In defense of small dreams.

I’m writing this in a particularly vulnerable moment, which is actually the space in which I hope to write from, in general. Things feel hard today. There is personal stuff, and work stuff, and how-I-see-myself stuff, and of course, the ongoing stuff of the world. It’s a lot. It’s often (always?) a lot, but today feels especially heavy and unwieldy, like a sack of rattlesnakes. I’m managing, but struggling.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about dreams. There’s a lot of encouragement out there to dream big – the sky’s the limit! – and not settle for anything less. Because having medium-sized, or, god forbid, small dreams means that you’re not living your best life, or living up to your potential. As a coach, I have a lot of feelings about living one’s best life, and as a “perfectionist” (I prefer “constantly holding myself to impossibly high standards”), I definitely having feelings about living up to my potential. But recently, I’ve become acutely aware of my energetic reserves. Through informally tracking the things I’d planned to do vs. what I actually had the energy to do, I was surprised to find that I don’t currently have nearly the capacity I thought I did. Like, not even close. I realized I’ve been holding myself to outdated standards, expectations from another point in my life, that simply don’t apply to my current situation.

Folks living with disabilities or chronic illness, or those familiar with spoon theory, understand what this means. Yet understanding the reality of one’s capacity, and accepting that reality, are two different things entirely. Especially when there’s a steady flow of “Pain is weakness leaving the body / Push past your limits / If you can dream it, you can do it” messaging being pushed by our capitalistic, production-oriented society. If we’re not living up to every inch of our potential, if we’re not constantly producing the best results, then what are we doing? Who are we? How do we measure our worth?

I’m here to remind us – really, to remind me – that we’re human. It’s okay to do just enough to get by. It’s okay to ask for help, when we can’t do the minimum. We have permission to coast, and to rest, when needed (which, come to find out, is often, if we plan on being here for a while). It is perfectly fine to step back, to opt out, and to simply do what you can do, and nothing more. You have permission. You are more than your task list, and more than your dreams, no matter how big or small they are. Your worth does not hinge on what you accomplish. Again, for the people in the back: your worth does. not. hinge. on what you accomplish. In fact, your worth can’t be measured – there isn’t a metric that captures how intricately your qualities, gifts, talents, and quirks are woven together. The way you impact the world – yours and others’ – simply by being, is uncountable, and incomparable. Your existence is irreplaceable.

Big dreams can be wonderful, and life-giving. When you’re inspired to create or work towards something big, and you have the internal and external resources to do so, by all means, go for it. But remember that that doesn’t, and frankly, can’t, happen all the time. Seasons exist for a reason. Capacity shifts. Energy ebbs and flows. Limitations are real, and they need to be tended to, and respected. What would it take for you – again, for me – to truly embrace small dreams?

2 thoughts on “In defense of small dreams.

  1. This is exactly what I needed to hear today (and literally every day). Understanding spoon theory and practicing it are two very different things. It’s almost as if I respect others more than I respect myself, what’s up with that?!
    I am loving this blog, can’t wait for more. Thanks!


  2. Alison, this reframe of dream-size is a mindfulness bell. Feeling more conscious in this moment of the energy I *do* have at the beginning of this Monday. Thank you!


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