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Active Dreaming and the Art of Getting Ish Done

F ncFact: I’m a dreamer. Growing up, I was your stereotypical introvert kid with a love of reading, writing, and drawing. I spent my weekends with my nose buried in a novel, and I lined up outside the bookstore to get my hands on the last Harry Potter book. Like many young introverts, I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I spent my days daydreaming, or “catching gapsie” as my Caribbean parents called it, and I wrote a lot: plays, stories, journal entries, and when I got older, blog posts.

I had a lot of grand ideas, like how I would one day steal away to Paris in the middle of the night and embark on a fantastic adventure. Or how I would go to university and study archaeology so I could spend my work days traipsing through the desert and my days off sandboarding down the windswept dunes, my long, glossy ponytail flowing freely behind me.

At some point during my young adult life, I realized that while I never wanted to stop being a dreamer, I could no longer be only a dreamer. I had to get ish done. And so, I came up with the idea of “active dreaming,” or making the wonderful ideas in my head a  reality.

I spent the month of March feeling pretty overwhelmed with all the things I took on. A lot of the things I was overloaded with were things I didn’t even want to do. Spending time and energy on things I low-key can’t stand sucks because it feels like I’m wasting my time. It’s a good way to end up bitter and resentful, which are flavours we don’t serve here.

Since then, I’ve found myself being irresistibly pulled toward my childhood and teenage dreams– dreams I thought I had long-since abandoned. France? Maybe I should go back–and speak the language this time. Remember how I wanted to be a designer? Maybe I can still do it. I always wanted to be a writer: what would be the harm in trying?

Read more: Chasing the Pull (external link)

These thoughts are dangerous to that ever-present little naysayer, Negative Nancy, who runs around inside my head, telling me to stop being unrealistic, that it’s too late, that the things I want aren’t possible.

Unfortunately for her, her free-reigning days are numbered. I think there’s a place for her, because she’s good at keeping me practical when she can express herself in a healthy manner. But she can’t be the boss.

So I’ve been trying, slowly, to line up my life with my daydreams. I’m still figuring things out, but I’m moving. Consider this active dreaming for the practically-minded.

Related: On Feeling Intimidated By My Own Dreams

As a millennial in North America,  I’m exposed to a culture that really plays up the unicorns in society, the people who’ve made it big and did it quickly. The idea of taking a single dramatic step to change the direction of our future is really popular and heavily romanticized. There are many celebrated stories of people who just quit their jobs and followed their passion, only to find a lot of success in doing so. I love these stories and get inspired by these stories, but they leave me with the sense that the path to success, however we define it, is black and white. Either we make dramatic decisions and race towards success like we’re trying to catch Usain Bolt, or we stay where we are and resign ourselves to a life of mediocrity and unfulfilled dreams. This doesn’t sit well with me. It hides the fact that success is a slow process for many people, and glosses over the reality that many successful people have actually worked towards their goals for years before they made it big. I also think it over-emphasizes things like money, fame, and adventure, when in reality, a lot of us want less glamourous things like financial security, loving relationships, and good health.

So consider this my counter-narrative: I think success is often personally defined and slow. I think it can be things society values less, like resolving a conflict with a friend, or things that society values more, like finding love or making six figures. I don’t think success is necessarily glamourous. I think success is strategic, and not entirely based on luck. And I think taking calculated risks is useful in obtaining it, as opposed to jumping in feet-first, though that has its place too. So I present you the sequence I realize I’ve been inadvertently following in trying to reach my own version of success.

Time will tell if it works.

Research

If I want something, like say, a stint as a working designer, I’ve learned to research it. Sometimes when I learn more about something, I realize it’s something I don’t actually want, that the ideas I had about it were incorrect, or that there are better plans or alternatives to getting what I want. For example, I thought that if I wanted to be a designer, I’d have to spend an additional year in school and thousands of dollars in tuition. When I got a little nagging thought to hold my horses and do some more looking (thanks, God), I realized that I could get a design education for under $100 and it was something I could do while I continue my current education.

