A few months ago, I attended a speech contest in which one of the contestants spoke about dreaming small. She said early on that that’s what her parents always encouraged her to do.

At first I thought it was a set-up for a punch line, or that she’d be talking about how she had to overcome a “think small” mindset in order to dream big and achieve great things. And since I teach, preach, and coach people about dreaming big and achieving their dreams, this whole “dream small” message just sounded wrong to me.

But as she continued her speech, it started to make a lot more sense. She talked about how she sets her sights on small dreams, enjoys the satisfaction of achieving them, and then builds up to bigger ones. And she talked about some of the amazing dreams and goals she has achieved, not by going after the big ones but by starting with the small ones.

That’s when I realized that the advice she was giving her audience was the same advice I give, just worded a little differently. Instead of telling people to dream small, my instructions would be to dream big, but start small.

I encourage people to dream big because there really are no limits to what we can accomplish if we believe in our dreams and are willing to do the work it will take to achieve them. Some people, though, look only at the big picture, and ignore the path that leads to it. Or they visualize a great accomplishment, but don’t actually do anything about it. They may have delusions of grandeur, but it’s just as likely that they become overwhelmed and paralyzed thinking about everything they’ll need to do in order to achieve their dream. Either way, nothing gets done, because nothing gets started.

That’s why it’s important to start small. Calvin Coolidge once said, “We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once.” And that’s the whole premise of starting small. You have to do something. Anything that will allow you to get started, get going, and build momentum. That leads to success in smaller projects and ventures, and motivates you to continue on to the bigger ones. Along the way, you build courage and confidence, strengths and skills, focus and determination. The qualities you need in order to pursue and achieve your really big dreams.

Whether your goals and dreams are small or large, personal or global, simple and straightforward or challenging and complex, I hope that you’ll start taking action on them right now.  I hope you’ll find satisfaction in small accomplishments along the way. And I hope that you – like the woman in the speech contest – find yourself starting small, but moving swiftly on your way to achieving your greatest dreams.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on July 31, 2014.
©Betty Liedtke, 2014

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