If the universe were to allow every passionate human to reach self-actualization, life would not be as difficult for the artist. The unfortunate reality is that some people never achieve their definition of success simply because life’s inevitable obstacles blow them away. This can happen because of many reasons, but the most notable that some people just dream too much. The few that are able to reach the stars are only able to do so because of their strong grip on reality. President Theodore Roosevelt, after many years of personal experience, once told a group of students at Groton School in Massachusetts to “be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars, but remember to keep your feet on the ground.” There are many interpretations to this quote, but to me Roosevelt was telling these students to dream smartly and pursue their difficult dreams in a context of reality. Although “dreaming smartly” seems vague, all it means is having the vision to see where you want to be while knowing the steps you must take before getting there. After all, dreams aren’t realized in one moment, but in the accumulation of many moments in one’s life. To know the distinction between these moments, one must have steady sight on the present so that there are no missed opportunities. Vision is important because without this foresight, we can’t determine what decisions we must make today to get to tomorrow.
Pursuing a dream in the context of reality is not something that’s easy to do. It’s sometimes much more pleasant to think about what can be than what is; however, daily tasks often take precedence. For example, entrepreneurs love to imagine and create, yet they have bills to pay on a monthly basis. A successful business person focuses on daily cash flow to cover this and seeks new ideas after the responsibility is met. Similarly, a brain surgeon knows the final goal of a surgery he or she performs, but takes the surgery step by step so that no mistakes are made. In the broader sense of life, this concept remains true. People who are preoccupied in looking ahead miss fundamental steps in moving forward with their dream. In the end of their life, those who missed their opportunity can become like the character Miniver Cheevy in the famous poem by E.A. Robinson, who “sighed for what was not.” In this poem, the character lives a life wishing he could live in past eras, but does not take care of his life in the present – a problem that casts him into ineptness and misery. The same can happen when you don’t have “your [foot] on the ground” and preoccupy your mind with only thoughts of tomorrow. When dreaming of the future, or as Roosevelt called “[keeping] your eyes on the stars,” one must never forget that having vision and a strong grip on your present reality is the first crucial step in actually reaching the cosmos.