I remember as a 5-year-old little girl, crawling up onto my nana’s nursing home bed with stark white blankets. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Nana asked.
“A doctor,” I’d reply with confidence.
“Will you be my doctor?”
I did not want to be an old person doctor, but I couldn’t hurt Nana’s feelings. “Yes, of course, I will be,” I answered. I also knew in my little heart that Nana was not going to live another 20+ years for me to finish medical school, but she believed in me and that’s what stuck with me all these years. I didn’t grow up to get my M.D., but for many years Nana’s belief in me encouraged me to take that path. To this day, I still toy with the idea of getting my Ph.D., partly so I can tell Nana someday that I became a doctor as I told her I would.
Through childhood and into adolescence my dreams shifted and morphed to make me who I am today. As we learn who we are, we learn who we want to become. As an adult, I continue to dream. I’m probably the biggest dreamer you’ll ever meet. I have my whole life dreamed up—farm, six kids (my husband disagrees on this one), grow and raise all our own food. I’ll drive a Ford Expedition XL. After all, we’ll need to fit all the kids. I will work at a counseling practice and be an author. I also want to be on American Ninja Warrior for funsies.
At the beginning of every year, people make resolutions and words to live by—setting goals that will be left to the wayside in a few months’ time.
Why do we only do this when the year starts anew?
Why aren’t we constantly living in a state of dreaming, goal setting, and progress making?
Better yet, when did we as adults stop dreaming? Maybe somewhere between our 15th and 23rd birthday. Maybe when we felt pressure to be realistic with our future. Maybe when we had children and had to learn how to adult. None of the above means we need to stop dreaming. An ashen girl once sang, “A dream is a wish your heart makes when you’re fast asleep” (I totally just sang that in my best Cinderella voice as I typed it.).
My 5-year-old mini-me daughter will tell you she wants to be a fairy-princess-super-hero when she grows up, and no one dares squash a child’s dreams. I say if she wants to be a princess, we’ll enroll her in community plays, acting classes, and theater school; and, girl, we’ll get you an internship at Disney. Princess Rapunzel, here you come! If a child says they want to be a superhero when they grow up, I’d ask them, “Policeman, firefighter, or military?” You say you want to be an NFL player, then let’s game plan.
No one dares squash a child’s dreams of what they want to be when they grow up, but as they get older reality starts to kick in. Society tells them x, y, or z isn’t realistic or it’s too hard, so they change. They settle for the realistic job. They make the money. They clock in 9 to 5. They go home to children. They start it all over again, and, worst of all, they stop dreaming. There is nothing wrong with working a 9 to 5 job that pays the bills. Don’t get me wrong. That is far from the point, but where are our dreams and goals? We shouldn’t let our everyday life hold us back from reaching our dreams, but gradually that 5-year-old dreamer fades away.
We can’t stop with just a dream though. A dream will only be a dream unless we give it a plan—then it becomes a goal. For example, instead of sitting on the couch, eating some good ol’ guacamole and drinking a Blue Moon, I work out while I watch American Ninja Warrior. It might not be full training, but it’s progress nonetheless. It’s me moving my butt towards my goal and motivating myself towards my dream. I have a lot of training ahead of me—running, weight lifting, and making it up that 14’ wall. Our dreams take baby steps. One day at a time. One workout at a time.
The best way to achieve our goals is to follow the acronym S.M.A.R.T.
Specific. Whether you want to be on American Ninja Warrior, write a novel, or climb Macho Picchu, make it specific, clear, and concise.
Measurable. Designate how much or how often you will work towards your goal—how many minutes a day or week you will work out, write, study.
Achievable. You can’t go from couch potato to running a marathon in a month. Make your goals challenging yet achievable in a realistic time frame.
Relevant. Make goals that are relevant to your overall life plan.
Timebound. Give your goal a target finish date.
Whether you’re 5 or 85 years old, never stop dreaming and pursuing goals. Write the book. Run the race. Get the degree. Go to Italy. Lose the weight. Dreams don’t have an expiration date, and age is only a number, not a constraint.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on http://www.lovethecrazylife.com/2019/01/where-did-our-5-year-old-dreams-go.html
Featured Image by Sebastián León Prado