Remember as a child how you wanted to reach for the stars and how the task, atrocious and daunting as it might have sounded for a grown up, to you was seemingly piffling and easy? What happened to that dream today? Chances are that most of us would have all but buried those dreams. Possibly 1% of the lot stood fast embracing their dreams and turning it into reality.
So what exactly is it that happens to strip these dreams of its feathers and eventually make us turn away to those things that we would euphemistically term as more ‘realizable’? What makes most dreams unrealizable? I guess to start with, you should dare to dream in the first place. But daring isn’t all, it is just a starting step and not an end in itself. But here is something I have come up with, the answer to your dreams lies in its feathers. I guess you’re probably wondering what crap is this guy talking about, that’s OK. It will make sense in time.
Most of us have goals and all of us have dreams. Is there a difference between the two? Ideally, confined thinking and ‘be on the safe side’ thinking have led us to believe that goals are more idealistic to pursue than dreams. Overtime we convince our sub-conscious (knowingly and unknowingly) mind to accept the fact that achieving your goal is a more worthy and nobler thing to do than pursuing you dreams. As a result we have even come to associate ambition with goals rather than dreams. Don’t get me wrong, we all talk about dreams and the significance it plays to shape our growth, we give it the due grandness ‘on paper’. But when it comes to wishful thinking and actions, we choose goals over dreams.
Lets us, for the sake of understanding compare ourselves to a bird. Picture yourself as a bird, now that wasn’t so hard was it? Don’t take to the skies thought, not just yet. Your dreams are your wings, the bird’s wings. And your plumage is what modifies you to take to the skies. Remember we are talking about ‘feathers’ here and not just a single ‘feather’. Without these feathers, and/or shall we say, with badly maintained feathers, your dreams will just be another skeletal framework that doesn’t lift off the ground (impressive as the framework may be).
With me so far? OK great! Now what’s the whole deal between dreams and goals right? A ‘goal’ is a destination you want to arrive at in the future, a highly desirable prospect you fully intend to realize. A goal is-
when you have a goal in mind, you are able to visualize the concept in your mind. You can picture the end result that you want to achieve or the place that you want to be at, as an end to achieving the desired goal.
a goal is measurable. It is not a vague term or idea; you don’t say ‘oh I don’t know. I have something in mind, not sure how it will turn out. I have no idea if it’s even possible‘ about a goal. It is well defined yeah?
3- Time bound attainability
Goals are time bound, in that you have a definite period by when you expect to reach your goal. This may be the biggest identification of a goal, the fact that it is measured in time.
Now when you look at the above statements, which seems to delve into all that, a goal ‘is’ you seem to be left with a sense of all that a dream ‘is not’. This is perhaps the biggest turn off for anyone pursuing a dream.
Alright, so I’ll cut the chase and come straight to the point, the truly motivated people have scaled this obstacle and integrated their goals and dreams into one. You might think how is this possible? Which is what I will come to in just a bit. We all have dreams and right from the early stages of life these dreams shape in some way our attitude, likes and dislikes perhaps even carving out our philosophy for life. At some point along the way however (and this point in time may vary from person to person depending upon various contributing factors) we must choose to turn these dreams into goals, or simply abandon them and pursue more realistic goals. Therefore it is prudent, that our dreams have been evaluated, weighed out and elucidated into a defined profile by this time. Otherwise, one will have no clue how to turn these dreams into a goal. The reason why most people aren’t able to make this smooth transition has to do with what has been fed into the sub-conscious. “You can always pursue your dreams as a hobby, for a living, focus on some well defined goals”. Ideally we have been led to believe that the two can never be one
Let’s take a look at the above graph to put things into better perspective. The intention is to showcase three factors that favor goals, or in other words three factors that would tend to make an individual to lean away from dreams. Let us assess each of these factors in detail.
1- Goal Definition
That is to say what makes up for our definition of a ‘goal’? What ideas are worthy of being classified as a goal? What aren’t? Dreams and goals don’t attain intensive details until the age of 10. From the age of 10 -12 years a child begins to organize and label ideas as goals and starts developing achievable targets. These may be subjected to the environmental factors in play around him. A target could be scoring good grades, so that he/she can get the ‘gift’ that Daddy promised. Something like this, but your sort of getting the idea now right?
2- External Factors/ Influences
Most of our early goals are set and designed more by small, stupid and immature ideas or dreams rather than any external influence. These become the foundation for later goals that develop in life. But as we grow older, we tend to let external factors influence and shape our goals. The expectation from parents, society, spouse, children keep playing bigger and bigger roles in our goal settings as we cross the 25 year mark. These steadily increase till about when we are 50-70 years of age. Beyond that there is insufficient data to draw any meaningful trend and therefore the graph at 70+ is speculation.
3- Risk Assessment
The concept of a ‘risk’ factors into our decision making process as early as 10 – 12 years of age. Before that the term ‘risk’ was rather vague and derived no proper definition in our minds. Once we grasp the idea of risk, it continues to grow as we age and peaks at 35 – 50 years of age where we evaluate each actions and its possible reaction, thereby assessing the potential risk involved.
