Do Dreams Matter?

Dreams and Accomplishments

I think that most people have, at some point, heard of the supposed importance of dreams and goal setting. We have learned that if we outline what we want to accomplish, then we are more likely to achieve those goals. Want to run a marathon? Write it down. Inspired to start your own business? Put some steps on a sticky note then put it on your wall. Here’s an article from MindTools detailing how to break down your goals into increments over a 10 year period — this would practically guarantee success, right?

And yet, people still don’t achieve their goals. 3 months of 2015 have come and gone — what happened to your New Year’s Resolutions? Are they still in progress? From a statistical viewpoint, only 8% of people are successful in achieving their New Year’s resolution; however, people who “explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.” (Reference these stats and other New Years’ Resolutions stats here.)

So evidently, making goals does push one towards achieving them. This is all well and good, yet what happens to all the un-achieved goals? Why do we not achieve our dreams?

I recently attended a lecture by a pediatric neurosurgeon, who presented us with this quote about dreams:

“The best of ideas not put to practice will produce no results.”

–Dr. U.I.

You can have the most grandiose dreams, but if you don’t act accordingly they will not come to fruition. You must put forth the effort to achieve your dreams — even when no one is watching — or else you will fall short of your aspirations. The first step is determining your goals and dreams; the second (and much more difficult) step is putting forth the work to accomplish what you desire.

How Big Should You Dream?

The last quote that someone sent me pertaining dreams is summed up in this image:


 You should have dreams that are so big that the very thought of reaching that goal both excites and scares you at the same time. Excites you because it’s what you very much desire; scares you because you realize all the hard work and effort that must go into that dream and the possibility of failure that it entails. Yet if you don’t try, you’ll never even have a chance at achieving your dream. This principle was the main focus of a Grey’s Anatomy episode (yes I know, it’s a drama — but it illustrated this point well):

“A couple hundred years ago Benjamin Franklin shared with the world the secret of his success. Never leave that ’til tomorrow, which you can do today… Still, sometimes we have to see for ourselves. We have to make our own mistakes. We have to learn our own lessons. We have to sweep today’s possibility under tomorrow’s rug until we can’t anymore. Until we finally understand for ourselves what Benjamin Franklin meant. That knowing is better than wondering. That waking is better than sleeping. And that even the biggest failure, even the worst most intractable mistake, beats the hell out of not trying.”

— Meredith Grey

What Happens If We Fail?

Since we are human beings, the unfortunate fact of life is that at some point, we will fail. And the bigger your dreams are, the more impactful and significant this failure can appear. So what do we do when failure happens? Can we still achieve success?

Dr. Ben Carson, former director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins and the first neurosurgeon to successfully separate craniopagus twins with each twin surviving the procedure, sheds some light on how to succeed after failure in his book, Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story:

“Successful people don’t have fewer problems. They have determined that nothing will stop them from going forward.”

“Success is determined not by whether or not you face obstacles, but by your reaction to them. And if you look at these obstacles as a containing fence, they become your excuse for failure. If you look at them as a hurdle, each one strengthens you for the next.”

–Dr. Ben Carson

Thus the failure is not in the obstacle itself — failure is in responding to an obstacle with a loss of motivation and using it as an excuse to shy away from terrifyingly lofty dreams. We will all experience failures and stumbling blocks on the path to achieving our goals. Does this mean we should not dream? Should we stay safe from failure by setting low, easily achieved goals? No! Still set goals which scare you. Work hard to achieve those goals, as the highest dreams require the highest effort. And when you experience obstacles and feel failure, which will realistically happen at some point in your journey, use that experience to your advantage — learn from your mistakes and apply your acquired knowledge to the next challenge. Remember: with the greatest risks come the greatest rewards.


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