Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can. ~ Terry Pratchett
“When dreams and expectations are too far apart the dreams will remain only fantasies.” ~ me
Remember childhood fantasies? Of meeting fairies and leprechauns or King Arthur’s knights. Of winning a Grammy or an Oscar or Rookie of the Year. Of saving the nation or rescuing the damsel in distress. We all had those stories in which we played a starring role, in which we were that show-stealing, special someone who always had a happy ending.
Remember dreams? Marrying the dream girl or guy, landing the dream job, buying the dream house, taking the dream vacation and then finally retiring to the dream estate on the beach or in the mountains or in some romantic European city.
In one of the most remembered speeches in history, Dr. Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream.”
Think about how differently that might have been received if he had said “I fantasize about.” I would even contend that Dr. King didn’t just have a dream, he had a true vision; one that he was willing to put his life’s energy into realizing and one that is still being realized today.
What separates fantasies from dreams and dreams from visions and visions from realities?
Escapism to Commitment - A fantasy is a story that begins with “if only.”
There are a lot of people who fantasize about living a life of leisure on a private island. That private island is a place they escape to in their heads when the pressure cooker heats up and they need to unplug. It provides a mental time-out, an emotional mini-vacation. They have no expectation of living that life. A fantasy requires zero commitment, it is only for entertainment value.
Commitment to Focus - A dream is a story that begins with “if and when.”
Some people even have a dream of living on the beach. They tell themselves that is what they would like to do when they retire. They may take a few beach vacations and say “let’s save enough that we can retire here, wouldn’t that be nice?” They commit to “someday” having that beach retirement home or vacation spot. Then they go back to their daily concerns and the dream of living on the beach is relegated to a distant future.
Focus to Plan - A vision is a story that begins with “I see a way”
Then there are those who have given considerable thought to their dream. And maybe they have realized that time spent at the beach – the sun, the sand, the slower pace – recharges their batteries. They are committed to making that happen as part of their life plan. They focus on creating a vision of how that might be possible, beginning with regular vacations, to owning a time share on the beach, to owning a beach house, to even owning that private island. They make the commitment to incorporate it as a priority into their goal setting and action planning. They make business and career plans around being able to spend time at the beach each year. Time at the beach becomes a part of their vision for their life and they focus their life’s energy on turning that vision into a reality.
Plan – Reality is a story that begins with “this is how it happened”
Then there are those people who are “living the dream.” They have taken it out of the realm of “ifs and whens and ways” and created a “how.” They let their fantasies and dreams inform their vision of what they really wanted, focused on it and used the energy that comes from really focusing on a desired outcome to fuel their strategy and their momentum. They developed a plan and worked that plan. They set goals and met them and then set new, higher goals. And they created the reality that most of us only fantasize or dream about.
I’ll bet you still have fantasies and I hope you still have dreams. But how many of these are you focusing on enough to turn them into visions let alone realities?
In my next article we’ll explore ways for knowing how to distill the vital elements of a fantasy or dream so that you can have the clarity to focus on plan, but right now, let’s review the four steps to moving from the realm of fantasy into living the dream as your reality.
Step #1 – Make a commitment. Wild fantasies are great entertainment, but until you commit your energy to them they are only that. Committing your energy means you will take the time to build a story about real people and the world where you really live. Maybe you won’t be one of King Arthur’s knights, that is a fantasy. But you can commit to being a real life hero. Maybe you won’t win an Oscar if writing, singing or acting isn’t one of your talents. But you can commit to walking a “red carpet” to accept the equivalent of the Oscar for your chosen profession.
Step #2 – Narrow your focus. Dr. King didn’t say “I fantasize about” and he also didn’t say “I have a lot of dreams.” He said “I have A dream” – he had one, very powerful dream. If you have several dreams and cannot choose a focus, ask yourself if there is a theme. Do all your dreams involve success in a certain area, creating a certain lifestyle, being involved in certain activities? Narrow your focus to making ONE story come true.
Step #3 – Formulate a plan. Once you have a “plot” or a story that you really want to live out you’ll need a plan for making it happen. Think about what you need to do, but also consider who you need to meet, what you need to know, learn or discover or where you need to be. Your plan should take into account every element of your “plot” – characters, setting, props, etc…
Step #4 – Start living the story, but give the plot room to evolve. Right, we haven’t talked about this yet, but it is important. Many dreams fail to become reality because the plan was so rigid that it failed to evolve with the main characters. The story needs to be able to change as you change. The dream you had before you had children may not be a satisfactory vision when those twins come along. Stay deeply connected to yourself, making sure that your focus is on a vision that comes from your heart not from your past.
Think about this: If you really want to be “living the dream” or “realizing your visions” you have to maintain that commitment and focus and work the plan. You will only be able to do that if the story you are telling is truly what you want for yourself.
Do this: Journaling can be a powerful tool for maintaining focus and a great measurement for whether or not our daily choices are “working the plan” or bringing us closer to the reality we desire. An even more powerful tool is what I call “future journaling.” You may create a separate journal or you may just include these entries as part of your daily journal. Either way begin your entry with a date, but make it a future date. Then write the story of your day as though it had really happened. Compare your entries from your current journal and your future journal. Are you creating a story that is in sync with your dream?
**By the way, this post is part of the exercises for the second session of “Explosive Expansions - How to EXPLODE your barriers, EXPAND your life, and EMPOWER your self.” It’s a 14-week course, one hour per week, and a lifelong commitment. If it’s something you want to explore drop me an email and I’ll add you to the wait list for the next group.