Some people dream of things that are and ask "why"... I dream of things that never were and ask "why not?"...
~ Robert Kennedy
I have a friend, (who I will call "Lisa" to protect the innocent). She is a hard-working and very successful single mom with one college-age child.
Lisa’s son, Chad, currently attends a prestigious liberal arts college in New England that costs her a small fortune in tuition, housing, books and other assorted costs of attendance.
This past spring, I had a chance to meet up with Lisa to catch up with our lives over a cup of coffee.
During the course of our conversation, she lamented that Chad was not doing very well at school, even though he was majoring one of the easier majors (I’d prefer not to mention the major by name as not to offend any of my readers). His grades have been lackluster and he seems to be just going through the motions.
"I keep asking him what his plan is... and he keeps telling me not to worry... that he has everything under control", she lamented. "If he’s not going to take school seriously, then I might as well have him move back home... at least it will save me some money!"
"Jimmy, maybe you can talk some sense into Chad... he just tunes me out whenever I try to talk with him about his future... he’s a really smart kid... he just doesn’t seem to have any motivation to do the work."
I nodded my head silently thinking about several kids with the same affliction (including my own kids at one time or another).
"Chad is coming home in a few weeks for spring break... I know that he respects you... perhaps he’ll listen to you."
I told Lisa that I’d be happy to sit down and talk with Chad when he arrived back in San Diego...
It was a few weeks later when I had the opportunity to meet with Chad at a local restaurant near the water.
He was hardly the young boy that I had known only a few years before. He was now a young man in his early twenties.
I began the conversation by asking him about school and what he enjoyed doing when he wasn’t going to classes.
His responses to my questions were measured and well-rehearsed.
After a few minutes of answering questions, he finally blurted out in a frustrated voice, "So are you going to ask me what my goals are and what my plan of action is to achieve those goals?"
I laughed out loud...
"No", I said, "I couldn’t care less about your goals and plans."
"What I really want to know is... what are your dreams?"
"Where do you want to travel to?... what types of adventures do you want to have?... who do you want to meet... who do you want to help?"
"Inside are you an artist?... a writer?... a chef?... a musician?... "
"What are the things that make you happy... what are the things that make you sad... what are the things that you think about when no one else is around?"
Chad looked at me with a dazed expression on his face... this was definitely not the conversation he was expecting to have... the conversation that he had had several times before with scores of different people...
Peering directly into his eyes, in a soft voice, I asked him again, "So what are your dreams?"
After what seemed like a full minute, he finally responded, "I dunno... I haven’t given it much thought... I guess I want to travel and see new places... doesn’t everyone?"
"I don’t know really know what other people dream about... nor do I care... today I’m talking to you... so I’m only interested in your dreams at this moment."
I could see by his expressions that his mind was now working hard to formulate new answers to these new questions...
I continued, "Your dreams are the end point... they are your ’Why’... if you don’t have dreams then how the hell can you possibly create goals (the ’What’) and/or plans of action (the ’How") to reach those goals?"
"Why are you going to school?... to get a job?... to earn some money?... What will you do with the money once you have it... buy a bunch of things that some marketers tells you to buy in order to bring you some feeling of happiness?"
I definitely had Chad’s complete and total attention at this point... no longer did he display a certain smugness that represented that he knew all the answers to all the questions...
"Chad, the truth is... you probably haven’t given very much time to actually dreaming... you’ve been simply too busy going through the motions doing the things that you think that you should be doing... for reasons that are probably more important to other people than yourself".
Some people will use the analogy of taking a trip... you set a destination... let’s say New York City as an example. Getting to New York City is your goal.
There are thousands of different ways to actually get to New York... so you create a road map of how you want to travel to get there... this is your plan...
Once you have the plan... then you can determine all of the logical steps that you’ll need in order to get to the destination... this is called working the plan...
But the real question is, why did you select New York City in the first place?... why not Boston... why not Paris... why not Mombasa?
Understanding why we want to go to a particular destination is far more important than actually going there...
When I was a kid, somewhere around 8-12 years old, my friends and I would freely share our dreams with one another... one time we were jet pilots... another time we were Kung Fu fighters... and another day we were rock stars or major league baseball players...
Our imaginations ran wild with each of us adding new situations and criteria to the scenes freely playing through our heads...
Then sometime near our teens, adults started telling us that it was time to grow up... begin planning for the future... start setting goals and then implementing our goals...
...but somewhere along the way we forgot how to dream...
As it turns out, at the end of the summer, Chad decided that he would not return to school this semester. It appears that he wanted to take some more time to dream a bit more about his future before he set his own course...
As the late Zig Ziggler once said, "Goals are nothing more than dreams with a time line."
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