Few of us would willingly pursue a folly, some pie-in-the-sky fantasy that is completely disconnected from the realm of possibility, taking a lot of our time to chase after the truly unobtainable. There would, of course, be no point.
And sometimes we need someone else to give us a bit of a reality-check, to keep us from going too far out on a limb. We need that “sensible and practical idea of what can be achieved or expected” that the dictionary defines as realistic.
But that word can have a double-edge, and we have to remember that what is “sensible and practical” depends on who is doing the assessment.
Someone telling you to “be realistic” can provide a necessary word of caution, but the injunction can also be undercutting, limiting your vision and your goals. Sometimes, it’s offered as a subtle jab to someone who dares to do what others do not, or who thinks unconventionally.
For instance, recently Diana Nyad finally reached her goal of being the first to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. It was her fifth attempt at this accomplishment, and undertaken at the age of 64.
Perhaps you’ve seen Ms. Nyad interviewed in the past when previous attempts at this feat didn’t work out? I was most impressed that she had endured the visible stings from jellyfish and man-o-war, but reading about all the dangers and difficulties she faced along the way only highlighted how notable her determination and focus really are.
For instance, her previous attempt to make the swim was hindered by lightening strikes and by getting off course. She had to plan her swims according to favorable weather conditions and ocean currents. Of necessity, a kayak accompanied her, equipped with an electronic shark repellent. Additionally, Ms. Nyad is also asthmatic.
Was she realistic? You might be able to make a case that she was downright daft to undertake such a long and dangerous swim! Given the hazards, don’t you just know that she was told many times that her goal was just not realistic! And how many of us would have thought the same way? I understand that attitude easily, but have to recognize that Ms. Nyad proved that her vision actually was realistic, and that she had a better view of “what can be achieved or expected” than the naysayers on the shore.
Does this apply to you?
Do you limit yourself? Do you tell yourself to “be realistic” when what you are really doing is giving in to your fears? Do you keep yourself from accepting the challenge to move forward with goals that are important to you? Is “be realistic” just a way to protect yourself from the risk of failing (as if you can’t recover from trying, but not fully succeeding)?
Or are you subject to the judgments of others? Are they helping you to truly “be realistic” or just holding you back? Are they jealous of initiative and courage that you have? Do you listen to voices that are not serving your better interests?
I hope you consider this, because “be realistic” isn’t always realistic. How many of us give up on ideas that we write off, when if we worked at them with some dedication and focus, we could dream them into reality? Just like Diana Nyad did.