Take a moment to visualize a seed, tiny and unassuming in the palm of your hand. It's hard to believe that insignificant-looking little thing will become a living, moving, respiring being, isn't it? Yet, given the proper environment and conditions, they do. Some will creep along the ground, some will tower toward the sky, but in their own way, they thrive - after starting from next to nothing.
Most of us have a tendency to minimize ourselves, our achievements, and our dreams - both in our own eyes, and in the company of others. Think about the last time someone complimented your work on a particular project. Did you hold your head high and reply, "Thank you, I'm very proud of it!" - or did you mumble "Oh jeez, I felt like I barely pulled it together," or some other self-deprecating nonsense? Sadly, the majority of us took the second route, mainly because we have been socially conditioned to do so. The fear of being thought arrogant or conceited outweighs the pride in the good things we've done.
In this way, we also self-sabotage when it comes to our dreams and our goals. I took a class recently that focused on creating a life plan - we were instructed to make a list of reasonable one-year goals, then do the same with three-year goals. The next step was to write down our pie-in-the-sky dreams - the things that we fantasize about, that may or may not actually happen.
It was interesting to notice the reactions of the people in the class while this exercise was taking place. Most folks breezed right through the one-year goals, and many were able to complete the three-year goals fairly easily as well. But when asked to abandon all reason and imagine the life of their dreams? One look around the circle told me that a lot of people were having a hard time with it! Many were frowning, biting lower lips, and anxiously tapping pen against paper, and it was clear: a lot of us grow visibly uncomfortable when asked to dream big. Not, I believe, because the ideas aren't there - but because nobody wants to actually write those ideas down. Something about putting pen to paper gives us a sense of obligation - as though if we do not achieve this fantasy life we've imagined, we have somehow failed ourselves. No wonder it's so hard to stomach!
Will the simple act of writing a list of our wildest dreams make them all come true? Of course not.
But can any of them come true if we never acknowledge their existence?
Of course not. Because everything starts with a seed.
A seed is a powerhouse; a tiny concentration of a massive amount of energy, just waiting to be released. And if it's not planted - not even given a chance - it will never reach its potential.
All those crazy ideas you have? All those wild dreams and ridiculous fantasies? They're seeds - and when given the proper attention and respect, you're planting them. Will all of them grow? No - but if they're not planted to begin with, none of them will ever even have the chance.
So the next time you find yourself thinking of that best-case-scenario life, don't immediately dismiss it. Instead, shrug your shoulders and plant that seed, because who knows? When impoverished high school student Oprah Winfrey landed a job in radio, do you think she realized she was on track to create an empire? When Mark Zuckerberg was sitting in his college dorm, dreaming up a little thing called Facebook, do you think he knew that single idea would turn him into one of the richest people in the world? When J.K. Rowling was penning the first draft of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, do you think her goal was to create the best-selling book series in history? No, no, and no.
The fact is that most success stories don't start with someone who already has all the steps in place. Instead, the majority of them begin as nothing more than vague ideas - the kind of ideas that could just as easily have been tossed aside by someone else with just a little less faith.
"I could never do that." This is one of the worst things we can ever allow ourselves to think or say - because every time we do, we are taking a seed full of potential and throwing it away. On an emotional level, it sometimes feels safer to throw these seeds away. After all, dreams hurt when they don't come true. But that's the beauty of seeds: they're not set in stone. They cost nothing to plant, and require no investment from you other than a bit of attention and tender loving care. Planting a seed isn't a commitment or an obligation; it's simply the act of keeping a possibility alive to find out which way it grows.
Plant your seeds. Water them, nurture them, give them the love and attention they deserve. You may be surprised at the great forests that emerge.