Read more: Accidental Academic: My Experience In Grad School

Alternatively, I might also realize that something is in fact what I want, maybe more than I initially thought.

Plan

After I finish researching something (and I have to try really hard not to go overboard) and decide that I do actually want something, I tend to come up with a plan for getting that thing. As a kid, I used to let my imagination run wild and come up with all kinds of weird and wonderful ideas. There’s still room for that, but I realize that I also need to be practical. This is where my inner Negative Nancy is a beast. She knows my weaknesses, my insecurities, my areas of need. Would I have the time to dedicate to learning design on top of what I was already doing? I couldn’t handle commuting anywhere to go to class with my current schedule. And what about credentials, or at least a piece of paper? Employers like those.

Even though these aren’t exactly fun thoughts, I think these are all good things to consider when trying to plan. What resources do I have? What am I missing? How much can I commit? When do I want to get this done? My dad has told me that doing a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) is a useful planning tool. You can read more about that here.

Take action

When I was younger, I would get stuck in the research or planning stage and never actually follow through. I think this is one of the big differences between kid me and adult me: adult me understands that results matter and that a plan isn’t very helpful if I don’t carry it out, no matter how good it might be.

Still, for someone who loves thinking, taking action is the hard part (if you’re a doer, then research and planning might be hard).  This is when that stereotypical millennial advice about just doing it (and maybe even quitting your job) comes in handy. There is nothing to do at this point except plow through like you mean it.

I was so nervous when I was about to sign up for my design courses that I chickened out like three times before I actually did it. But I did it. Taking action feels so final, like I’m committing to a decision. It’s uncomfortable for me, but it’s necessary.

Be flexible (and patient)

I’ve found that the story doesn’t end when I take action. First, I will use the obligatory (and dreaded) c-word: consistency is important after I’ve taken the initial step. We all know this, so there’s no need to beat a dead horse.

But I’m also realizing I need to be flexible. Circumstances change and so do people. A great plan I had might no longer be viable, something might come up that prevents me from going further in the same way, or with more exposure, I might find that what I wanted no longer fits my vision of success. And of course, sometimes we fail and we have to deal with that.

So then what? At that point, it would be time for me to tweak. Even if my goal doesn’t change, sometimes my steps might have to. For example, if I find that I can’t finish my design courses in the time frame I planned, I might have to start a backup job instead of going straight for a design job like I hoped.

Related: The Cost of Chasing Dreams: Persevering Through Uncertainty & Failure

For me, being flexible also involves being open to other plans. I ask God to direct my steps. Because if something isn’t the path I’m supposed to be on, I don’t want to be on it.

And finally, there is patience. Another dreaded word because it means that there are no shortcuts. I love shortcuts–we all do. But sometimes ish just takes time. Success can be slow. And that’s the point at which I have to remind myself what I’m working for and just take the time to enjoy all that I’ve been empowered to do (again, thanks, God) and all the other things going on in life.

Here’s another counter-narrative: I think stopping to smell the roses can be helpful when it comes to success: it helps us to stay on course for the long haul. Because success if often a marathon, not a sprint.

What are you doing to help you achieve your goals? What does success look like for you?

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Image via Godisable Jacob @ Pexels


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30 comments on “Active Dreaming and the Art of Getting Ish Done

  1. I SO love this! You’re a great writer!
    Girl, I feel you though, on every level of this post. I love the realization that you had to “get ish done.”😂 I feel it. Especially with this writing thing. I love writing, but it’s a lot more romantic from afar. Close up, it’s hard work. It pays off, but by no means is it easy. Such is life, I suppose.
    What I love most about this post is that you are willing to work out the kinks. You’re navigating your dreams in a practical way. Stepping in and doing the work to find out if what you want is really what you want. “Active dreaming.” You struck gold with this idea. I love it!!!!

    • Thanks, Celestial! I love getting compliments from writers I admire, it makes me feel like I’m on the right track!

