Achieving Your Dreams in Slow-Motion.
It sometimes feels like the world has been put on fast-forward. Everything happens so fast now there’s very little you have to wait for anymore. Communication is instant. Delivery is next day. Fast food is just a couple of buttons away. Technology goes obsolete overnight. Trends last for hours now, not weeks or months. Technology is changing faster than ever before so it feels like you have to run just to stand still and most cravings can be sated if not instantaneously then as good as. Waiting times have been relentlessly driven down from weeks to days to hours and even quicker. Apart from the frantic rush to keep up with the changes, what all this does is heighten expectations. We’re so used to getting things quickly that we expect it as a matter of course and those expectations shape the whole economic process, fuelling ever-quicker turnarounds and ramping expectations up higher still.
Order? Receive. Download? Done. Upgrade? Always. Search? Found. Dream? Fulfilled.
Wait. Something’s not right there. That last one isn’t true at all. Have we forgotten that? Except in very rare cases, dreams don’t come true overnight. Let’s just take a minute to remember that not everything happens in the blink of an eye. Not every worthwhile thing is at our beck and call. Let’s remember that some things have to be waited for. Worked for. Approached gradually. Perseverance is a powerful word and life-skill, as vital as it is unfashionable. Dreams are achieved in slow-motion.
I’m part of a generation that was raised to dream. We were born into possibilities and opportunities that our parents missed out on and our grandparents never imagined, and as a result we were taught and encouraged to seize those opportunities. We could do anything, we were told. We could achieve anything if you want it enough, we were taught. That’s right, but it comes with a health warning which sometimes got forgotten. You have to manage your expectations. Yes, you can do an awful lot of things, but not anything. Yes we can achieve our dreams if we want them enough, but wanting on its own is not enough. You have to put in the hard yards, you have to work, and you have to pay your dues to some extent. That crucial in-between stage, the longest and hardest bit, often got missed out. And also there’s a limit to what hard work and application can do to make up for a lack of natural ability. It’s about managing expectations. If you’re led or allowed to expect things that are completely unrealistic, you’ll end up getting disappointed and disillusioned when it doesn’t quite work out as you thought. That doesn’t mean aim low, it doesn’t mean never reach or strive to protect yourself from disappointment – that’s a cowardly and empty way to live – but it does mean being smart about how we dream.
When you see a dream being fulfilled by someone else – the Olympic medal, the Oscar win, the no. 1 hit, the Nobel prize, the breakthrough cure, the bestselling novel – what you don’t see is what came before. You don’t see the years, or even decades of hard work, sweat, dedication, training, tears, setbacks and picking yourself back up and carrying on that preceded it. Dreams get the spotlights but dedication goes unnoticed. Don’t let that fool you. The one is still essential for the other. Dreams without dedication are cheap gimmicks or illusions.
And for every dream you see achieved, there are ten more abandoned. We give up too easily. We move on to something else too readily. If you want to be an achiever rather than an abandoner you have to stick with it, sometimes through opposition, over obstacles and despite distraction. The path to achieved dreams is strewn with trenches, hurdles, mountains, pitfalls, detours and dead-ends. Trenches we must cross, hurdles we must leap, mountains we must climb, pitfalls we must avoid or pick ourselves out of, detours we must avoid or bring back on course and dead-ends we must challenge or find a way around. That’s a path shrouded in the fog of discouragement that you must battle on through, or dazzled with distractions from every directions that we must ignore. The key is to keep going. Keep going. Keep going, and keep believing.
Do something every day to bring you closer to your dreams.
It doesn’t matter if that thing is small or seemingly insignificant. It doesn’t matter if that thing doesn’t seem to visibly bring your dream closer to reality. Because enough of those little things added up to make a bridge that spans the gap between dream and reality. And because too many wasted days with nothing done can put a canyon between us and what we want to achieve. Work towards your dreams in baby steps, in bite-size chunks of progress. Accept the fact that sometimes you might get knocked back two steps for every three you take forward. That’s ok. That happens. But you can take ground in the long-run.
When my wife and I travelled the world we did so after saving up for years. We scrimped and saved every penny we could and denied ourselves many treats and nice things in the meantime. Yes giving up some of those things was hard, and yes the waiting did see to go on forever, but boy was it worth it in the end. The global odyssey of beauty, exhilaration and adventure that we achieved was worth way more than the sum of its pennies.
When I became a pro photographer it was only after years of learning, training, failing and risk-taking. For every amazing image that I publish now there were 99 I threw away or was ashamed of at the time. When I publish my novel, it’ll be after decades of writing, re-writing, tearing up, yearning, waiting, hoping, hurting, enduring rejection and struggling with delay. But I still believe. That dream is still coming. That dream is being achieved in slow-motion.
But slow-motion dreams still come true, and they’re still worth it. Probably even more so than the things that fell into your lap or came true overnight. Dreams are sweeter and the satisfaction is more profound when you’ve had to really work and wait for it. Somehow all that waiting strengthens your heart and distils the finished product in a profound way.
We have to keep dreaming. Steward your dreams. Don’t let them run away with you. Don’t let the world entice you off-course. Don’t let haters or nay-sayers have the final word.
The world needs you to chase your dreams. Even more, the world needs you to persevere until you fulfil them. Dreams given up on don’t change the world. Dreams persevered with do. Dreams achieved in slow-motion do more good for those around us than all the fast-forward fantasies that are exclaimed today then forgotten tomorrow. Keep going.