“Complaining chases away inspiration.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert is right. Not only do complaining, worrying and regretting chase away inspiration – they kill dreams and are a total misuse of imagination.
While on my Year by the Water, many people told me they dreamed of going on an adventure like that. When I asked why they weren’t, they said they had too many responsibilities. They’d do it “someday” when they had more time, money or freedom.
I’ll always remember an exhausted young mom with two children who told me she was tapped out, “I’ve got so much on my plate, dreaming just isn’t an option for me right now.”
I said, “Want good news? No matter how tired you are, you have mind time when you go to bed – the 5-50 minutes before you fall to sleep. You’re laying there anyway, might as well put your imagination to work for you instead of tossing and turning or staring at the ceiling. What do you think about when you go to bed?’
“Everything that’s wrong. The kids fighting. The bills mounting up. How much I hate my job.”
I said, “From now on, instead of focusing on what frustrates you, focus on what would fulfill you. This is called awake dreaming and it’s a more proactive use of mind-time.”
She said, “Okay, that makes sense. As you said replaying what’s wrong doesn’t change it, it just keeps me up and makes me feel worse. So, how do I do this awake dreaming?”
Picture something you’d like to achieve or experience. Then, think through the 5 W’s.
What? What is something you would look forward to that would inspire you and add personal meaning and fulfillment to your days? What can you do to move this forward? What knowledge, skills or resources do you need to turn this dream into a reality? What results do you want? What does successful completion of this look like to you?
Why? Why will this be enjoyable, uplifting, rewarding, worthwhile? Why will it contribute to a quality life, help you add value for others, be part of a legacy you want to leave?
Who? Who can you brainstorm this with? Who has been there, done this and can share their lessons-learned? Who could hear you out and be an advocate or a supportive sounding board? Who could connect you with an investor, a potential partner or team members?
When? When will you do this, launch this, finish this? If you don’t put specific dates on the calendar – or schedule them into your day-timer – it’s probably not going to happen. As my mom used to say, “That which can be done at any time rarely gets done at all.” Increase accountable and the likelihood of success by assigning metrics and numbers to your dream.
Where? Where is the location this will take place? Put yourself in the scene. Imagine yourself crossing the finish line of that 10K, sailing the bay, walking across the stage with that diploma, having a picnic in your local park with neighborhood parents and their kids.
As Gloria Steinem points out, “Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”
How about you? What do you think about when you go to bed? Starting tonight, instead of regretting what did go wrong, complaining about what is wrong, or worrying what could go wrong, put your mind time to work for you by actively dreaming about what you do want vs. what you don’t.
Remember, it’s never too late to be who you want to be.
Dreaming costs nothing. Not dreaming costs everything.
You might want to print out the following quotes out and put them on your nightstand. Before you go to bed, review them to remind yourself to use your imagination – for good.
16 Quotes to Put Your Imagination and Mind-Time to Work For You vs. Against You
1. “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein
2. “Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.” – Thomas Edison
3. “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
4. “Imagination is the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not; it is the foundation of all invention and innovation.” – novelist J. K. Rowling
5. “Dreamers are mocked as impractical. The truth is they are the most practical, as their innovations lead to progress and a better way of life for all of us.” – Robin S. Sharma
6. “Imagination has no age. Dreams are forever.” – Walt Disney
7. “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love.” – actress Sophia Loren
8. “When I am completely myself, entirely alone during the night when I cannot sleep, it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly.” – Mozart
9. Each man should frame life so that at some future hour fact and his dreaming meet.” – Victor Hugo
12. “Imagination is the true magic carpet.” – Norman Vincent Peale
13. “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.” – Christopher Reeves
14. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” – Dr. Seuss
15. “Imagination is nothing without doing.” – Charles Chaplin
16. “A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities.” – J. R. R. Tolkein
When Lupito Nyong’o won her Academy Award, she looked straight into the camera and into the eyes of millions of people watching around the globe and said, “No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”
Not only are dreams valid, they’re a valuable way to turn what you mentally see into reality.
So, the question is, what are you going to think about tonight when you go to bed? Are you going to complain or create? Focus on what frustrates you or what would fulfill you?