Dream Big. Do Small.

Someone jumping and dreaming big.

We all have dreams and aspirations in many areas of life from the practical to the sublime – keep the house tidy, wake up earlier, start a business, travel the world, make more money, lose weight, exercise more, be a better parent/partner. Though those aspirations are easily listed, they’re not always easily achieved. Days turn to weeks, weeks to years and rarely have we made the big shifts in the directions and thinking necessary to make those dreams and aspirations a reality. Why?

Because the path seems too long, too difficult, too overwhelming. 

A sports psychologist made a distinction for me that made a lot of sense. He simply said, “Know the difference between aspirations and goals. Aspirations are things we must have in our sights but they are not within our control. One can aspire to compete in the Olympics or attend a particular university, but ultimately the outcome isn’t something you control. Goals, on the other hand, are under your control, and you set the goals that will help you achieve your aspirations.”

Dream big but do small. The thing about goals is that they can be broken down into a multitude of smaller and smaller tasks, and once you set your sights on an aspiration, you can work on the smaller goals. You count your small wins and understand they have huge significance and power to impact the end result. Goals are signposts on the path that make the path much easier to follow. Each small goal you meet brings the ultimate aspiration closer. As the aspiration gets closer, confidence increases and the end feels more and more attainable.

Dreams and aspirations in everyday life can be difficult to set in motion.

Our dream might be to make more money, to start a business, to become more confident or to lose weight but the path can be very difficult to find. We may become stuck trying to decide where to start, how to start, what guidelines to follow and what the finish line looks like. We may have the big dream but can’t take the first small step. This is why I love sports, specifically triathlon. Triathlon provides a medium to learn how to make aspirations reality. It forces you to dream big, do small. The pathway is clear – there is a race date, a distance and a finish line that are fixed. One simply has to make sure they can swim, bike and run the allotted distance in the given time and the aspiration of crossing the finish line is attained.

Doing small.

Let’s think about someone who hasn’t run for years even though they enjoyed it, and in order to get motivated and to get up off the couch they have signed up for a marathon. The excitement of the race entry fades after the first few hours and at 6am the next morning motivation is gone. 26.2 miles seems much too much. In an extreme case of not knowing how to start, dream big (the race) and do small (the goals) the first goal might simply be to wake up for the first few mornings with enough time to go for a 10-minute walk. That’s not exactly marathon training but for many that would be a big win and for many, by the time they get out the door for a 10-minute walk, they’ll figure they might as well jog a few steps.

Simply stated, dream/aspire big – but don’t think about the entirety of it. Do small – think about the simplest goal you can make each day that will accumulate over time to help you reach your dream/aspiration.

As the old adage states…

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Be your own Guinea Pig

“LIsten to everyone, follow no one”
– Dean Karnazes

Image of guinea pigThere is no one size fits all in diet or exercise.

In fact, you can listen to anyone’s “rule” about exercise or diet and I’ll guarantee you can find some one else who says the complete opposite to that “rule” – and they will both swear they’re right. In some sense they are. Some things work for some, other things work for others. Sometimes we know why and sometimes we have no clue. In the area of diet this is especially true.

This is why it’s so important to be aware of how you are responding to a new input (be it food or training). Something that worked beautifully for one can be kryptonite for another. A perfect example is with diet and gut health. Fermented foods are one of the big keys to wellness for many and introducing them into the diet can have many beneficial effects. However, if you are histamine intolerant they can cause more damage than good. More on histamine intolerance here.

Swimming is notorious for having contrary recommendations.

Breathe out continuously/don’t breathe out continuously, look straight down/look more ahead, kick/don’t kick – the list is endless. But somewhere in all the information about perfect swim form and what you need to do, is the recipe for you. However, you may have to try a lot of combinations. One of my big swim fixes came talking to an older master swimmer. He shared his story about the chronic pain he had had in his shoulders and how he fixed them from chronic pain and injury. He talked about “swimming from the back”, specifically using one’s lat muscles. It made sense and when I applied his discovery to my swimming, it turned out my weren’t “turned on” and I wasn’t recruiting them. With some exercises and awareness I fixed that and am swimming faster with less effort.

You need to be your own guinea pig.

Don’t go blindly into something just because it claims to be the next big thing or to be the answer to all your problems. But do experiment. I have learned so much about my health and fitness by trying various exercises and foods based on recommendations from others. Some worked miracles, others not so much.

Also, think about why someone is so excited about whatever it is.

My mom was told by a friend that she should try a new supplement that was somehow going to fix all health problems. It was supposed to contain the 12 best super food/minerals/plants on the planet. She asked me to do some research before she bought some. It turned out to be a multi-level marketing product.  Though some of the ingredients were great ones, there were also fillers and other not-so-great ingredients. She would be better off to buy the good ingredients on their own and make sure they were well sourced and potent. If money is the motivator be wary! But if someone found great results with something that isn’t a marketing ploy – try it if it sounds good.

As I try to help people, I remind them to do their research, examine the information out there, ask questions and try things.

See how you feel – better? worse? and keep looking and learning.

In the middle of writing this post I took a break and  listened to a favorite podcast. The guest and topic were apropos for my post. The podcast is the Bulletproof Radio with Dave Asprey and his guest was Holli Thompson, creator of Nutritional Style. You can listen to the podcast here and learn more about Holli here. She shares her story about the importance of nutrition and how individual it is.

So , though I want you to enjoy listening and learning from the information, recommendations and advice I will share from my and others’ personal experiences, it is not dogma. There is no one answer for everyone!