I follow the blogger Penelope Trunk. Recently, she posted a blog about dreaming (excerpted below). Honestly, she’s a little hard on the concept of dreaming. Although I get her message, and it’s a good one, it made me think:
Was Martin Luther King, Jr. wrong to have a dream? Or were the Wright Brothers wrong to dream they could fly?
Dreams are like blossoms on a fruit tree. Most don’t come into fruition, but some do. Penelope Trunk is right, though. To dream without a plan, action, hard work, perseverance and conviction is fruitless. But dreaming is the first step. I suppose it’s why Einstein said “Imagination is More Important than Intelligence”. To me, dreaming and imagination are interchangeable.
Instead of asking my friends and myself, “What are your dreams for yourself?” I ask, “What is your Vision for yourself?” It seems to work better, because we can then talk about “What’s blocking us from achieving our vision?” and “What can we do to make it happen?”
Here's Penelope Trunk's take on dreaming:
Let go of your dreams. They are stupid. I’m going to show you why. But first, let me say that I’m a big fan of deciding what you want for your life. It’s just that I’m a practical person. If you say you want stuff you can’t have [insert here, for example, a list of 20 things you have to have in a new job] you’ll never get it. So the first step to getting what you want is dumping all your dreams. Here’s why:
1. Dreams are distractions from what you are good at. I have dreams. That’s why I know they are stupid. I have the dream that I look like a model with perfectly pulled together outfits and three-inch heels to match. But I keep shopping at sneaker stores. So my dream just distracts from my efforts at being my best self.
Another dream is that I can write like Stephen Rodrick in his piece titled, Here is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan in Your Movie. Oh my gosh, it’s so fun to read and he has so much insight about Hollywood. But here’s the truth: I could never write like this. He had to hang out with Hollywood types for a long time to have this insight, and then he wrote a piece that is like, ten times longer than my longest blog post. So it would be impossible for me to write like this. I can like it without dreaming that I can do it.
2. Dream are not goals. They are information about where you can grow. Another thing I do is see a good video and think: I need to do one like this. And I start dreaming about how I could do it. Here’s the best travel video I’ve ever seen. It’s great because I hate travel, but also because it’s so simple. I am scared to be simple. I am scared I won’t keep you interested. So what I want is this guy’s bravery to trust in himself that it’s worth doing something simple.
3. Dreams are things that nag you. That’s why I hate them. If you want to be a good blogger, you have to read Barstool Sports. I love it so much. It’s a good bet that every day on this site is NSFW, but I love the site for how smart it is. It’s the new millennium version of reading Playboy for the articles. Here’s a post from yesterday (that is, actually, safe to read at your office) and it’s such a good post that I had to pause and take a breath after it.
I had to think a lot about why it’s good and how I can use it to make myself better at writing posts. Sometimes my dream is to write like the guys at Barstool Sports. But I remind myself that I take life too seriously to write like them. I’d feel stupid after a while. So I like reading the site but I wouldn’t like being more like the site. When I acknowledge that about myself, I feel better reading the post.
4. Goals are dreams that have a plan. Goals get done. Dreams don’t get done. My son is obsessed with the apocalypse. I’m not really even sure what the apocalypse is. I thought it was peak oil, but increasingly I think that it’s zombies. At any rate, he has joined the ranks of those making extensive preparations. At first I ignored his rants about off-the-grid heating and stockpiling food. But then I thought: learning moment. And I showed him how to use Microsoft Project to turn his dream of survival into a plan.
Now each family member has assignments, and, surprisingly enough, we are doing them. The Farmer just bought a generator, I found Enerhealth’s bucket of food for forty days of survival (it’s organic!), and my son is investigating Radiant Heating for our floors.
5. Most people who talk about living their dreams are delusional. If you are doing what you love to do you are living your plan, not your dream. So, okay, I’m a lucky duck that I get to write about whatever I want and get paid for it. But do you know what I did to get here? Write every single day of my life since I was pre-literate. I didn’t spend every day saying “my dream is to write” – I spent every day writing.
And this is true of people who are “living their dreams”. But the world doesn’t like hearing about hard work—the world likes hearing “you can do anything” (which is stupid because of course you cannot do anything.) “Live your dreams” lives in the same realm as the BS of “you can do anything.”
6. Kill your dreams with productivity tools. Really. Do you know how I get the life I want? By being a total nut about getting things done. First, I spent years learning how to create a to do list that will get me where I want to be in life. Now, when I find myself ignoring my to do list on a regular basis I tell myself I have to find different tools for managing my plans. Because I don’t have dreams, I have plans.
I love the pitch I read from Easilydo: “The average person makes 35,000 decisions a day and the difficulty of juggling multiple productivity apps makes that harder.” This pitch reminds me of the studies about decision fatigue that we get from making decisions all day. So I am trying Easilydo to decrease my decision fatigue, which will help me focus on plans. (You can try it out if you want: download Easilydo here.)
When you think about your dreams, think instead about productivity tools. I know it’s not nearly as romantic, but if you want to be excited about your life, it’s going to be the plans you make an actually implement, not the dreams you spew to your friends.