Sometimes when we dream up the future, we try to keep it small.
Tools like SMART goals are great for tracking progress on tasks, but they’re not necessarily inspiring or meaningful.
One of the problems with “goal setting” is that it can limit us to dreaming small, realistic dreams that are achievable from our current situation. This tactic is great for getting things done and not great for dreaming inspiring, naturally-compelling dreams that will give us purpose and meaning.
Inspiring, naturally-compelling dreams are dreamed up by temporarily setting aside:
- concern about “how” you’ll get there
- worries about money and time
- project plans
- any limiting beliefs about one’s age, gender, country, industry (for example: “I’m too ___ to do this inspiring thing” is not helpful during the dreaming process)
When you let all of those things go, and you move your attention far enough into the future that anything is possible, and you allow a future vision to form based on what you already love doing and what you want more of, interesting things happen.
If you let go of all the “how to” planning, what’s left?
A Quick Story
The word apacheta in the Quechua language of south America refers to a window, gateway, or opening.
The word apacheta shares the same root as the English word aperture – the opening in a camera lens that allows light in.
Once upon a time, a group of friends were traveling by truck through the Peruvian mountains. There were English speakers and Quechua speakers together.
The mountain passes were harrowing, trees scraped the truck and the sharp turns made everyone pay attention to how precious life is! Some passengers recall that the truck driver was a light-hearted man with the mythic name Dante.
After hours of tedious driving and digging the truck out of the mud three times, the road widened into a flat, flower-filled meadow overlooking the mountains. A crystal-clear sliver of a snow-melt mountain stream found its way across the road.
It was a different place than they had been before. It was an “in between” place that was neither the narrow mountain road nor the village above the tree line where they were headed.
The Quechua speakers told Dante, “stop, stop, we have to see this!” They disembarked and pulled out flutes and drums, taking a moment to honor the change in view, the safety and security of the meadow, and the clear view all around.
These “apacheta moments” contain a hint about dreaming up inspiring futures too.
There are important moments, far in the future, that can serve as milestones along the path toward your naturally-inspiring future. They are the “in between” moments that will tell you that you’re on the right path, you’ve left one phase behind and are solidly headed towards what’s next. These moments also give you purpose and meaning.
You can learn to imagine these purpose-filled future moments with the same level of clarity as remembering the past – seeing, hearing, and feeling that future moment.
It’s not a metaphor or abstract concept; imagining the future with clarity and focus is a learnable skill.
This skill is one of the differences of thought between times when we face obstacles and failures with more resilience versus when we face obstacles with defeat and dread.
And yes, we will all face obstacles.
When we have a crystal clear future compelling us towards it, the obstacles become moments of great learning and opportunities to reorient toward what we want.
When we have a meaningful future that we’ve imagined with clarity, obstacles remind us that we have something wonderful to look forward to and that happy future seems to pull us toward it.
What happy future moment or big dream is compelling enough for you to take time to clearly imagine it? What’s inspiring enough to face the obstacles that will come?