Now is the startup time for schools, jobs and leisure activities. It’s usually a time of talk about goals and ambitions, about plans and strategies. I love the start of the semester, among other things for that reason. The tickling ambition in me. Mmm to make it tangible into plans and visualize how I achieve what I want.
However all talk about goals falls flat if you do not first know what you value in life and what you dream about.
Hence, before I talk about how to get manageable goals and what pitfalls gifted often stumble into, I’ll talk about the necessity of dreaming.
Dream and action belong together
Perhaps you think that dreaming belongs to spare time, and doesn’t have to do with work? Some people seem to think that there is a contradiction between dream and action. To some people the former is finer than the latter. To others, it’s the other way round.
For me, one can not exist without the other. Dream and action are interconnected and if you take away one, the circle is broken and there will be no forward motion. The best constructions have the dream as a base.
Here are some historical examples of how dream and action drive development:
- Martin Luther King with the vision of the future where white and black lived as equals
- Marie Stopes, who dreamed about and worked for it to be possible to have sex without getting pregnant, which was impossible at that time
- Aung San Suu Kyi, in house arrest for the dream of a democratic Myanmar (Burma). With hindsight, it was not a good idea to have Suu Kyi as a model for dreaming. Myanmar security forces have driven out half a million Muslim Rohingya from northern Rakhine state.
- The aviation pioneers, the brothers Wright, in their bicycle workshop
- Harriet Beecher Stowe, who believed that slavery was unjust and immoral, wrote the anti-slavery book Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Dreams have an important function to fill and are necessary for our society. Even more now than then. I also think that dreams are necessary at the individual level.
Over time more sustainable than goals based on reality
Dreams are that important because they goes above and beyond reality. Do you only have goals based on how it looks around you now, you’re skating on thin, thin ice. All of a sudden, reality changes drastically. A bubble burst somewhere and your career is as gone as the market you were working at, or something happens to you so you no longer have the same conditions you had when setting up your goals.
Dreams float freely and can work in several realities. With the dreams in mind, you can reformulate your goals depending on how your surroundings or you change.
Necessity of dreams at the individual level
Dreams have more important functions in life. Sometimes they can be the lifebuoy that keeps you floating. The dreams can also be a projectile that blows the limitations of how you think about yourself and life.
As a highly intelligent and analytical person, dreams are not easily given a chance to develop. Before the dream has taken shape, you have already come up with ten logical arguments why the dream is unreasonable. Therefore, I’ll give you further arguments why you should practice your ability to dream (if you don’t already have it).
Anchor and priming
Should I find arguments which holds for you, I’d rather lean towards people who have far more knowledge than I have. Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman. That’ll be okay? He received the Economics Prize 2002 and 2011 he published the book Thinking fast and slow. A popular scientific version of what he and others researched about how we think.
There is a chapter that deals with something he calls Anchor. By way of illustration, I take a practical example from my profession.
Say that an advertising agency will provide a campaign for us. As a customer, I have defined what we want. The agency will be back with three proposals. One suggestion is the campaign I requested. Another is the slightly more extensive campaign. That campaign the agency is sure will provide the results we want. Then they have another suggestion. The third option is sky high, much more than we wanted, and obviously costs a lot more. The purpose of the proposal is simply to act as an “anchor”. That is to say that in comparison with the third giant, huge proposal, option number two seems quite reasonable.
This is no news. But in the book you can read about why it works. And how completely unreasonable “anchors” affect as much as reasonable ones. How it is possible to use priming as manipulation, for better or worse.
To dream of totally unreasonable things is self-priming. It works! Practice your dream ability and create some dreams you can use as an anchor. Then when the anchor is stuck, you can start making goals.
Read Kahneman! You will get so much evidence that there is wisdom in the old saying “Aim for the sky and you’ll reach the ceiling. Aim for the ceiling and you’ll stay on the floor.”
- Imagine something that is impossible for you. Hence impossible by definition.
- Dream of how it would be. Imagine the dream has become a reality. Dismiss all objections. Do not worry about the logical somersaults you have to do to imagine the dream.
- Invent a way that could have made you achieve that dream. Miracles and incredibilities are completely ok methods. But it should be a causal chain you can derive back to where you are now.
- If you think it’s very simple, you probably have not chosen to think of something that’s completely impossible.
- From the beginning again.
For every time you do the exercise, you’ve put out a new anchor, a little bit further out. A way of priming yourself.
In the next episode, I will discuss how to find the campfire and how to take steps towards what you want.
But now the semester has begun and it’s time to dream!
Only dreams are stable enough to be the foundation of reality
Daniel Kahneman, Think fast and slowly (Swedish Pocket Version) Chapter 11 Anchor, page 177 -192.