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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.
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.