As a child, when asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, I felt that anything was possible. My response would make me draw on my imagination, would come in the moment and make me smile, slightly giddy at the thought alone: “An Acrobat!” My aspirations weren’t based on my skills or comfort level. In fact, as a heavy footed little girl that preferred dirty denim over pristine party dresses, the chance anyone would want to see me fly across a stage was slim. But I didn’t care; it was my dream to choose, to change or to chase, whenever I wanted.
But with time, my answer reflected a new sense of maturity. In my teens I wanted to be a journalist, or a lawyer; they were professions that showed that I had my head ‘switched on’ and that gave others the comfort that I had a successful future in my sights. It was a response that had little emotional response in me; I was, after all, prioritizing the probable over the possible. It
made others smile all the same.
And so, over a few short years I learned the skill of framing dreams and aspirations around some key parameters. They were rooted in reality, reflected my proven abilities and offered something to work toward, but were not so out of reach that I appeared delusional. I wholeheartedly accepted these new goals and the trajectory I had set, the only ruse was on me; thinking that these goals were far-reaching aspirations that would set me up for life.
I now know I was not alone. I regularly find myself among thirty and forty-something friends, clients and new connections that want more. Their professional trajectory left them at the fate of re-orgs and annual reviews. Rather than creating a success that set them apart, they fell foul to a vision that put them on the same path as everyone else. By not allowing themselves to dream, they restricted their own vision for who they might be, what they might achieve and the influence they might have on the world.
Now, as I approach forty, I look forward as if looking into space. Everything in my life that I have learned, seen and experienced was achieved in just forty years. I am slightly scared, a little apprehensive, but most of all, I am giddy at the thought of having enough time to rinse and repeat. Yes it will be different; yes, there will be new challenges that lie ahead; that’s life. But doing it with the wisdom to know that what I can conceive, I can achieve is both liberating and fueling.
We can’t plan exactly what journey our lives will take, and we can’t know what we don’t know. And so, as responsible adults, we often ground our vision of the future on the realities of our past, a practice that can lead to a blinkered view of what might otherwise be possible. But every day offers a new opportunity to stretch the expectations you have of yourself and start moving toward that vision. So if you think you may have missed out by not setting your goals far reaching enough, think again. You have more than enough time to re-imagine your future as you would dream it.