There’s that quote from Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life: “Some lack the fickleness to live as they wish and just live as they have begun.”
T.E. Lawrence also sensed the dichotomy between those who dream and do nothing, and those who dream and do everything to accomplish them. In Seven Pillars of Wisdom he says:
“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.”
Are the two pieces of counsel opposites? Can we both dream and build our lives bit by bit? Can we be mindful of the path our feet must walk whilst keeping our eyes on the destination in the distance?
I think so. But given the choice between dreaming and doing, we would do well to sway towards the latter. Dreams are intoxicating, vaporous things. As Dumbledore advised Harry Potter when he was becoming infatuated with the visions of his lost family in the Mirror of Erised, “it does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
But isn’t this dangerous? Can’t we get so caught up in the daily details that we neglect the bigger picture? Won’t we forget why we’re doing this in the first place?
Not if we have a ten year plan, a vision, a mission, a map, an ambition. Whatever you term it, it’s easy to see the dangers of setting off into the unknown without one. We must have what Robert Greene calls a grand strategy:
“Everyone around you is a strategist angling for power, all trying to promote their own interests, often at your expense. Your daily battles with them make you lose sight of the only thing that matters: victory in the end, the achievement of greater goals, lasting power. Grand strategy is the art of looking beyond the battle and calculating ahead. It requires that you focus on your ultimate goal and plot to reach it.”
What are you fighting for?