Now the thing is that as these three factors grow and influence our decision making, we are able to define a goal more precisely and assess all its dimensions with more accuracy. Gone are the days of crude and unrefined dreams that would get us all excited. Things have gradually become more ‘realistic’. These factors tend to shift our focus away from Dreams and onto the horizon of Goals.
So we’ve looked at what constituted a ‘goal’ earlier, but what are the characteristics of a Dream? It would be a crime to think that one could confine the characteristics of a dream to that of a goal. A dream is unique in that it is bespoke for every individual. More than one individual can have the exact goal in mind, but it is literally impossible for two individuals to have the same dream. A dream is a reflection of your personality and no two individuals have the same personality, not even identical twins. That makes ‘dreams’ more of an ‘out of the box’ concept which has no defined shape or content.
Dreams seem closer when we are not logically reasoning and have left our actions to the control of the sub-conscious, in other words when we are asleep. They seem farther away when we are wide awake and going through the stash of monthly bills, at that time, goals seem more realistic.
Although we can’t define dreams, we can look at some factors that would favor dreams. With our focus on dreams let’s look at two factors that facilitate dreaming the most. Or for lack of better explanation shall we say these are what give colors to dreams. The actual number of factors that are responsible for dreams to take wings are innumerable to mention here and like I said, dreams are bespoke phenomena. No two people can have the same dream, and that leaves us with roughly 7+ billion possibilities, or whatever the actual human population on earth is. Right so back to our topic-
1- Learning Curve
In terms of pure learning or in other words, much of the crucial software that runs our operating systems is imbibed in the early stages of life. The Learning curve is at its maximum potential during this stage- the 0 – 5 years of age. A child scoops up vast gigabytes of information from his environment, translating them into experiences and knowledge. One can only imagine the activity that the brain is subjected to during these years. This vast amount of information finds its explanation and translation through dreams that provide a window into the unexplored possibilities that this wealth of information holds. This is the forming stage of imagination and creativity. But as we progress through life, this curve slopes down, we tend to specialize into a particular field and all our learning from then on is projected in that particular direction. As a rule of thumb, as we learn more and more, there remains fewer things for us to understand and thereby the actual magnitude of learning declines, although the complications and specification may be more profound of the learning gained later on in life.
The imagination of a person is at its highest when he is a child and to a large extent it is sculpted by what the child observes from his parents and close relatives. Bed time stories for example can open a magical world to ‘Terabithia’ in the mind of a small child. Simply because he has not come to terms with such things as ‘risk’ and ‘limitations’ and therefore the possibilities to him are endless. We adults have this delusion that with age there comes a sense of unparalleled imagination. In reality I doubt this, they may become more experienced at what they are doing, and therefore can be lulled into a false sense of imagination. If you want to know what imagination truly is, try telling a bedtime story to a small child and ponder on the questions that he asks you. But this again is a curve that slopes downward as one grows older. To answer the question as to ‘WHY’ this happens would require delving into another topic altogether, which we shall save for a later occasion.
As I am writing this, I am listening to a track by ‘Yanni’ called ‘a love for life’. This song is a stimulus and is greatly aiding my attempt to complete this piece of work. But the thing is that such stimuli are increasing harder to come by, unlike when I was 2 or 3 years old when every object I could possibly lay my eyes on could stimulate a response almost instantly. So you see why dreams are more elusive than goals, it is not because they are harder to accomplish, but simply because of what we have wired into our sub-conscious. As we have observed, through life, there are those factors that limit our ability to turn dreams into reality and which lull us into believing that goals are more significant that dreams. Goals might bring you success, but your dream defines you, in order to find yourself you must realize your dreams.
Now it is finally time for me to relate the whole thing with the title of this article- ‘Maintaining those Feathers’. We know, it is the feathers that help take those wings to the skies. In the case of dreams however these feather don’t sprout overnight and take time. So whatever dream it is that you may have. Keep adding one feather to your dream (wings) everyday and eventually your dreams will take to the skies. A little bit of perseverance, a bit of hard-work, a bit of research, a bit of planning, a bit of strategy and management, everyday for as long as it takes to cover those wings in feathers. Very often, because of the time period that it takes to realize dreams we abandon the wings and instead replace them with wheels as they seem more ‘plausible’ and ‘realistic’. Over a period of neglect these half done wings often fall apart and when we do come back to the garage to finish those wings, find them in disrepair and have to start from scratch.
Remember I said that truly motivated people have integrated their dreams and goals as one and the same. This means investing time and effort on maintaining those feathers. It simply means to not lose hope in the ability of your wings to take to flight. In time they will, once they have the required amount of feathers to support flight, keep adding feather, keep those already added feather in good condition, replace any where required. (Like I said, Dreams are much bespoke and therefore I can only speak in general terms, the nature of the feathers, the required quantity of feathers and such details, each one has to figure out for himself.)
So ask yourself, if you haven’t already; and take a close look at your wings, are they ready for takeoff? In order to truly discover yourself, you need to get those wings off the ground.
Note: all data and graphs in this post are based on personal experience and are not based on real time data collection and analysis. These are merely intended to give the reader a glimpse into the thoughts of the writer.