successful people on TV or even more so on social media now and see this big gap between us and them. It might as well be the Grand Canyon because it seems so big that we assume it is impossible to achieve.
So, as a result, we believe these limitations and keep on keeping on. It becomes a vicious cycle of being average. Honestly, average is fine, many people would do anything to be average but we do best when we are growing regardless of where we start. We deserve to grow and owe it to ourselves to grow. That is how we thrive as individuals and as leaders in our families, workplace and community.
So often we dream about the next iPhone, a fancy car or a big house. Those are attainable items and good or bad, we will get them.
If that is our only dream though, then we will never achieve anything higher. If our dream is much bigger then there is a lot more room to navigate on our way to achieving it.
If we think we are only worthy of low hanging fruit then that is our limit. We write off any notions of achieving more than getting the low hanging fruit.
Being able to make the minimum payments on your debt is the low hanging fruit. It is a good place to start on a journey but it cannot be the end of the journey.
If you only reach for low hanging fruit then that is what you will get. If your goal is to scale the whole tree you will get those items along the way. To dream bigger, you would not only try to conquer the whole tree but grow a whole grove of trees. Once you have that grove you will get that low hanging fruit and so much more.
Money isn’t just the goal here. The real goal is happiness, freedom and being content. The whole grove doesn’t just contain money, it contains everything you want out of life. Money might be a small part of that but if we limit ourselves to the low hanging fruit then we only get the happiness that one piece of fruit provides.
A lottery ticket is low hanging fruit. An investment in ourselves is what gets us closer to the grove.
Do you limit yourself to the low hanging fruit or the tree? Why not believe you can have a whole grove?
Dreaming is a muscle in a sense. We can start small and build it up to create bigger goals. Sometimes we feel so beaten down that we just have lost the ability to dream. That is unfortunate because dreaming is such a critical part of our success.
An example from my life was in my approach to debt before we started paying it off. My goal was to make the monthly payment. I graduated from college in 2008. Not the best time to graduate. In 2009, I had been let go from my job but still single so I just had to take care of myself. I was in survival mode and making the payment was a big deal.
Fortunately, I wasn’t out of work for more than 6 weeks at any one point in time. For the next 2 years though I could only find contract work which was stunting my growth.
Then, my life changed, I came across the Dave Ramsey show. I was fascinated with the show as I wanted to be better with money but had no direction at the time.
For the first time though I heard a vision for how to think about and handle my debt. I didn’t even really think I had a problem as I could make the payments on it. I was fascinated though with the vision he put forth was one of total success in both money and life.
It took me a year to comprehend that vision though. A key part of understanding it came through listening to the debt free screams. At first, I thought the callers were special and surely had a reason why they could do it and not me. Now that I look at it, they weren’t special, they just had vision.
After hearing the message enough though I finally believed that vision. I presented it to my wife where we started a journey that truly changed our lives to this day. That original vision has been surpassed by bigger visions. Paying off massive debt at an accelerated rate was the first vision with the overarching theme of living off one income.
Since then we have established a goal of financial independence. We did this not because we felt we needed a certain amount of money to be happy or successful. Rather we are looking at the benefits of being financially independent that can deliver a type of lifestyle we wish to have.
To reach this goal though we are having to be creative. I started an Etsy shop a couple months ago to develop passive income. The idea of side hustles drove me nuts at one point and seemed out of reach but I was wrong. Now I am thinking bigger about how I can incorporate Architecture (my profession and passion) into my dreams
Once you taste some success you get hungry for more and you realize that you are capable of much more that you originally thought.
The Next Step
In a recent conversation with my Father-In-Law we were talking about some of my long-term goals. I acknowledged that they felt ambitious but that if I have learned anything it is that I shouldn’t doubt myself so much. Goals that I once thought were impossible seem much more in reach. Not even so much financial goals but just life or career goals.
He then said it doesn’t matter what the end goal is but rather what the next step is. Just focus on the next step. You will get there. If you want to cross the Grand Canyon you can’t do it all at once. You do it one step at a time.
Those that have had the success in life that we want did it one step at a time but they did it with a big dream or vision. They didn’t limit themselves to small goals.
It is not enough to dream about being rich. Everyone dreams of being rich. It feels so unattainable though because it is hollow. We see no path there beyond some stroke of luck.
The real goal is to develop the capabilities that get you to where you want to be. Those are the steps that you take to get there. Make that next step manageable but dream big on your overall goal.
Dream big to pay off that debt that seems like an anchor and unmovable. Take the next realistic step and learn how to manage your money and create room in your budget.
What might be big for you might be small for someone else. That is OK. Your next dream will be bigger but it is about pushing yourself step by step and scaling your dreams.
Dream Big: If You Can’t Dream It, You Can’t Achieve It
In many ways, the first step is to just believe. If you can’t believe, dream or establish a vision then you have no direction. You’ll just wander where the wind takes you or where others want you to go. The problem with letting others lead us is it is in their best interest, not yours.
If you establish your dream it will be in your best interest and those around you. That might sound selfish but you kind of have to be in this case. Don’t stop at money though, dream about what kind of person, spouse, parent, co-worker, leader you want to be.
Don’t sell yourself short and reach far. You’ll have a lot more freedom along the way and you’ll be amazed at what you achieve.
I like your father in laws advice. I am not a good runner but I took it up thirty years ago because I thought it would help me with what I am good at, which is tennis. In almost every marathon I ran I found the only way I could finish, and I never failed to finish, was to just make myself take one more step or make it to the next telephone pole or maybe just one more mile. My brain could not come to terms with 26.2 miles but it could hang in there until I got to that thing just ahead of me that I could see. And then I’d pick out something else to run to. Dreams and goals separate those who live life from those who just watch it from a distance. You guys are doing so well, your future is going to be something special! Actually the Grand Canyon is a good analogy too, my wife and I hiked all the way to the bottom and back out the same day and it was harder than any marathon we ever ran, but an awesome experience!
That is a great analogy too! That is one reason I love hiking. One step at a time leads to tremendous progress. When we really started to focus on our finances we did so while hiking which also gave us time to talk and get on the same page. We could see how money goals were similar to hiking which in turn gave us more motivation after completing a trail or summiting. Thanks for the great comment!