When You Set Goals – Think Big, Start Small

I’m a dreamer. I often set goals for myself and take action to do my best to realize these goals. I also suffer from bouts of depression that make it very difficult to feel like it is worth setting any goals let alone finding the energy to work toward accomplishing anything. As I type this blog post, I have just returned from a counselling session where it was clear that my energy and mood is at a low. Although this is not the best time for me to write out my thoughts – I had set the goal of publishing this post today and I’m going to push through and do it, because I feel that it is worth the effort for me to share my experiences in hope that you will relate or be able to take something from them. So – let’s dive in…

I believe that if you’re going to dream – why not dream big?!? Dreaming big to me is all about thinking on an idea and then growing that idea until it is just large enough to make me feel like I’m stretching the ability of what I can accomplish to the limit – and then I’ll think on it more and wonder what else is possible. I realize that statement is a bit vague – so I want to give you a real world example from my life experience.

In August 2016, I started walking in nature as an experiment to find the tie between our body and the natural environment. There have been many studies that show that spending time in nature is good for the body, the spirit and the mind. I had stumbled across a post about the David Suzuki 30×30 Nature Challenge – a challenge to spend 30 minutes a day for 30 days in nature. I thought – “why not?” and decided to give it a try.

On my first day out in the park I visited I noticed some beautiful flowers and a large observation deck that seemed quite interesting to me – so I took a picture of each. The next day, I noticed a few more interesting things and so I took pictures of those. I shared them on Facebook and by the third day I was finding things that were really beautiful (to me) that I hadn’t noticed previously. I started to feel an urge to want to share this experience and the excitement I was having with others. I had the idea of taking at least a picture a day for the 30 days that I would be out in nature and sharing them in some way with people. This is a pretty simple idea, but I thought on it a bit and thought – “what about if I created something that contained the pictures that could be shared?”. I immediately had the often present, negative voice in my head say “why?”, and “how are you going to do that?”. I held those thoughts at bay while I decided to start small – I would look to see if I had any software at my disposal that could help me with this simple project and it turned out that I did. So, I ignored the negative voice and pressed forward one small step at a time – I collected the photos each day and after 15 days of being in nature – I created and shared the item below.

I received some nice feedback about the pictures and the format. It motivated me to think on the original idea more. Each day I continued to spend in nature – I allowed myself to dream up bigger plans for sharing the beauty of this park with others. I was also collecting quite a bit more photographs to choose from, so my next “dream big” idea was selecting a subset of all of the ones taken in the 30 days and choose my 30 favorite. As weeks passed – it turned out that I had taken so many pictures that I changed the idea (grew it bigger) into 50 favorites – and I had decided stick with the “moments” theme and decided that however I shared them – I would call them “50 Moments”.

As I started to think about picking the 50 favorite photos to share – I “dreamed” bigger and thought – “what about if I found a way to frame some of the nicer photos?”. Again – my negative voice came into play – but I allowed myself the time to think on it and started small – I took a couple of my favorite shots to the local Walmart and was able to print them in a larger format 8×10 and picked up a couple frames. I hung these as inspiration for me while I continued to sort through the collection of photos, choosing the 50 that would be shared.

It was around this time that I had seen an ad for a local market that was happening at the Visitor Centre in town. This building also doubles as the “arts” centre – and displays local artists work each month. By now – you know where my mind went – “hmm. I wonder if I could put a few of my photos on display here?”. I’ve learned that it never hurts to ask – so I did just that. I collected the artist submission information and I filled out an application to have a part of a table at an upcoming exhibition dedicated to the work that would come out of the “50 Moments” idea. To my surprise – my application was approved and I had secured a spot. Within two weeks of that notification – I received another email letting me know that the other artist that was doing the full exhibition where my photos would be featured wasn’t going to be able to do it – so I was offered the full exhibition space for the month of March 2017.

Most people would have been scared to death at the thought of doing a full photo exhibition – I know that I was… but I gave myself permission to think on the idea and to dream big. What an opportunity this could be – I’ve never done a photo exhibition – heck I hadn’t really done too much in the way of framing my photos – but since I had just challenged myself and done that – “why not?” try this and do the best I can – one small step at a time.

