When we are young, if we have the right influences in our lives, we’re told that we can achieve anything imaginable if we just set our minds to it. At the time it is completely true. It takes clarity of vision, something young people lack, but for the rare children who posses this trait there are no limits. But what about the rest of us?
The scope of what we can achieve necessarily narrows as we age. Vision and dedication can still lead to lofty achievements, but there are just some things that you can’t accomplish as you get into your mid 20s and 30s. You can’t for instance, play professional sports. Sorry. The window has closed on that. Still, there are plenty of other windows open to you.
One thing I’ve learned, through general study and personal examination, is the difference between dreams and fantasies. We might conflate them in everyday thought and speech, but they couldn’t be more different. Failure to distinguish between them can lead to unnecessary hardships.
So what’s the big difference?
You act on dreams
To put it in simple flowchart terms: Dream -> Vision -> Grand Strategy -> Action
If you dream something, you want it to come true with every fiber of your being. Your mind constantly moves to it; at times it consumes your mind. When you dream of something and develop a vision, there really is no stopping you from developing a grand strategy and acting until you succeed. It’s not always a linear path to achievement, but it’s there for the taking for those who dream.
Those who fantasize, on the other hand, merely waste time. Fantasies come in two forms. The first is the unachievable desire — becoming a professional sports player in your late 20s or 30s while having no experience. The second is the fleeting dream. In other words, it’s something our minds come back to, but on which we do not act. Furthermore, we don’t even plan to act. Dating a supermodel might be an apt example here. Sure, we’d love it, but we do nothing to move ourselves in that direction. (Though that could be because the goal is unworthy of our pursuit, but that only makes the fantasy more wasteful.)
I contend that most people who don’t succeed in life spend far more time fantasizing than they do dreaming. This isn’t some ivory tower judgment. No, it comes from three decades littered with fantasies but bereft of dreams. The good news is that there is time to stop. It will be difficult, since fantasizing can become a habit. Bad habits are difficult to break, so it does take considerable effort. But if you have a dream and a vision, breaking the habit becomes easier. If we consume ourselves with our dreams and our visions, if we map out a grand strategy, and if we act with vigilance, we will succeed. This is as true at age 60 as it is at age 5.