Dreaming big doesn’t have to mean we suddenly want to be a millionaire or become famous (although it could mean that for some of us). That’s because ‘bigger’ is a relative term. If we currently have no dreams, dreaming bigger might just mean we have a small goal that we want to reach. But even that is not always easy. If we knew how to dream bigger, we’d already do it! we might think. So how do you start dreaming bigger?
To achieve big things, first, you have to believe that you can. If we’re not sure we deserve to achieve big things, why would we try, right? That’s why the first thing we need to dream big is a confidence boost.
To get this boost, try to remember a time when you succeeded in doing something you set your mind to. Or, if you have a hard time, look for role models that dared to dream big and achieve more than was expected of them. Use your and others’ experiences as inspiration and motivation.
2. Face Fear of Failure
If you want to do something big, the fear can be intense. We might think: What if we fail? What then? If this sounds like you, it may be helpful to shift your mindset or perspective. Developing a growth mindset—or the belief that growth and learning are more important than success or other people’s opinions—can help you shift your focus to the journey instead of the end goal. That way we can better enjoy the pursuit, even if it ultimately does result in failure.
3. Face Fear of Success
We often think we don’t pursue big dreams because we’re afraid of failure. But what if we’re really afraid of success? Success can mean different things to different people—some of these things are scary. For example, success might mean feeling like the odd one out in your family or friend group. It might mean having more responsibility than you really want. Or, it could lead to jealousy from others. There are lots of reasons why you may have a fear of success. But taking a closer outlook at these fears and thinking about how you might deal with them can help you move through them.
Start by visualizing a variety of different possible exciting outcomes that might come from following your dreams. Maybe you imagine yourself owning your own business, having a big family, or traveling all over the world.
As you visualize, try to be mindful, paying attention to how your body feels during each scenario. Try to tune into how each experience feels in your body, and take note of any thoughts or emotions that come up. Ask yourself:
- Does living this life feel good?
- Does living this life feel authentic?
- Does living this life feel like a big dream?
Use this visualization exercise to better understand which big dreams are a good fit for you.
Many of us get stuck on the path towards small dreams (or the wrong dreams). Often, it’s because we have not yet deeply explored what really matters to us. To make sure our big dreams are meaningful, reflect on these different things that research shows give us meaning (Ryff, 1989):
- Positive relations with others. Warm, trusting relationships with others.
- Self-acceptance. Holding positive attitudes about the self.
- Autonomy. Feeling free to choose and direct one’s own actions.
- Environmental mastery. Feeling that one can change one’s circumstances.
- Personal growth. The ability to develop and grow as a person.
- Life purpose. Having a sense of meaningful direction in life.
When dreaming big, try to keep these things in mind to ensure your dreams will be meaningful to you and inspire you to act on them.
Sometimes we end up spending so much time focusing on our big dreams that we forget to enjoy the process. Indeed, big dreams can help us imagine a life or a future that is unlike any that we’ve ever known. But big dreams take time, and if we don’t enjoy the process, it’s going to be tough to get there.
So, try to focus on the enjoyable parts of creating your dream. You’re taking control of your life, you’re building a new reality, and even small steps you take are worth celebrating. If our dreams are truly meaningful to us, striving towards them can increase well-being, regardless of whether we achieve the big goal at the end or not.
- Ryff, C. D. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of personality and social psychology, 57(6), 1069.