On Monday America will not only celebrate the inauguration of out next president (don’t worry this is not a political blog and I promise to refrain from all political banter with the exception of a few mentions or humorous jabs here and there) but also the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., one of my personal heroes. He has earned my respect and adoration not only for the typical reasons of what he did for civil rights, pacifism, and the pursuit of equality but also because he was a dreamer.
As we all know, MLK “had a dream.” People called his vision of America ridiculous that it was far fetched and down right ludicrous. Numerous people told him to quit and more still tried to foil those dreams. However, instead of caving to this negativity, MLK rose above it and continued to dream and even increased the scope of his vision of a better America. While he never saw his dream become a reality and neither has America, he is far from being a failure; on the contrary, I would argue that he was and is a success because of the mental mindset with which he approached his dreams.
Successful dreamers like MLK, even ones whose dreams never come to be, become successful mostly because they dreamed BIG. Instead of setting his sights on partial equality or minor gains and stopping at that, he dreamed of universal equality despite how impossible that concept seemed. Our culture seems to demonize big dreamers. People usually chuckle when they hear of the 4th grade girl who wants to become president or the paraplegic who wants to win a gold medal or like me the pro triathlete. “How cute,” people usually say; “Dream on,” they think with a smug smile. To many, big dreams are fluff that should be limited to the Disney channel, and to some extent they are correct. Dreams can be dangerous and lead you to make rash choices. However what makes real life dreams (and the ones that eventually do come true) from that of fiction is it the dreamer’s ability to see that it takes time to achieve these big dreams.
Successful dreamers like MLK recognize that dreams do not become reality overnight. The bigger the dream, the longer it takes. By taking a long term approach to dreams, you also have to accept that some days are going to suck and some are going to be better but overall you are moving forwards in an upward trajectory that will eventually lead to success. Just like an athlete’s journey to an “A” race, some workouts are going to be flat while others rock. Overall though you have to recognize that you are moving forward and getting faster, stronger, and better. You only fail when you allow doubt to get the better of you.
A successful dreamer trusts in the plan and course that he/she is on. Especially on the bad days, it is easy to allow fear get the better of you and for you to give into the naysayers. I have had plenty of workouts when I wanted to quit or think to myself that this is pointless. Even if my splits were slower that day or my form horrendous, I only got slower and weaker if I gave in and allow the doubt to become a reality. Regardless of how slow I am that one day, I actually become stronger by continuing on to pursue those dreams. I have to trust my coach and my instinct that I am on the right course. This perseverance requires a lot of effort, which make the dreamer even more of a success.
Unlike on the Disney Channel, dreams take hard work and grit. While Cinderella may have had a fairy godmother with a magical want to transform her, humans do not. I actually take that back. We do have a fairy godmother who have magic wands in the form of a support group and hard work and grit. These might be slower forms of “magic,” but they nevertheless have a magical property to transform your ambitions for the better. For me, my coaches, parents, and teammates who believe in and nurture me and my ambitions, mentor me with constructive and positive criticism, and do not doubt are my fairy godmothers (white hair and dress included) and when they wave their “wand of encouragement,” my dreams strengthen and sharpens. As long as I keep the proper perspective, a firm grip on where I am at currently while never losing sight of my dream, this carriage is not going to turn into a pumpkin at Midnight.
As MLK shows, no matter what your dreams are they can become a reality if we approach them in the right way so dream on. But that’s just my two watts...