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Permission to Dream: 3 Key Questions

This article was originally published by Brien Dunphy on LinkedIn.

“In the long run, men only hit what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.” - Henry David Thoreau.

Dream Big! The higher the aspirations we pursue, the greater the chances we will achieve progress. But while dreaming big is imperative, many of us don’t even dream at all. As we quickly progress through this new year, I have a question to ask you... do you have permission to dream?

The blocker preventing people from dreaming is seldom the inability to dream, but rather failing to grant themselves permission to dream.

Swept up in frenetic, yet mundane workdays, allocating valuable time to dreaming (or even simply to thinking big thoughts) is not acceptable. “I’m too busy/ too driven/too swamped/ too (insert ‘reason’ here) to do such things,” is the common refrain.

Making matters worse (be it the result of a hyper-competitive environment, a somber and defeated outlook, or simply the sheer exhaustion of a severely taxing workplace) permission to muse is not invited, granted, or rewarded.

If you don’t believe me, let me ask you three very short and simple questions that most people I meet have trouble answering.

1) What is your dream for your career? Your life?

Many of the professionals I have coached throughout the years are so caught up in the busyness of work and life, they have never stopped long enough to think about their dreams (not their goals, but their dreams).

“Goals” is too small a word to begin your professional ideations. Goals are best achieved when pursued in the bigger context of “dreams.” Dreams are the larger pursuit and the higher aspiration. When we can articulate our dreams, our passions come to light and our energy follows. Unfortunately, left unchecked, the tyranny of the urgent devours attention to what’s important in life and career.

Dreams are important, but life doesn’t organically provide the time or the permission to pause long enough to acknowledge or craft those dreams. Time to muse, ideate, think, dream… is space we must create intentionally. We don’t need to fight every fight, but we need to fight the fights that need fighting. And your dreams are one of those fights.

If you know what your dream is for your career, or for your life, how much energy have you put into articulating it to yourself? Again, pressed time and constant urgency aren’t incubators for dreams, they are parasites eating away at your largest resource - you.

2) To whom have you told your dream to?

Once you have begun to formulate your dream, who have you shared it with? Sharing your dream with another human being is a critical step in the process of success (a step most fail to employ).

Merely having a dream isn’t enough. Once conceived, that dream needs to be shared and built upon. Find the right person to share your dream with. Chosen well, this connection will be an honest, positive, and solution-focused individual who will feed life to your dream, and creatively assist you over, through, and around obstacles. Invested and genuinely supportive human interaction allows you to refine your dream, making your dream more than a lofty idea, but rather an extension of who you are as a person.

Sharing your dream with the right person gives you the accountability and the drive to push through the dry times. Those are the times when your dream seems impossible, and the road longer than you originally calculated.

3) If you haven’t told anyone, why?

The answer I get most often to this question is some version of, “who can I tell?” When this answer is explored more deeply, the apprehension people feel in sharing their dreams with another person comes down to one word - fear.

Many people do not have someone in their life they consider a safe place for their most vulnerable thoughts, ideas, and imaginations. Largely, this results from having the experience of being burned in the past. Think about the times you have had what you believed was a great idea or revolutionary moment. You eagerly shared your revelation with the person you thought was safe, only to have them tell you why it won’t work. Instantly, you were deflated.

The temptation is to walk away with the defeated belief, “next time I will keep it to myself, and will do it myself.” PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS!! Your dreams are an integral part of who you are and should be an extension of who you are as a person - a person with a purpose.

So here is my challenge to you - push back against the tyranny of the urgent. Schedule 30 minutes on your calendar this week to get alone and undistracted. Ask yourself these three questions:

1) What is my dream for my career? For my life?

2) Who can I tell my dream to who is safe, will help me refine my dream, and hold me accountable to act in pursuit of it?

And once you have answered those first two questions, be sure to ask this last and most needful question:

3) Now that I know my dream and have someone to chase that dream with me, what am I going to do first to make my dream become my reality?

In order to hit the targets in your mind, you have to give yourself permission to dream the dreams you see in your mind. Start now.

(No, really, start now…open your calendar, schedule those 30 undistracted minutes. You’ll be glad you did).


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