Pipe dreams are the types of dreams that seem difficult to attain and are often ridiculed by others. But just because it’s difficult to realize does not mean that we should give up on it. With the right plan and belief in our abilities, we can turn our pipe dream into reality. Find out about the five essential ingredients that you need to make it happen. (Estimated reading time: 6 minutes)
“If you can dream it, you can do it.”— Walt Disney
A pipe dream is defined as “an unattainable or fanciful hope or scheme”. The phrase originated from the 18th-19th centuries when opium pipes were in vogue. The fantasy/illusory aspect of pipe dreams allude to the hallucinations caused by smoking opiates.
Wiktionary, on the other hand, defines a pipe dream as “a plan, desire, or idea that will not likely work; a near impossibility.” I prefer this definition because it removes the ’crazy‘ and delusional elements of a pipe dream. Even though the odds are against you, it is not impossible. This leaves the door open for all kinds of opportunities.
In today’s culture, where individuality, freedom of expression, and personal glory are celebrated, we love to be reminded of the power of believing in our dreams, no matter how implausible they may appear to be. Fictional narratives and historical accounts abound with stories of brave souls who beat the odds because they believed in the impossible.
Who doesn’t love motivational movies like Rocky, The Pursuit of Happyness, Forrest Gump, Zootopia, Slumdog Millionaire, Field of Dreams and Karate Kid, where the protagonist triumphs after a long, arduous, and hard-won battle? These films provide a vicarious experience of victory, thereby awakening our own abilities to overcome obstacles and challenges along the way.
Talented Hollywood scriptwriters and authors of fiction skillfully put together a smooth narrative that audiences can easily digest, adding an element of drama and glamour to entertain. This often gives a false idea of what it really takes to bring an improbable dream to fruition. It fails to show us how messy, complicated, and unpredictable of an affair it can be.
Inspiring stories can spur us to act but, it’s ultimately our capacity, grit, and our willingness to make sacrifices that will determine if we’re going to succeed. Too many people get stuck in a rut because they waste time thinking about what they want to do. Fewer actually do it.
If you’re at a point in your life where you’re on the fence about a specific goal, I encourage you to let go of limiting thoughts and hold space for it, just for the time being. Don’t get disheartened and allow yourself to give up on your dreams. Remember that, as a human, you’re wired to doubt the unfamiliar.
It takes a conscious effort to go against your natural inclination to be safe. Your mind (or other people) will come up with a million reasons why you should stay put. You lack time, money, support, strength. You aren’t smart, pretty, or talented enough. But, if the dream is within your field of consciousness, I believe you are required to honor it, no matter what.
What I will ask you to do at this stage, is to be brutally honest with yourself. Are you willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen? Drawing from my experience as a coach, and my own experiences of pursuing my dreams, I’ve been able to single out those traits and behavioral patterns that increase the likelihood of someone seeing favorable outcomes.
I use the term ’increase the likelihood‘ because the chances of materializing a dream depends on multiple factors such as your personality, skills, and opportunities. What I’m offering is a template that generally works when well applied, but it does not guarantee that you’ll get the results that you expect. What it does guarantee are character-building experiences and a boost in confidence.
Here are five essential ingredients that could potentially turn a pipe dream into reality:
1. Passion and self-belief: To see a dream through to completion, you need a solid inner foundation. It starts with your attitude and an unwavering belief in your ability to overcome the challenges that you’ll encounter along the way. You need an ’inevitability mindset’ that knows if you stick with your plan success is imminent, and it’s only a matter of time before you’ll see the fruits of your labor. When your heart is fueled by passion, and you have clarity in how your dream is tied to your values and long-term goals, nothing can stop you. It’ll shield you against naysayers and the fear-based thoughts of your inner critic.
2. A well-thought-out strategy: If you want a pipe dream to take shape in the real world, it needs to be grounded in reality. To do this, you need to consider the practicalities involved in making it happen. I like to take what I call, the ’funnel approach’ when creating a strategy and plan for a specific goal. I start out by looking at the big picture, and then I figure out the small steps I need to take every day to take me closer to the end goal.
For example, if your dream is to be accepted by a top-tier university, you’ll first need to familiarize yourself with the application process and the criteria they use to admit students. Once you know this, you can aim to get the grades, test scores, and write a stellar admissions essay. This will require hours of dedicated effort and focus which you’ll need in order to make room in your daily schedule.
3. Discipline and consistency: Devising a strategy is the first phase. The second is to actually implement that strategy by taking consistent action. This is probably the toughest part for the majority of people, because once the initial enthusiasm and excitement wears off, it’s easy to procrastinate and get distracted by other things. To counteract this, you need to create structure in your life and become an expert at managing your time, energy, and finances – the three most important building blocks of dreams.
Going back to my previous example, you’ll have to make time-based on the other commitments that you have in your day and the amount of energy you’re able to expend on studying and working on the application, without burning out. Failure to plan properly and organize your resources will make it much harder to stay disciplined and committed.
4. Flexibility and patience: While it’s important to stay focused and maintain an unwavering belief in your goals, you’ll also have to prepare yourself for unforeseen changes in life. Always keep the end goal in mind, but stay flexible about how and when you’re going to get there, because there will be many twists and turns along the way.
When you let go of your rigid outlook, you release yourself from the anxiety, worry, and disappointment that occur every time you hit a curveball. The best practices that have made it easier for me to go with the flow is mindfulness, deep breathing techniques, staying in the present moment, and having a sense of humor.
5. A reliable support system: Success is not a one-man journey. You’ll need the help of a trusted team of advisors, mentors, friends, and skilled professionals to facilitate you. For example, Walt Disney could not have opened his animation studios without the assistance of his brother Roy who helped find backers to fund their endeavor, and Margaret Winkler, a successful distributor of their early animated novelties.
If you find yourself in pursuit of a pipe dream, or you’re contemplating going after one, take comfort in knowing that you have the magic within you to bring it to light. All you need to do is channel it, and use it propel you towards glory.
All my best on your journey,
Question: Are you currently trying to turn a pipe dream into reality? What are the challenges that you’re currently facing?
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