Updated: Nov 24, 2019
We've all heard the expression, "Go big or go home" so many times that it is practically etched into our brains. But when it comes to fulfilling our dreams and building the life we truly want, it's the baby steps we take that truly matter.
We've known for YEARS that we wanted to start a farm. It's been Roy's lifelong dream, and although it's not exactly something I had envisioned for myself, my crafty husband was able to lure me in really quickly by sharing pastoral visions of me enjoying my sunset years sitting on the front porch of my little cabin in the woods, hanging out with Bambi, Thumper, and all of the other assorted Disney woodland creatures I had romanticized in my youth.
As much as we knew that this is something we both wanted, while our children were still young enough to enjoy it (and obligated to help), we took so long to take those first steps. We spent so many years focused on the BIG things that needed to happen to make our dream a reality that we completely overlooked the dozens of small things that we could have been doing all along. There were so many great conversations about our BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) that ended with, "...but we just need to wait until _____" or, "we'll do it as soon as _____." We had an ideal sequence of events in our head and never looked at all of the ways we could circumvent them. And even worse, when we would finally check one big step off the list, we'd find another obstacle to put in it's place. Let's run through a few:
"We can get started as soon as we save up a down payment and find the perfect piece of land."
"We can get started as soon as we have a cabin built."
"We just need to wait until we get the place fenced off."
"We just need to wait until the baby is a little older so we have more spare time."
"Once I get through grad school, I can get started on the farm stuff."
...The excuses were endless. So let's talk a little bit about the brain science behind this behavior, and why taking baby steps is so important. When we think about our dreams, it initially makes us happy, right? But then, when we think about all of those factors that we need to accomplish in order to make our dream a reality, we start to feel overwhelmed. Our big, happy dream is now causing us stress, and that stress actually affects our physiology by releasing the stress hormone cortisol. So now, our mind and body are having a stress response and our natural inclination is to remove the stressor and dampen the stress response. Over time, these patterns become so ingrained that we subconsciously avoid even thinking about our dream because we learn that it will lead to anxiety. We push our dream away in all of our self-defeating glory just to maintain a feeling of comfort. (Here's a great article if you want to know more about the ways stress impacts our bodies.)
But let's look at what happens when we reframe our thinking. When we think of our big dream and that long-term vision of happiness it brings us, if we instead focus on little things (and I mean down to the tiniest little acts) that we could do right now in support of that dream, we break the dream/stress connection. This is the "magic dust" that moves us from dreaming to achieving! Even better, when we achieve that some small something in support of our dream, our lovely brain blesses us with a dopamine boost, which makes our tiny effort feel really big and rewarding. Now, not only have we eliminated the stress response, but we've replaced it with a reward that helps motivate us to keep working on our goal.
The secret to living our dreams is to actively look for little things we can accomplish each day so that we associate our dream with feelings of positivity, enthusiasm and reward.
Despite having the name "Royal Roost" picked out for at least five years and having our beautiful Oklahoma property for two, up until a few weeks ago, our "farm" was nothing more than a tiny backyard garden. I was far too busy with work, school and kids to put any energy into the farm, or at least that's what I told myself for years. But it was Roy's baby step of planting that little 4x3 garden and the joy it brought us to be able to put homegrown produce on the table that shifted our association of this crazy farm dream from being an overwhelming undertaking to being a rewarding adventure.
The next baby step was mine. I had just learned about a farmer's market opening near our home. Since the garden was producing more than our family could use, I decided to look into creating a little farm stand there. Lo and behold, we got selected as vendors! So, Roy decided to double the size of the garden, and (after years of being too busy), I designed a logo. Roy started preserving excess herbs and perfecting recipes, and I used a grad school homework assignment to build a site map for our RoyalRoostFarm.com website. Roy doubled the garden again, and I doubled our social media presence.
In a few short weeks, we had accomplished things we had let ourselves believe were gigantic undertakings that needed to happen in a certain order. Instead of feeling anxiety, we felt achievement, AND IT FELT GREAT! And now, the metaphorical ball is in motion, we are politely side-stepping all of those obstacles we thought were in our way, and our little Royal Roost Farm is growing.
We appreciate so much that you are sharing in our journey, and hope that hearing our story will help you find ways to start living your dreams, too.