      Yes! I think a combination of historically denying myself the opportunity to go after what I want and the realization that things (like writing) often come with challenges I didn’t think about has made me more cautious and more determined at the same time. Or maybe I’m just getting old 😂

      • Admire, me?! No, I’m in love with your writing style: cohesive, relatable, great metaphors, funny and witty! Truthfully, I was a little jelly but proud at the same time.lol

        You’re not getting old, you’re maturing. And as much as it sucks, at some point, we have to concede to growing up. I think you’re on a good path. 🙂

        • Oh wow! I might need to save this comment and look at it when I’m feeling down. It’s just lovely, thank you!

          Yes, admire you! Let me explain: what I love about your writing is that you’re an effortless storyteller. You have a way of putting words together that takes me on a journey with you and makes me feel calm and safe at the same time. I don’t know how you do it, but you do. I just want to drink tea and get all cozy with a blanket when I read your writing. I love that.

          Thanks so much for the encouragement 😊

          • You’re very sweet and I sincerely appreciate that you enjoy my writing.

            Thank you for the genuine and open conversation these past few days. It’s what I’ve always wanted to come out of my blog: a community where Christians (and people in general) can feel safe, be heard, be enlightened, and edified through one another. I love talking with you. You give me perspective. I look forward to more convos! Also, what’s your actual name?lol

            • Thank YOU! I really enjoyed our conversation – that kind of thing is one of the best things about blogging! I’d love to be part of your community & have you in mine!

              My blogging friends call me Drifty and you’re welcome to as well!

  2. Thanks Sis!

  3. Great Post Sis! I was just like that when I was younger too – always in a book, except being a writer wasn’t the thought – I actually wanted to be an actress and a lawyer – HA! Maybe one day I’ll get a part and fulfill that dream of doing both. You always have great thoughts and I love the fact that you’re discovering yourself and what you by the Do’s and Do not’s sort of list, I know you’re going to figure it all out and get there. Say, if you need a roomie for Paris?, I’m Down! xoxo

    • A lawer-actress sounds pretty cool to me. You could write your own contracts! When did you realize that you liked writing?

      Thanks for always being so encouraging, you make me feel so hopeful for the future! Paris would be so much cheaper with a roomie 😥 But this time around, I’m hitting up the South! Give me beaches, yachts, and seafood! 🙌

      • Hey Sis! I realized I like when I was in the 11th grade actually. Which is crazy because I never got a good grade on essays or reports!…lol. I realized that I loved imaginative writing – I was always a reader, but I could hear someone talking about something and it’s like I can see it being played out into a story, it’s hard to explain but my mind is very creative. Oh yes! Well I live near the beaches and don’t go…lol…I do plan to take a trip before the end of July though and Yessssss – Love the seafood!

        • Interesting how we find things we love at different ages. Yes! I relate, I’m always seeing the story in everything.

          I think it’s nice if we see where we live like a tourist does – I would probably explore a lot more if I did! Hope you have a great trip!

  4. Loved This!

    “It hides the fact that success is a slow process for many people, and glosses over the reality that many successful people have actually worked towards their goals for years before they made it big.” — EXACTLY.

    Great Read. Great Thoughts. Proud of you. Keep the lessons coming!

  5. Hey my fellow introverted book worm! I see you! 😊

    There are soo many things I can say about this. I’ll start with I loved and connected with this piece! I listen to A LOT of podcasts with people sharing their journey about how they left their corporate job or 9 to 5 and pursued what really lights them up. And while to the outside world it looks like overnight success in 30 days, the reality is that it’s not. Majority if not all of the podcast guests talk about how they did their research, planned, and slowly built their product/service and side hustle for months or years before they actually took the leap to doing it full time. And they worked on it so hard and for so long that when they finally made the leap, boom six figure business within “X days or months of quitting their job. But it’s not like they JUST started the day they quit their job. No, they were spending all their evenings, early mornings before work, lunch break and weekends working on that thing. There is no such thing as over night success. And if you ever do find a situation where someone was an overnight success, most likely that business didn’t last long or didn’t survive a market change. So I don’t know why society continues to perpetuate this idea that success comes quick and easy. I’m here to tell everyone F no it does not!
    It’s grueling and uncomfortable every. single. day.

