When is the last time you really dreamed big? Most of us can’t remember. We are so bogged down with work or life that we don’t really have time to dream anymore.

Isn’t that sad? What is life without dreams?!

I’m willing to bet this wasn’t always the case though. I bet there was a time when your dreams inspired you. A time when you had a goal in life and were determined to go after it. Don’t you wonder what happened to that time? Don’t you wonder what happened to your goals?

Remember when you were a child and people asked you “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I’ve never met a child that didn’t have a confident answer to that question.

They may have said, “I want to be an astronaut” or “I want to be a doctor” or “I want to be a mom” ←(actual dream of my oldest daughter). Whatever it was, it didn’t have to be practical or extraordinary in the eyes of others… all it had to be was yours …a dream that mattered to you.

Somehow we lost that along the way. We lost our ability to dream.

Accepting Your Circumstances

It is as though an undercurrent of circumstances swept in and carried you off course. You got caught up in the “stream of life” and eventually stopped swimming after what made you feel alive.

Photo Credit: Jérôme Prax

Don’t beat yourself up though. You are not alone. So many of us find ourselves in that same situation. We get caught in the “if only” trap. You know… if only I could pay off these student loans, or if only I was married, or if only I had less credit card debt, or if only I had some help… then things would be different.

But the problem is, it won’t.

This is because the problem does not lie in your circumstances but in your inability to dream beyond them.

When you truly learn to accept this, everything changes. You accept that you may be a mom or dad with all the demands that come with having young children. You accept that you may not be in your “dream job” or make the “perfect salary.” You accept that the people in your life may not be supportive of you. But in spite of it, you move forward anyway.

Finding Your Fringe Hours

As a result, you begin to see the places in your life where there is potential to dream. The margins between things. Those fringe hours before the kids wake up or after they go to bed; the time when you are on your daily commute; or, the time you give back to yourself and set apart as your own. All of these are places to begin. They are investments in what matters to you.

What people don’t realize is, although these investments seem small at first, they increase with every moment you pour into them. A good audiobook on the way to work — such as Girl, Stop Apologizing, or The Road Back To You — becomes a “virtual idea factory.”

A few hours writing down your goals and priorities in a Cultivate What Matters or Full Focus planner, literally become a roadmap for your dreams.

A little time spent investing in others and helping them achieve their goals often creates a network of people who are committed to helping you achieve yours.

Putting Things Into Practice

This is exactly how my wife and I dared to start All of Us Matter — a social business that creates ethical fair-trade coffee cups that fight human trafficking.

With three young kids, a full-time job, and what seemed like a million responsibilities, we knew we weren’t going to get more hours in the day, we simply had to invest more time into the hours we had — our fringe hours.

We started waking up a little earlier and going to bed a little later. We turned deadtime (cooking, cleaning, driving) into audiobook and podcast “fueling” sessions. As we listened to others who were pursuing their goals or sharing lessons learned, it inspired us to dream bigger and go faster.

These small investments into the margins of our life created something powerful, a force we couldn’t have anticipated; that force was called momentum.

When we had momentum, everything was easier. In fact, it multiplied the time we could invest in our business because we became more excited about it. Television or extra sleep seemed less appealing than that next big milestone.

As a result, we are no longer bystanders in our life. We are actively pursuing what matters to us — in spite of our circumstances — and it feels great!

You can do it too. Don’t underestimate your potential. You have a purpose that is bigger than your circumstances and the best way to find it is to begin.

I love a quote from President Roosevelt that says:

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are

— Theodore Roosevelt.

Theodore Roosevelt lost his father, mother, and wife to tragic deaths early in life, but went on to become the youngest President in US history. He was determined to not let his circumstances dictate his future.

Instead, he chose to take small steps that eventually grew into big dreams. Dreams that helped him live beyond himself and impact the lives of those around him. His dreams gave him the courage to do what matters, and that made all the difference.

Originally published at: allofusmatter.org