When people tell me to “dream big” I admit to cringing. I can’t help it. I am a wimp. Oh, I’m not talking about being afraid to have big dreams for healing our planet or world peace. I don’t fear those dreams. But when someone tells us specifically to dream big, we know they’re really saying, “Don’t be afraid to succeed.” Not only that, “Don’t be afraid to succeed in a big way.”
Last year on New Years Day I was hanging out with three author friends when one of them instructed us to write down our dreams for the coming year. “No dream is too big!” she said. All three were New York Times best-selling authors. They’ve sold movie rights to their books. They’re my heroes in very different but significant ways, and not because of their books’ success. Sitting there, feeling kind of small, I realized I’d never dared to even entertain dreaming about achieving the things they already had. I’d never really even imagined the possibilities.
Timidly, I wrote down my first dream. It was to finish a project I’d been working on for two years. I knew it wasn’t really a dream. It was a goal. I peeked over at my friend’s list. She was dreaming big, oh yes. But her reality was already bigger than any dream I would dare to have. She elbowed me. “Dreams, not goals. Don’t be afraid.”
I nodded and stole one of her dreams. “Get a starred review.” She smiled. I kept going. Sell foreign rights! Earn out my advance! The more I wrote, the more I could actually imagine these things happening. Maybe.
And then the twinge again. It still felt wrong, somehow, to want more. Hadn’t my dream of selling a book come true? Wasn’t that enough? Who was I to want more? But they are just dreams, I told myself. It’s not a crime to dream. So I finished my list and put it away. I just now found it. I wrote eleven dreams. Astonishingly, I reached dreams 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10 and 11.
I admit, to the average published author, perhaps these dreams were not so big after all. But to me, they were mountainous. Sitting here now, I am stunned that they came true. If I hadn’t dared to dream them, would they have? And if they hadn’t, would I have reached as many teen readers? Would I have been able to attend conferences and events where I connected with amazing teachers, writers and students who inspired me in profound ways?
I guess what I’ve learned is that it’s not wrong to dream big. It’s fun! And it can lead to good things not just for your ego, but for your soul. Maybe if we all dreamed a bit bigger, even the seemingly unattainable dreams like healing our planet and world peace, could come true, too. I dare you to try it. :-)