Several years ago a professor at University Wisconsin-Whitewater asked her class to write down three to five measurable goals on a piece of paper. The goals could be anything, as long as they were attainable and from the heart – they had to mean something to the student. In short, these were the student’s dreams and they had an entire class period with no interruptions to think about their future.
“What is it you want to become?” the professor asked. “Where do you think you can go?”
One by one she placed a small cardboard box on each desk. The students had to write a date five years in the future on the outside of the box in bold, large print. They then had to fold up their goals, throw in a candle and noise maker (accessories for the celebration party) and close the box. They were asked to hold on to the box and open it five years later.
It seemed like a silly idea back then but somewhere in the shuffle of moving to Minnesota, my little box came with. It ended up in a bin of stuff I didn’t touch for another few years. Then one weekend out of sheer boredom I started cleaning my closet. I remember being upset that particular day. I was single AGAIN. I couldn’t find anything fun to do and I felt stuck. Poor me. I was tired of my routine – I thought there would be more to life if I moved away from home. What was I doing with my life anyway? And there, at the bottom of my closet stuffed under a pile of shoes and clothes was my little box. I studied the outside, almost forgetting what was inside. I was two years too late! But I still dusted it off and anxiously opened it.
My box of "dreams"
I read through all four of my goals and sadly realized I had not reached a single one. I was still single, dating all the wrong guys. I didn’t have any kids. I hadn’t written a book. I was living in Minnesota and not the log cabin in Montana with horses and mountains in the backyard as I had hoped. Something inside me ached. I wanted those goals all the same, maybe even more at that moment. Instead of celebrating and blowing the noise maker, I threw it on the ground. What did I have to celebrate? I had failed.
But my professor must have known better. Something happened that day, eight years after I created my dreams and stuffed them in a box. The date written on the box had expired but I certainly hadn’t. Apparently at one point in my life I believed I was capable of making these dreams happen, otherwise I wouldn’t have written them out. What had happened to me along the way?
The answer: my dreams got lost. They were always there; they just happened to collect a lot of dust. I was now faced with a choice. My dreams could either sit in a box at the bottom of my closet collecting dust or I could let some light in. Around this time, I was also working at a church. I started getting involved. I traveled to Peru on a Mission Trip with my brother. My eyes were opened. I started signing up for volleyball leagues around Minnesota and formed great friendships. I was traveling to Ireland, Italy and Greece with my new friends, attending happy hours and girl’s night out. I became busy all of a sudden. How did I ever think life was boring? Life felt rich. Good people entered my life. I was writing and traveling the world. I was involving myself in activities. I loved my life and had never been happier.
The senior pastor at the time asked if I could stand in front of the church and share my experience with the congregation. He noticed a change in me. He felt there were others out there who could relate. The sermon series was on relationships. I was single – others were in the same boat he promised. I was scared. You can do it, he assured me. Would they laugh at me? Would they think I was desperate?
I spoke at all three services embarrassed, anxious and all. I shared my little box story. I had goals and dreams and none of them had come true yet, I admitted to the congregation. But that was okay because l would get there. I was happy. I pledged I wouldn’t give up. Afterwards, members of the church approached me. They could relate! They thanked me, shared hugs and cheered for me.
“Your dreams are going to happen! Keep doing what you’re doing!” they said.
After I had shared my dreams out loud, they felt closer to reality than I thought. They weren’t stuffed in a little box anymore collecting dust. Life felt more purposeful the more I shared.
And shortly after, Mr. Right came walking in to my life. Just like that goal number one had happened. He was different than anyone else. Something special was happening and I was hooked. My next dream: write a book! Today, I’m halfway there. I’m doing this and it feels awesome. Writing has always been fun for me. However, writing an entire book takes on a whole new meaning. My goal is to finish the first draft by November. I’m sharing my dream with you so you can help me get there. Who knows what will happen when I finish. But I do know what would happen if I didn’t try…nothing. And that seems boring. My mission is to continue watching my dreams come true by letting them happen!
Surely, we all have dreams. Some may be collecting dust and some may be so close we can taste them. They might be small or huge, but no matter what they are YOUR dreams. Nobody can take them away but you. And you are capable of making them come true. Try it. I encourage you to share your dreams and vow to make them a reality.
What is one dream you have for yourself?