    Throughout this whole year I’ve been figuring out what success looks like to me and what I want my life to look like. While, I haven’t totally figured it out, it’s night and day from what it used to be. I think some people, especially millennials are starting to realize that the expensive car and nice house doesn’t equate to joy, fulfillment or success.

    I’m so excited for you and the fact that you are giving yourself permission to explore the path less travelled, to define success in your own words, and to pursue what is deep within your heart. This is the most beautiful journey. I can’t wait to see what unfolds! Please continue to share ❤️

    • Loved this response Kelle! Just loved it! I echo your sentiments… there’s a behind the scenes grind that is under glamorized and doesn’t get enough attention. Well said. Both of you ladies! Bravo! Glad to have a front seat in this part of your lives 🙂

    • It’s so nice to have people who relate! 🙋

      Yes! Keep telling the truth! I know you’re working on getting your own business off the ground, so this is a reality you live every day! I love that you’re immersing yourself in entrepreneur stories so you can get a more in-depth picture. I find that makes success feel more attainable, not one of those things that either happens to you or it doesn’t. I was really interested in entrepreneurship when I finished undergrad so I read about it constantly and all I can say is that it is NOT for the faint of heart! Gruelling and uncomfortable sounds about right 😥

      I’m curious, how has your view of success changed?

      P.S. The book you recommended me, The Artist’s Way has been helpful to me in trying to go after what I want. Thank you so much for telling me about it and for always being so encouraging. I think support from this blogging community has really pushed me too. ❤

      • Aww Awesome! I’m so glad the book is helping you! Of all the books I have read, that is probably the only one I actually applied in a real way.

        Success…once upon a time I viewed success as the big house out in the suburbs, climbing to the top in my career, and a six figure income.

        Today, success to me is living a life of freedom, joy, and impact, and constantly being in pursuit of being a better me. In short I’d say that covers it. I can expand on a couple…

        Freedom from limiting beliefs dictating my actions, debt free (student loans and cars), financial freedom – my money has worked so hard for me I never HAVE to work another day. I want to be at the point where I CHOOSE to work/operate a business simply because I want to, not because the bills need to be paid. And I want to be able to freely move about the world and live my life without having to worry about a dependent (pet/child/family member). I no longer want to feel like I can’t even take a day trip because my dogs have to eat or go out at a certain time.

        And I am focused on impact right now. How does the life I live and the money I give (now and in the future) impact people, my community, and the world?

        So it’s a transition away from the material, the tangible and performance based kind of success. Now I won’t lie, I do also have financial goals (I’m dreaming bigger now, 7 figures and above). But not because I just want to be rich, but instead for the purpose of using it as a tool for good – to bless family and others, to create generational wealth, and to impact the world.

        Whew! Girl, you always have me writing blog posts for comments! I need you to ask me questions when it’s time to sit down and write an actual post! Lol.

        • I relate so hard to everything you wrote. Our definition of success is almost identical! I think it’s a pretty unconventional view of success, at least the way American/Canadian culture paints it. I’m not sure what got me onto it, except for the fact that I didn’t like how it felt to be grinding my youth away for things I ultimately didn’t care about. In undergrad, I think I lived in like 300 square feet and I absolutely loved it! I think things like that helped me to change my perspective too. We really don’t need a lot to be happy, but like you, I think having a lot ultimately comes down to being able to make a big difference.

          As far as freedom goes, the financial freedom part of your comment hit me particularly hard. I really would like to live off passive income one day. That way, I could focus on doing what I want to do and not on what I have to in order to keep a roof over my head.

