Personal Growth

Dream Big: 5 Research-Backed Ways to Achieve Your Most “Unrealistic” Dreams

March 14, 2017

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If you like to dream big, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll face criticism.

That criticism usually comes from well-meaning family, friends, and colleagues who want to protect you from disappointment.

But the most damaging criticism often comes from within.

It’s your own self-doubt that can destroy big dreams. It’s the fear you’ll lose steam before you reach the finish line. That you’ll stumble and fall flat on your face. That you’re too old or too young or don’t have what it takes to achieve the life you want.

If you’ve ever lost motivation because you’re afraid your dreams are too unrealistic, this one’s for you. Keep reading to learn how to dream big (yes, even if those dreams seem outrageous right now), including five research-backed ways to achieve your biggest goals.

Plus, I tucked in a few of my favorite inspiring “dream bigger” quotes to keep you inspired.

How to Dream Big

If you want to achieve big things, you have to start with big dreams.

Here’s exactly what that means and how to keep going in the face of criticism, fear, and self-doubt.

What Does It Mean to Dream Big?

Big dreams are the goals that make your heart jump with fear or excitement (or both!). Often, just saying these dreams out loud will make you scream with delight and expand your landscape of possibilities. At first blush, monumental dreams seem impossibly out of reach.

Whatever sets your heart on fire and makes you come alive, that’s what you should focus on. Right now, your soul is aching to be heard. Its role is to guide the unfolding of your life. Listen to it.

A few years ago I went to a conference. As it tends to happen at this kind of thing, I saw a bunch of people who I’ve known for years. It’s always exciting to catch up with folks and trade stories on how much we’ve all grown.

I even caught a glimpse of someone who, about 7 years ago, had let me know that I was dreaming a bit too big.

Meaning, he felt that my goals at that time were unrealistic. He told me that I was setting myself up for disappointment and suggested that I lower my expectations and take things slower.

Initially, I felt deflated. His feedback was sound and he delivered his perspective with a lot of compassion and respect.

But when I stepped back and reexamined my goals — I realized that yes, I was in fact dreaming big! My goals were outrageous, but it was exactly the kind of outrageous that would fire me up and motivate me to work my tail off to make my dreams a reality. (And yes, eventually I did hit those unrealistic goals.)

You have the power within. It’s not your past that’s going to define who you are, but it’s what you believe about yourself; what you expect from yourself.

You have the power within. It’s not your past that’s going to define who you are, but it’s what you believe about yourself; what you expect from yourself.
~ Dr. Tererai Trent

Your wild ambitions will almost certainly freak you out. That means you’re on the right track. A big dream is about wanting more, expecting more, and knowing you can do more than what anyone would call “realistic.”

Is It Okay to Dream Big?

Heck yes it is!!

Powerful, exciting, unrealistic dreams are not only okay; they’re 100% necessary.

You’ve heard me say it before: The world needs that special gift that only you have. If you don’t dare to dream big and take steps to achieve your dreams, you’re stealing from those who need you most..

The world needs that special gift that only you have.

The world needs that special gift that only you have.
~ Marie Forleo (that’s me!)

You’re going to come across more than a few people who’ll tell you that your dreams are unrealistic and aiming too high will set you up for disappointment. But just because someone else says, “No, you can’t” or “No, that’s not possible,” doesn’t mean you have to agree with their version of reality.

You won’t always be victorious, but you never know what’s truly possible unless you try.

How Do You Start Dreaming Big?

Having a dream is about more than just setting goals and achieving them. Every one of us has a deep hunger for something more, and every single one of us is here for a reason.

Dreaming big means striving to fulfill that reason — over and over again.

Even if you tick some goals off your list, you’ll find yourself uninspired and unmotivated if you don’t continue to dream big.

To be happy, us humans need to constantly challenge ourselves — learning, growing, helping others, and following a compelling vision for our life.

A vision isn’t just a picture of what could be; it’s an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more.

A vision isn’t just a picture of what could be; it’s an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more.
~ Rosabeth Kanter

We all have massive dreams inside us. But you might need a little help figuring out what yours look like.

Try this exercise: Tap into your inner voice by taking out a journal, looking into your heart, and answering these questions:

  • What do you want to experience in life over the next five, 10, or 20 years?
  • What kinds of things do you want to do, be, and create in this world?
  • How do you want to make an impact — through your family, your creativity, or a problem you want to solve?
  • What kind of life do you want to look back on from your deathbed?

In my 20s, I would journal to a higher power and ask for direction. To discover how you’re meant to use your gifts in this world, look outside yourself (God, Source, Smurf Fairies — whatever form of higher intelligence you might believe in) for guidance. Then be open to receiving it.

5 Simple & Effective Steps to Achieve Big Dreams

Once you’ve given yourself permission to dream big, it’s time to do the work.

If you don’t take thoughtful, conscious steps to tackle your unrealistic dreams, they ain’t gonna happen.

In this MarieTV (and in the post after the video, if you prefer to keep reading), I share exactly what you can do to chase those unrealistic dreams and make them a reality.

Follow these five simple steps to push past the doubt, and achieve your goals — no matter how big you dream:

1. Frame your dream. You can’t be what you can’t see. Make your dream real by viewing it in your mind’s eye. Get as vivid and specific as possible, then translate that picture into words. According to research by Dr. Gail Matthews at Dominican University, you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals when you write them down.

2. Filter opinions and fend off negativity. If you wanted to climb Mt. Everest, would you take advice from someone who’s never even attempted the summit? Don’t solicit feedback from people who just want to shoot down your dreams. Take responsibility for the energy you allow into your life. If you hear that you’re being unrealistic, consider the source.

3. Flood yourself with positive examples. Once you’ve installed your Debbie Downer Detector, look for the opposite. Feed your mind with inspiration and positive stories of people who’ve achieved unrealistic dreams. Finding role models is one of the best and most powerful ways to transcend your own limiting beliefs. Alive or dead, famous or unknown, inspiring examples can be found through biographies, movies, interviews, or simply by paying closer attention to good people in your life.

4. Fast forward. In her beloved book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, former palliative carer Bonnie Ware shared the No. 1 regret people have about their lives: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” From your deathbed, what kind of life do you want to look back on? Trust me, when you look back on your accomplishments, you won’t care whether other people thought your dreams were too big.

5. Focus on action. Big dreams might feel outrageous, but one mantra has served me time and time again: “Everything is figureoutable.” Once you know the dream you want to chase, the most important step is to take action. It doesn’t have to be perfect! You just need to keep moving.

Clearly define those dreams, shut down the haters, surround yourself with inspiration, imagine a life you love, and keep moving forward. Brick by brick, inch by inch, step by step — that’s how all great things are achieved.

Dare to Dream Big

All of life’s excitement and growth comes from knowing how to dream big — and making big dreams a reality. If you hold yourself back you will rob countless people of the goodness and joy and healing and growth that only your unique contributions can offer.

These five simple strategies will help you combat the negative voices (including your own!) that can keep you playing small.

Because you know what? No one ever changed the world without in some way, dreaming big.

Now it’s time to turn this insight into action.

Grab a notebook and spend five to 10 minutes writing down your answers to these questions:

What seemingly “unrealistic” dream are you working to bring to life?

What, if anything, has been stopping you until now?

I can’t wait to see what you dream up.

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