I am someone who has always dreamed big. I ask a lot out of life. And yet, when I really look at my life, my favorite moments are the simplest ones: Having an interesting conversation with someone that shifts my perspective a bit. Enjoying a cocktail with friends or family on the back patio. Reading a really good book.
This recently landed me in a major conundrum. If my satisfaction is indeed coming from these simple moments, should I keep dreaming big? Or would I actually be happier focusing all my energy on enjoying the now moment and maybe even moving to a farm in the middle of nowhere and living super simply? (Okay, maybe not a farm. I’m not THE BEST at roughing it. But perhaps a cute, remote log cabin, with a cozy fireplace and a Nordstrom not tooooooo far away?)
I actually let my dream go for a bit to try and sort this out. For a few weeks after work each day, I made it a practice to enjoy moments like the ones I described above. I went on picnics. I read every book on the NY Times Bestseller list. I watched TV shows that made me laugh. I went to lots of happy hours. And I discovered something really interesting (and also downright aggravating). Those simple moments didn’t bring me joy anymore.
Great, I thought as I sat at my kitchen table (with a glass of wine…or two). What the hell did that mean?
Do I need to dream big in order to enjoy simple moments? But dreaming big often doesn’t leave us time to enjoy simple moments. Not to mention my big dreams have often left me frustrated and discouraged—hence why I was assessing whether it was really important to follow a dream in the first place or if it might just be something I’ve been conditioned by society to believe I should do.
Leave it to a love story to shed some light on this.
My favorite scene in the TV series, This is Us, is when Rebecca abruptly leaves a blind date because she has to sing. Singing is her passion, her dream. Does she ever become a famous singer? Not really. At least not in the way that she’d always hoped. But here’s what does happen: on that night that she was doing something to follow her dream, she met Jack—the love of her life. And later, they had The Big Three and her whole life unfolded in a way that it wouldn’t have, had she given up on her dream the way her friends had encouraged her to.
I think of my own journey with writing. It has led me to live in several different cities. It took me on a backpacking trip through Europe a few years ago. I’ve met all sorts of wonderful people.
Maybe the dream is only important because of the PATH it lays out for us. And the simple moments ON THIS PATH are what give us meaning and shape our lives. As this blogger at Wanderlustworker points out: when we’re dreaming big, we feel abundant, and so those simple moments register more.
As a society, we talk a lot about how to achieve dreams. And yet, we know that the satisfaction from accomplishing a dream is fleeting. A few hours or days later, we want something else. Something more. And when we don’t accomplish a dream? We feel like a failure. Even though there’s a huge part of accomplishing dreams that is out of our control. We can only do our part. The rest comes down to luck and timing.
But if the achievement of the dream is irrelevant, and it’s the encounters we make on our journey to achieving it that really fill us up, then shouldn’t we dream as big and boldly as possible to call in as many potential meaningful moments as we can?
By really going for it, you might end up on a plane, headed to a writer’s conference. And on that plane, you might meet a new best friend. Or maybe you end up having a memorable conversation with someone you meet in line at the conference, while waiting to talk to an agent.
Let’s change our relationship with dreaming big. Let’s dream big because doing so lines us up with who we are. And when we’re who we truly are, we are more likely to enjoy the simple moments.