Big dreams are born in the details

It’s the planning time of year. I have my planners and worksheets and goals and start planning what I want to accomplish in 2016 and how I’m going to go about doing it. But it’s also the dreaming time of the year, when the weather is dark and gray and cold. When the days are getting longer but are still dominated by darkness and a perusal of social media has me longing to plan epic adventures to climb mountains or backpack long distances or explore foreign lands.

I start to get wanderlust, or at least my version of it. Aren’t we told constantly to dream big? To live a life that’s big? To go big or go home? There’s a lot of “bigness” in the language of dreams which, frankly, sometimes leaves me feeling a bit stuck — as if I should be living in big dream country all the time. Which leads me down the mental and emotional path that downplays what I have done because I start comparing my journey to the fabulous lives of acquaintances on Facebook and that is just a recipe for disaster.

That’s when I came across a post from Mt. Irenaeuas on Instagram. The Franciscan retreat is associated with St. Bonaventure University and one of a handful of my truly happy places on earth. The text on the post included this line from Fr. Dan Riley:

All the “big things” in life come from the way we pay attention to the incidental.

Ever since I read that, I can’t get the sentiment out of my head.

How many times have you heard a coach or an athlete cite “paying attention to detail” as a reason for success? So many times it’s take a spot in the rotation of standard sports cliches. But that’s because there’s so much truth to it. The big picture — whether it’s a game, a race, a workout, your life — is the sum of its parts. It’s easy to get caught up in the “big things” — dreaming about them, making plans to achieve them, mapping out best routes to set ourselves up for success. But the big things can also cause anxiety and inertia — it’s SO BIG that we take a first or second step and then decide we’ll never get there so we abandon the plan or let the dream wither and die.

We tend to throw away incidental moments because we think they are small and insignificant. We forget that life is cumulative — that those incidental moments add up. If we pay attention to our every day life, our big dreams and bucket lists will provide richer experiences. Instead of living for that someday, that one big moment of the year, we can find little triumphs every day. The details will bring us closer to those “big things,” and I’m willing to bet at a faster rate, if we choose to pay attention to what’s available to us right now.

What incidentals might you pay attention to this week?


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