Sometimes I picture my big dream as a soft, squishy happy cloud, blissfully hovering over me.
My dream is just out of reach. I realize this. But I also realize that each day that I do something toward it, it feels more real. Each time I give my dreams ten minutes, that big fluffy cloud of hope seems more like a reality. Every time I squeeze in a blog post there, or a few words there, that dream feels less like a mirage and more like something solid.
But sometimes I don’t have the time to give my dream.
My plans for the day fall apart, or an emergency comes up, or my children need me. (Oh, that ‘s right! I have a family!) The cloud of dreams gets pushed aside, perhaps to a top shelf. The longer it sits there, the more I risk it disappearing like a mist.
That’s when I sense a change over me.
I get blue myself. The sky of my soul darkens and I gather storm clouds in my heart. I’m discouraged. I fear I’ll never have the warmth of my dream again.
What should I do about those dark days?
1. Come to terms with the clock and calendar. There really is only 24 hours in a day. We get only seven days a week. There really is only 365 days a year. Sometimes it will be impossible for me to cram one more thing in. Those divisions of time are blessings, not hinderances. I’m not going to get everything done. I need to admit this, get a good night’s rest and try again the next day, week or year. My dream needs me to be satisfied with all of my life. It can wait if it has to.
2. Separate my tasks from my identity. If I have to put aside my hopes and dreams for the good of my health and family, I should never, ever see this as a failure. I need to fully believe that my value comes not from my accomplishments. I will make matters worse if I dwell on any disappointing results. Instead, I need to think kind thoughts to myself and have few regrets. I do deserve to have my dream come true.
“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
– Francis Of Assisi
3. Ask myself about the “One Thing.” Recently I read The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and discovered that I need to know what my One Thing is. I asked myself constantly, not just daily, but almost minute by minute, “what’s the most important thing I can do right now?” Then I make sure those most important things get done. I don’t have to feel guilty for not doing the fifth or twenty-second thing. I just focus on the one. While it may change from moment to moment, this makes me feel like I’m accomplishing what’s important.
4. Give my whole heart to what I must do. That daily list of mine includes some pretty dull tasks: laundry, dishes, and homeschooling. If I cut corners or grumble while I’m doing them, it actually harms the more fun tasks. If I work well, with my whole heart, in the boring tasks, then the creative tasks are more efficient and fun. Attitude is everything. With a good daily attitude, my little dream cloud will stay in tact as long as I need it to.
5. Reward myself for what I do accomplish. I should be the first one to tell myself, “good job!” for doing the dishes. I should create incentives to be more productive on busy days. Sometimes I’ve created a “fun” and a “not fun” list of things to do. For every two “not fun” jobs I tackled, I could do a “fun” one. If we set ourselves up to be our biggest fans, then we’ll really be happy in everything we do.
These five strategies change an overwhelming to-do list into something manageable.
My big soft dream will always be there. To sum up, there’s no shame in shaping my life and my attitude around it so that I’m not just productive, but happy too.
With these five strategies, the darkness fades. My hope comes alive. I can pursue my dream with peace.
Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community.