Of to-do lists and to-dream lists

I’m a daydreamer by nature. I’ve spent many hours of my life mentally trying on new lives, new jobs, new hometowns. And this time of year, just before autumn, is a particularly fertile time for my imagination. I find myself setting large goals, dreaming big dreams, setting the bar high.

So right now, my “to-dream” list for the fall is long and ambitious. It includes domestic dreams like giving away all hand-embroidered Christmas gifts and building a root cellar; career-oriented goals like launching a new blog, podcasting, and publishing an e-book; and family-related activities like launching a business with the kids and reading the entire Harry Potter series out loud.

How many of these things will actually happen? Certainly not all of them. Probably only 10%, if that. But that’s okay – this is my to-DREAM list, not my to-DO list.

While I know life is lived from day to day and small goals are key to making large dreams happen, I believe those big, pie-in-the-sky ambitions are important, too. First of all, when you daydream you can try on lots of different fantasies. After a while you’ll see which ones keep coming back and which fade away when the novelty wears off. Second, those large-scale dreams help us hone in on our most deeply-held values and priorities. Even though we may never make the huge life changes or tackle the large-scale goals we dream about – at least not right away – they can still spur us toward making smaller changes that support the way we really want to live and the people we really want to be.

And sometimes a goal just has to recur again and again and again before we take action. That doesn’t mean all the times we dreamed and didn’t take action were wasted. I like to think of them as the building blocks of “someday.” Kind of like how “false” contractions aren’t useless…they might not mean a baby is going to be born tonight, but they get you ready, mind and body and spirit, so the big event can occur down the road.

The only trick, I think, is to make sure we don’t confuse our “to-dream” lists with our “to-do” lists. If we actually anticipate putting every pie-in-the-sky plan into action right away, pretty soon we’ll feel squashed under the weight of all those unmet expectations. But if we allow ourselves to dream, to let ideas percolate without pressure, those dreams can take root in natural, doable, attainable ways over time. Forward motion is necessary, but that forward motion can happen one very small step at a time.

After all, while it’s not terribly likely that all my friends and relatives will get a hand-embroidered Christmas gift this year (umm…I still don’t even know how to embroider), I can probably pull off a single handkerchief…if I actually start the process before December. A new website, podcast AND e-book is probably not in the cards, but letting myself dream about the possibilities makes it easier for me to decide what to prioritize.

Sometimes, I think we stop ourselves from creating “to-dream” lists because they seem juvenile or silly or like too much pressure. We worry that if we put words to those improbable or impractical or just highly ambitious goals, that we’ll look like losers if we don’t make them happen right away (or ever), or that we’ll let ourselves down if we don’t live up to them.

But what if we look at “to-dream” lists as what they really are? They’re a reflection of our best inner selves, of our deepest priorities, of our ideal lives, of the people we would want to be and the things we would want to do if time, money, energy and reality were no object.

Thing is, time, money, energy and reality ARE objects. For everyone. But there is still value in the dreaming.

So please share. This fall, if time, money, and energy were no object, what skills would you like to learn, what talents would you love to develop, what adventures would you like to experience? What is on your “to-dream” list?

Are there any ways you can turn your BIG dreams into smaller accomplishments in the coming months?

Or do you just need to let them brew for a while?

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