Dreaming of a windfall

Dreaming about striking it rich is fun, but that type of magical thinking can hold you back, Hamm writes.

Lisi Niesner/Reuters/File
An employee picks up a gold bar at the Austrian Gold and Silver Separating Plant 'Oegussa' in Vienna in this August 2011 file photo. When we wish for just one big thing that can transform our lives, we often overlook the thousands of little steps we can take right now that can add up to real change, Hamm writes.

I love reading random Twitter feeds.

I’ll wonder what random people are thinking about a particular topic, so I’ll go to Twitter and search for that topic. Often, I’ll see an interesting remark from someone and wind up on their personal Twitter feed, reading about their lives and stories.

More than anything, this has taught me that even with the great diversity of people on Earth, there are a lot of experiences people have in common. They have hopes and dreams. They have disappointments and failures. They have joys and things that they cherish.

One dream that I often see mentioned is that of a giant life-changing windfall. People often lament that their life would be better if they suddenly discovered some money, as it would free them from whatever situation that they’re currently struggling with. 

It’s a comforting dream, no doubt. There isn’t a person reading this that doesn’t have some aspect of their life that they would love to have magically altered in some fashion, and many of those aspects could be fixed with a giant infusion of cash.

The problem is that this type of magical thinking can really hold us back.

When we wish for just one big thing that can transform our lives, we often overlook the thousands of little steps we can take right now that can add up to real change.

You can dream of a hundred grand dropping on your doorstep, but if you spend $250 a month frivolously, your bad choices add up to a hundred grand in about a decade.

You can dream of debt freedom when you have a pile of bills sitting in front of you, but if you focus on simply tackling one of those debts, it will go away before very long. Follow it with focus on the next debt and that one vanishes. Before long, the mountain of debts will whittle away.

You can dream of a bankroll to start your own business, but if you just focus on the specific aspects of it that you can do for very little cost, you can get the ball rolling right now.

My sister-in-law lives in the Seattle area. On a clear day, you can see Mount Rainier from her house. It looks something like this:

Mount Rainier is around 80 miles away. When I visit, it can be fun to sit on the back porch, look at the mountain, and dream about that big thing.

No matter how long I sit there dreaming, though, when I open my eyes, Rainier is still miles and miles away. It’s still a vague dream on the horizon.

Instead of dreaming, I can start walking or driving in that direction. The big goal is still in front of me, but as I move closer to it, a step at a time, it gets more and more clear. It goes from being something vague on the horizon to being something I can actually reach.

Before I know it, I’m standing on the mountain.

Every big dream we have in life is like that. We see it off in the horizon. It looks enormous and distant, and it feels almost impossible to reach it.

Yet, with every step we take, that enormous goal gets a little closer. It gets a little clearer. The next step seems a little easier.

When you dream of a windfall, don’t just dream of it dropping on your lap. Instead, think about that first step you can take. It can be a tiny, little step, but as long as it moves you toward the goal, it’s a great step.

Stand up on that back porch and start walking toward the mountain.

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