It’s been a sluggish start to my new year. I am tempted to say that I “celebrated” the season of light during the last two weeks of 2016 by turning down my internal circuits to conserve energy during the darkest, coldest part of the year. But truthfully, I must confess that I mostly stayed at home doing sloth imitations, enjoying my visiting family, friends, and (often chocolate) goodies that appeared randomly at the door. I seriously indulged myself with Netflix, naps and novels.
But firing up the engines of 2017 did not happen as easily as one might expect after such respite. Halfway through the second week of January, I was still waiting for the spark plugs of imagination and inspiration to ignite. In my work, I depend upon having access to a steady stream of creative juices, and when they don’t flow, I feel lost. I had many projects standing in a queue holding tickets, and my mojo was missing.
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.
Live the life you have imagined.”
—Henry David Thoreau
While searching for some images on Google one evening, I happened upon the above quote from Henry David Thoreau, and his particular phrasing caught my attention: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams…”
“In the direction.” Hmmm. He doesn’t say, “Turn left. Turn right. Stop at the corner. Enter the driveway…of your dreams.” “In the direction” is an approximation, an estimation, a suggestion. It’s like saying, “Look over there, and start walking that way, even if you don’t know for certain where you’ll end up.”
But in this goal-oriented, productivity-driven world we call business, it seems there isn’t a lot of space for “going in the direction of dreams.” Get back to work!
Then it occurred to me that Big Dots and Little Dots might be a perfect way to blend “in the direction of”, intuitive goal minding with more specific, check-off-the-list actions that help you feel like you’ve accomplished something. After all, achievement is usually an important part of dream-following.
If you remember the Big Dot/Little Dot change model from Chocolate Villa, you’ll recall that Big Dots are usually described as specific, measurable, outcome-described goals, and Little Dots are the small, action-oriented practices, behaviors, or tasks that move us toward accomplishing the Big Dots. What’s significant about BDLD is that we focus on looking for the Little Dots that will give us the most leverage, the best return-on-investment, the best bang for our buck in moving us closer to the Big Dot. It’s about doing the “right” things—not all the things--that make the biggest difference.
In real life, it might look like this: If my Big Dot is to have closer relationships with my female friends, the Little Dots might include joining a women’s book club with people I want to see more regularly, scheduling Friday morning coffees with my closest friends, or planning a girls’ trip to a yoga retreat center.
Which of these Little Dots will help me accomplish my goal most effectively? I don’t know…yet. I might have to try one or two Little Dot actions to know. That’s where keeping my eye on the Big Dot—what I really want—helps me move “in the direction”, but actually doing the Little Dots gives me the feedback to know what works best. Sometimes that feedback is just a feeling, an observation or an awareness. But when I get better at recognizing the feeling information, I get better at selecting my Little Dots in the future.
We need the combination of intention and structure to actually help us “live the life we have imagined,” as Thoreau encourages us to do. If we imagine the Big Dots as our dreams, we can use the Little Dot actions to keep us moving in that direction, as in “living the life”—the daily practices and behaviors that actually create the movement we need to achieve the dream.
You may be wondering what any of this has to do with my slow ramp-up to 2017. Only this: The new year often brings with it the expectation within ourselves that we should change, improve, or resolve. We commit to cleaning up, slimming down, and living more fully as humans. My sloppy, below-the-line, foot-dragging- into-the-new-year attitude shifted almost immediately with Thoreau’s supplication to go “confidently in the direction”. It was softer…intriguing…inviting. And just what I needed to crack open a new perspective with my own Big and Little Dots for 2017, and get my energy turned up for a beautiful new year.
What Big Dots are you following this year? We’d love to hear from you!