Every year around this time we tend to make vows en masse promising to change ourselves in some fashion in the new year. They’re called resolutions, most of us make one or more, and too often they fall to the wayside over the course of the next few months. Despite that, our intentions are usually good. It is a process of renewal, timed conveniently with the calendar, that gives us a real opportunity for personal change.
I wonder though, do we take it far enough? Do we dream big enough? Or do we simply pick obvious things that seem within our control, rather than making the real change that will lead to greater fulfillment and greater happiness throughout our lives?
Most of what we believe we can achieve is grounded in our own world view, and often limited by the perceptions of others. A collection of our experiential and cultural norms we create along the way, world views are great in that they provide us a reference for our values and our beliefs, essentially creating our comfort zones. At the same time, they can be extremely limiting in that they don’t always allow us to see whats possible outside of our frame of reference. More likely we don’t challenge them enough to see it.
Part of what holds us back is that our frame of reference is too small. We tend to take change best in bite sized chunks instead of envisioning what we want to achieve. It’s why we tend to think of work in terms of the next promotion instead of declaring, “I want to run a company,” or why we set of goal of ten or twenty pounds to lose even though our greatest health benefit may be at thirty. These milestones are important for keeping us motivated, but if your goal is to achieve greatness, you need to start dreaming on a grander scale.
That means dreaming backwards. When we dream forward it’s like putting a governor on our vision. Except in some very specific and obvious circumstances there exist no reasons why you can’t achieve everything you want to do. When we start from our aspirations and not our current reality, we open up the realm of possibility. That’s when real change happens.
To dream backward, you have to adopt three key beliefs that guide your life moving forward:
- You ultimately create your reality
- You have choices within that reality
- The choices you make determine your future
Reality is Yours For the Choosing
We are constantly subjected to the judgments of others. At work we receive performance reviews that can impact our success and upward potential. At home our relationships tend to come with their own perceptions that become realities in the actions of others towards us. Even within ourselves, most of us rate what we do and what we have against an artificial external standard that in the scheme of things is relatively meaningless. All of these things have a tendency to limit our sense of what’s possible.
Only you can determine your own reality. You certainly have to have a strong sense of self-awareness to make it work effectively, but if you want to run a company, figure out what you need to do to run a company and go after it. If you want to write a book, figure out your topic and start writing. There is no rule that says you have to be famous or established to do that. This incredible first step must start at the top and look backwards. Don’t settle for someone else’s concept of what you are capable of.
On Making Choices
You can choose to follow others’ paths, or you can choose to follow your own. Make no mistake, conformance to some standards of societal norms is a must – you’ll always have to make a few choices that serve a greater good. But that does not mean you need to sacrifice your own vision to make it happen. Remember, if you’ve been dreaming forward, like most of us, you are surrounded by people who are doing the same. Following that example won’t get you where you’re trying to get to.
Instead make the hard choice to be great. Talk in terms of your aspirations, acknowledging the small wins but stay forever true to the ultimate goal. What you will find is that once people start to buy in to your spiel, they will become energized by you and possibly become followers. But it’s a hard choice. Most people do not dream big and your new roost will remain lonely for a time until you start producing some results people can follow. Make that choice.
You Make the Future
The future is a series of interconnected events but it is hardly random. You can choose to follow the paths laid out for you since the dawn of time, the natural landing zones that follow where you are now, or you can choose to become who you are and what you want to be. That is the nature of the future, and it’s only determinant is how big you can dream, how well you see possibilities instead of current realities, and how hard you want to work at it. Others will certainly try to dissuade you from trying. Don’t listen to the white noise, instead rise above the chatter and earn their followship through your actions and your motivation.
Every one of us has the power to change the world. You definitely have the power to change your world. Dream backwards. It will lead to powerful outcomes.