The 90-Minute Model for Making Your Dreams Come True

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

"Becoming a person who sets goals and successfully achieves them is like climbing a flight of stairs... with each step you are standing firm on a dream you now call a reality..."
-- Shannon Ables, Choosing the Simply Luxurious Life

We don't tend to think of dreams as the little goals we set to effect big change.  Rather, their consequences are the dreams we seek.  I dream of becoming a writer, for example, but I don't see the intention to write something - anything, no matter how long or short or inspired or terrible - every single day as a dream.  I dream of landing the perfect job, but I wouldn't say the hopes I have to continue building my professional network one informational interview at a time are dreams, either.

We've been conditioned to think that dreams are BIG things only -- the pinnacles of achievement, the happy endings, the stuff of Disney movies.  But thinking about them this way can lead us to tremendous impatience, a dangerous expectation of instant gratification, and a lot of discouragement when it takes longer to reach them than those films would have us believe.

Sure, in Tangled, Rapunzel spends 18 years of her life locked in a tower before she finally gets to pursue her dream of witnessing the floating lights in person.  That's a long time.  And with an oppressive guardian like Mother Gothel, those years must have been terrible... So that's a lot of conflict, too.  But we don't see any of those years.  We just see the relatively short amount of time it takes for Rapunzel to get what she wants, once she decides that she wants it.

Of course I understand that the reason for this is economical storytelling.  You can't tell someone's comprehensive life story in 90 minutes.  Actually, I suppose you can, but that could get really boring.  And the narrator would have to talk super fast in order to squeeze everything in there.  It would sound  like the voice in all of those medication commercials, the one that spits out all of the side effects at the very end so you can't really hear them, in the hopes that you focus on the generic light classical music and the carefree expressions on everyone's faces instead.

So they pare past hardships in most Disney movies down to five minutes of summary and leave the conflict in the rest of the film to a relative minimum, in order for the dream to come true in an hour and a half.  But applying the 90-minute model to our own lives can lead us to severe discouragement when things take longer to achieve than we expect.

Of course we know instinctively that anything really worth having or achieving isn't going to happen in just 90 minutes.  And of course we also know that those things won't come without some sort of struggle and a few major mistakes.  But I know I, at least, have been slow to actually believe these things.  And that's why, in only my third week of job searching, I'm more than a little dismayed by the lack of prospects and responses I've been getting.

But maybe... maybe there's really some truth to the 90-minute model, after all.

I often like to play the "Where Was I?" game when I'm trying to bolster my confidence for an upcoming even that feels impossible to me: a networking dinner, a social event where I don't know anyone who will be present, a daunting project.  I'll ask myself, "Where was I a year (or six months, or a week, or even a day) ago?  What was I afraid of?  What did I envision myself doing successfully?  In other words, what did I dream of?"

A year ago, I was beginning my senior year of college.  I wanted so much to be accepted to this summer's Denver Publishing Institute, and to successfully complete my massive senior thesis project (And find an amazing job, but that one I'm still working on).  Those were the big dreams.  Some days, though, my dreams were as simple as acing a test I'd studied hard for, giving a class presentation, finding a way to revise a story I'd written for my fiction class, or figuring out how to be in what seemed like a hundred different club meetings at the same time (and not stress myself silly over them).

Of course, I've surprised myself with everything I've managed to accomplish in the last year.  Those wishes and more have all been realized, which is proof positive that dreams do come true.  And even when things haven't worked out exactly as I might have hoped, there has never been a day I haven't been able to use my strength and the love of my family and friends to get through it.  Any of our realities right now are just the summation of millions of dreams we dared to dream and chances we were bold enough to take.  And they're not only proof that we can handle whatever the future throws at us -- they also reveal that, to quote something you may have heard before, a journey of a thousand miles really does begin with a single step.

The big dreams, the stuff of Disney movies and happy endings, are the visions that govern our lives, that keep us headed down the path toward "the big picture."  These ambitions are wonderful things to have, but they're made up of thousands of days and little decisions that get us there.   

I think we wake up each day with dozens of little dreams for how we want certain things to go, of how we want to be able to accomplish and conquer whatever we might be fearing that day.  It's these little dreams -- some of which may even unfurl in the course of 90 minutes! -- that will add up to make those big dreams come true someday.  For now, just keep your head up high so you can see where you're going.  Set a small, definite goal for yourself every day, and call it a dream.  Write the first sentence of your eventual bestseller.  Compliment the shoes of the person who seems like she might be a good friend.  Research that company you think you want to work for, and send them your resume.  Those little dreams put together will overwhelm your life until the big ones have no choice but to eventually come true.


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