          Ask you questions before writing a post? That can definitely be arranged. 😉 Get in touch at contactdriftyness@gmail.com if you’d like to do a collab! I know I’d love to work with you!

          P.S. I’m so sorry I’m getting back to you so late. I’ve been a little messy lately 🙊

          • I definitely feel you on wanting to do what you want to do, not have to do. What methods have you considered in terms of building passive income? Our preferred method is real estate investing. …I have another book for you. Set For Life by Scott Trench.

            I will definitely send you an email! I have not yet done a collab and am excited for the opportunity! You’ll have to tell me how it all works. 😃

            And No worries! Life is messy sometimes and we all need a break every now and then.

            • I’m definitely interested in real estate too, though I’ve been reading that it’s technically not passive income (I’m ok with that). I’ve also thought about investing and blogging or at least something writing-based/creative like a course or a book. Right now I’m trying to learn (and save) as much as possible so I’ll know what moves to make and have the means to make them.

              Thanks for the book recommendation! Noted. If you’re interested in real estate as passive income have you read the Afford Anything blog by Paula Pant? I think it’s fantastic.

              Excited to collab! I’m a baby in the collab world myself but we’ll work through it together.

              • It’s not like a 401K or stocks because you do have to do some work like potentially being a landlord and managing your property unless you have money to pay for those things right out the gate. But it’s not trading time for dollars like a normal job. For our out of state properties I don’t have to do anything and money shows up in my account every month. We do have a property manager now because we can’t manage them from this far away. But to me that’s passive because I’m not actually putting in any work to make that money. Even before we moved I might have been spending 2-4 hours per month max on real estate related tasks. That still feels passive to me.

                And the thing about stocks for example is that there is still work one must do in the form of research and paying attention to the news, market and any changes that could affect your investments. I feel like it evens out but I know there are a lot of people that stay away from real estate but are okay with stocks and stuff.

                I think I’ve heard of her. I feel like at one point my husband listened to her podcast and I happened to hear a few episodes from that. I really like the Bigger Pockets Podcast and blog for real estate.

                • I think it’s awesome that you bought out of state. Did you intentionally do that or did it end up that way after a move?

                  I’ve been warned against buying too far out of town let alone out of province (I’m Canadian), but I feel that getting started is more affordable that way.

                  I think at the end of the day, you’re right. There’s still work involved regardless. If you don’t mind me asking, how did you get started in real estate investing? You seen pretty young so I’m so excited to see that you’ve done it early!

                  • Thanks! We purchased in GA while we were living there and kept the properties after we moved here. it was in state at the time. My husband actually introduced me to real estate when we were dating. I read the book Rich Dad Poor Dad during Grad School and got hooked. I don’t think I would be on this path without my husband, I give him credit 😃

  6. I really love how you write, everything was worded so nicely and in a suitable context. I also feel like we’re twins when it comes to being a dreamer & having difficulty in taking action. Currently, I decided to take a little break from blogging so I can develop my ideas for other avenues I want to explore. Success definitely isn’t black and white. Hopefully, it all comes together for each one of us.

    • Aw shucks, thanks, Ali! It’s hard to make a decision when you have so many ideas!

      I think taking a purposeful break is a great idea! I think I’ll need to do that myself at some point. Do you mind sharing what you’re hoping to explore? I’m curious!

      Hoping for the best too. Thanks as always for sharing your thoughts, it makes blogging so much more fun! 😊

  7. You hit every point so well in this. You opened a whole different side of the conversation that I didn’t even see; because it is so true that success is steamrolled in the media like a rags to riches story. Truth is success by any definition takes works in all of the ways you advised. I love it! I also finally emailed you about our collaboration and after reading this I’m even more excited about it. This month I’m able to focus more on my love for blogging so I know we’ll create something awesome!

    • Yay! I’m so glad you liked the post! I think that narrow definition of success probably hold a lot of people back! I know it did for me, because I thought it was all or nothing, not one step at a time. Going to check my email now! Really excited to see what we come up with!

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