It was October 2016 and I knew that I had several months to prepare for the exhibition – so I started small. I finished selecting my 50 favorite photos. I decided to work on taking my absolute favorite top ten and framing them as large 11×14 prints. By this time I was also starting to get better at manipulating and preparing the photos for print. I was learning new things along the way.

I knew I would need a lot more than just this to fill a full exhibition – so I started dreaming again – and I thought about the idea of creating a photo book with the 50 photos and perhaps some postcards of the top ten that people coming to the exhibition to look at and take as a souvenir. I let my mind roam again and thought about creating some additional content, a pamphlet, that talked about the other benefits I experienced while spending time out in nature. I started small – with things that I had access to – and where I didn’t have access – I looked for resources close to me that might allow me to use resources – like the local library. I was diligent in the think big, start small steps along the way and in February 2017 I self-published my photo book “50 Moments in August”. In March – I was able to fill a small room with a variety of framed photos, postcard photos, large format framed photos, information pamphlets, flyers and even a 3 x 4 foot canvas print of one of the photos. The exhibit was so well received that I was invited to submit another application for a future project.

If I were to stop here – I think you would agree that the story illustrates how a simple idea (taking a picture and sharing it for the enjoyment of others) can grow if you allow your mind to dream big. Here are just a few more things that came out of this idea as I continue to allow it to grow.

  • The exhibition was seen by a few people – one of them a local librarian – who asked me to be the featured artist in the month of August 2017.
  • I was invited to speak at the library and put together a full PowerPoint presentation filled with research that tie together the benefits of nature with the inspiration to create.  People showed up and engaged in conversation with me for almost an hour. This was way outside of my comfort zone – but an amazing experience.
  • I launched a project for those participating in the 30×30 Nature Challenge to extend their experience and to create something to be shared with others. The project is called “50 Moments Creative Challenge
  • The exhibition was seen by an artist group that led me to create a contact with another non-local artist group that was advertising and looking for stories about nature – I submitted a story and was published in their online magazine.

This is just one example of many that I have – and trust me when I say that I know that it’s not easy to fight through life’s struggles to set goals. For me – it comes in waves – there are days when the smallest step forward is going to consume all of my energy. There are others when I’m able to make progress and feel like I’m getting somewhere. Also – I hesitated to share photos / links – but I forced myself to as I think it adds a level of authenticity to let you know that I’m not making it up, but please know – I’m not trying to sell you anything.

This is what I hope you’ll take from this post –

Be Naive and Curious – Ask questions, Instead of “why” – think “why not?”

Don’t wait for someone (or worse yet – ourselves) to tell you that you can’t do something. I beg to differ – I think you can do anything you feel is worthy of doing. Explore – just because I hadn’t framed pictures I didn’t let that stop me from dreaming up the thought and belief that I could do a photo exhibit.

Be Authentic and Courageous – if you want something ask for it.

You’d be surprised how many people are happy to help you reach your goal. There are many people that have talent / knowledge that you might not know about that could help you in reaching your goal – but they can’t if you aren’t brave enough to let others know about it. This includes me – if you’re thinking of doing some project, dream or goal – let me know about it – I’m interested in your journey and how I can be supportive of it.

Be Generous and Compassionate – Work hard to Give More than you Get

It’s a cycle – if you are fortunate enough to receive – work hard to pass something on to the next person that you can help. By doing so, you’ll end up receiving more than you could imagine.

Here’s what I’m taking from pushing myself to create this post –

Even though I’m in a low spot in terms of mood and energy – I’m pushing forward with one small step at a time and I’m going to do my best to keep dreaming big.

One Reply to “When You Set Goals – Think Big, Start Small”

  1. Wow…what amazing proof of how much can come from one small idea, being coupled with the ability to push through doubt and believe in something bigger. Thanks for writing and sharing this post! I enjoyed this reflection so much!

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