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How to Put Our ‘Big Dreams’ on the Right Path


I have a neighbor who invited me over to see the house he’d been building for nearly eight years with no sign of being completed anytime soon. I had wondered what was taking so long and was curious to see inside. In addition to a number of odd, incomplete features, what I saw in the basement took the cake. There were tiny twinkle lights all over the ceiling. I asked about them, and get this—it was the arrangement of the cosmos on the day the owner was born. It made my birthday candles look a little meager by comparison. This place isn’t quite the Winchester Mystery House, but check back in with me in a couple of years and I’ll let you know if the construction is complete and he’s irrigating his lawn with Perrier water. I’m not bitter.

Would it surprise you to hear that you might be doing the same bizarre things with the life you’ve been constructing? Here’s what I mean. You build and build and prepare and prepare some more but never really move into your ambition. Is everything going to fall magically into place? Of course not. It’s going to take some detail work, but don’t spend all your time trying to get the stars to align before you start making moves on your ambitions. Sometimes things will line up, and other times they won’t. Keep making moves anyway. There’s just something about action that makes the world want to straighten the path and flatten the road beneath your feet so it’s easier to travel.

It won’t always be a walk in the park. As you make some moves, you’re going to face some resistance. I read somewhere that resistance to something new is like a universal constant. That rings true to me. Anyone trying to create something new, to bring an ambition into existence, will face pressures working against them. Here are a few of them.

Procrastination and lethargy. We’ve identified your big ambitions (and probably a lot of small and medium-sized ones too). We’ve captured a working list of opportunities to explore and cleared the path. With all this readiness, who would want to procrastinate or twiddle their thumbs? The truth is, a lot of people. You might be one of them. If so, take some time to figure out why.

Self-sabotage. Another dynamic I see with people who are having trouble moving toward their ambitions is self-sabotage. They don’t go so far as to slash their own tires so they can’t make the meeting or interview. It’s usually much less obvious, but it’s equally disabling. They take the nap instead of making the call. They head to the movies instead of going into the marketplace. They show up late to someone offering to help—or they don’t show up at all. They might be afraid of what will happen if their ambitions start to take shape, because all the excuses will be removed. The hunt will be over. It’s the moment when the dog catches the bus it’s been chasing. We can’t be all bravado and chasing. We need to have a plan for when things start to go right. When you blow the foam off the top, people who subconsciously sabo- tage their own ambitions are usually afraid of succeeding and what it will cost them in terms of security and comfort when they do.

Naysayers and haters. This might be the most common resistance you’ll encounter. If you have an established group of friends or co- workers, they’ve come to expect certain behaviors and accomplishments from you. They see your life following a certain trajectory that doesn’t make them feel threatened. Perhaps you’ve been in the same orbit around a peer group for years. If you remain in that place, it makes them feel like you are safe and predictable. When you change your trajectory, it can trigger a host of feelings in your friends or coworkers they may or may not yet understand as they reflect on their own dissatisfactions or lack of momentum. As you make progress, all of a sudden you can feel like you’ve become the enemy. It’s not true, of course. You’re just breaking out of the orbit you’ve been in. You’re no longer a moon; you’ve become a comet.

Sometimes people get really antsy when they see others hurtling toward their dreams. Parents, friends, coworkers, even spouses . . . anyone who feels threatened by your new adventure may do things that feel like they’re shutting you down. That’s not their intent, and they probably don’t even know they’re doing it. You’re picking up on the reverberations of your successes ricocheting off their own lives. They’re processing what they are trying to understand out loud, using your ambition as an inflection point.

If you’re married, sort it out. If you’re not, practice now for the important relationships you’ll have in the future. I know it will be hard, but every minute you spend on understanding your relation- ships is worth it. Don’t try to co-opt them into your dream; help them understand where yours came from. They still might be puzzled in the end, but at least they’ll understand you better. They might offer to help, or best of all, they might be inspired to do some dreaming of their own. A beautiful ambition is more contagious than the worst cold.

There’s a famous moment in human history where the haters and naysayers were pegging the volume needle. On December 17, 1903, after years of tinkering and experimenting, two brothers named Wilbur and Orville Wright changed history by making a successful powered flight over the sands of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The place was actually called Kill Devil Hills, but someone figured they wouldn’t sell much merch a hundred years later with that name, so they changed it in all the books. After a coin toss, it was determined that Orville would fly the airplane they had built in their garage.

Historians say others were first to fly, but the precise moment in time when Orville pulled away from the earth was 10:35 in the morning. It was the moment we knew sustained flight was possible. Before that minute, no one knew what would happen. Nearly everyone doubted it could be done. I’ve always wondered to myself what Orville and Wilbur were thinking a minute before they launched at 10:34. We all wonder the same thing about our ambitions at some point. Will our ambitions fly, or will they crash and burn?

Nobody lives at 10:35. You don’t, and I don’t. We all live our lives and execute our ambitions at 10:34. We don’t know how our lives will turn out, much less whether our ideas are going to work or not. I meet so many people in my travels, good people with great ideas, but many of them never take their ideas out of the hangar. The reason is simple. They’re afraid of what they’ll do if it works or afraid they’ll look bad if it doesn’t.

Perhaps it’s validation that has you stopped a minute early. Maybe you’re concerned about a big public failure, or maybe the thought of an even bigger private failure is keeping you from trying. Somehow the clock became frozen at 10:34 in your life. The good news is this: 10:35 is only a minute away from happening for each of us. That one minute is a small amount of time, but it can represent a huge shift in your life. It just requires a willingness to fail.


Taken from Dream Big: Know What You Want, Why You Want It, and What You’re Going to Do About It by Bob Goff. Copyright © 2020 by Bob Goff. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. 

This excerpt was featured in the June 28th edition of The Sunday Paper. The Sunday Paper inspires hearts and minds to rise above the noise. To get The Sunday Paper delivered to your inbox each Sunday morning for free, click here to subscribe.


Bob Goff is the author of New York Times Bestsellers “Love Does” and “Everybody Always.” He is Sweet Maria’s Goff’s husband, a dad of three, the founder of Love Does, a nonprofit organization working in conflict zones and the honorary Consul for the Republic of Uganda.

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