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viewpoint

From doing to dreaming

| Friday, September 12, 2014

For my column this week, let’s start off with a little experiment inspired by a recent guest speaker in my management class. Grab a pen or pencil from your backpack (or whatever someone left behind at your table at the DH today) and draw an L-shaped coordinate plane. With your pen, draw one dot at the origin — the meeting of the lines in the “corner” of the L. Draw another dot somewhere in the area of the plane.

We’ll say that the first dot represents where you are now — Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s or visiting campus and picking up a copy of The Observer. It represents the context within which you live, your personality, your jobs, extracurricular activities, your major, your favorite sports — you name it. This small little dot represents what makes you, you. Think of this dot as your “doing dot” — what you’re up to in the here and now.

The second dot represents where you want to be in five years. Whether it’s the job market, medical school, volunteering, parenthood or anything of the like, this dot represents what you aspire to accomplish through all the hard work you’re putting in right now in the doing dot. Think of this new dot as the “dreaming dot” — all of the things right now that you wish you could do, become or achieve.

How would you get from the doing dot to the dreaming dot? Most of us (myself included) would take the most obvious route — a straight line from the first point to the second. This makes sense on most levels — it’s efficient, it saves time and it’s the tried-and-true method of getting from point A to point B. We are told at a very young age that any five-year or longer plan, no matter how ambitious, can be achieved with careful planning and dedication, with hard work being the pen that draws the line for you.

Next, take the pen and draw a dotted line, but this time going above and below the first line while you go from the doing dot to the dreaming dot. The result will be a squiggly line that follows the basic direction of the first line, albeit in a different way. This line represents one of life’s key challenges — unpredictability.

It’s predictably common for go-getters that populate universities such as Notre Dame to take a step back every once in a while and assess where they are in terms of their goals and aspirations. Most of the time things are going great and everyone around us is doing what they need to do to succeed (or at least that’s what we are led to believe). Internships, research positions, good grades, interviews, job offers — these are all ultimately tools that we as students pursue in order to achieve our aspirations in life. When we hit those high points, it’s easy to see the path to success and reaching our goals.

In life, however, things seldom go exactly as planned. Curveballs come out of nowhere, and we find ourselves in a drastically different place than we previously were, wondering what the next step will be or if, God forbid, anything could get worse. Just as sitting at the bottom of hill makes that hill seem way more steep than at the top, it is often hard to imagine how you got there in the first place!

One of the most difficult to master yet important skills to help us along the journey of life is the sense of perspective that allows us to, in spite of the ups and downs, stay true to our core beliefs, values and dreams. It’s this sense of perspective that enables the perseverance and determination necessary to achieve our goals, even when the going gets rough. History teaches us that some of the most successful people from all walks of life — like Steve Jobs (who got fired from his own company), Bill Gates (whose first business failed) and Benjamin Franklin (who dropped out of school at age ten) — were people who encountered their fair share of obstacles yet had the ability to see past their current situation toward what they knew they were called to do.

You don’t have to be a multi-billionaire or Founding Father to have this type of foresight, however. It all starts with reflecting on where you are and where that current location is in relation to where you want to be. It continues with a conscious understanding that while things may be going to plan in the current moment, everything is subject to change. It concludes with the realization that sticking to who you truly are and remaining determined in the most trying of times will help you get from the doing dot to the dreaming dot no matter which line you follow.

Michael is a junior Science-Business major currently living in Duncan Hall. He would sincerely appreciate emails with feedback or suggestions for future topics at mfliotso@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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