It’s that time of year where we get our planners out and start to fill the pages with the goals and dreams and to-dos for next year. And, as I’ve been pondering my own 2019 and all of the promise it holds, I’ve been thinking about the push for more that is so prevalent in our society and more specifically in the online creative community.
There is this trend, this idea that is being perpetuated in this world of “girl bosses” – that you have to have big dreams and you were not “made to be small” or live a small life.
And, I have to admit that it all sounds good.
But, there is something that doesn’t sit quite right with me…
Who defines small?
Small is relative. A mouse is small compared to an elephant, but it’s enormous compared to a flea. Something can really only be defined as big or small if it’s stacked against something else in comparison.
So, your life is small compared to who? Compared to what?
Is homeschooling your children a small life? Is working a low paying, but fulfilling job a small life? Is sacrificing your dreams to care for or support someone you love a small life?
Does a big life have to be lived in front of a big audience? Does a big life have to involve travel and wealth and some amount of fame? Does a big life have to be all about you and your wants?
I’m afraid what is being communicated in this message is that the stay-at-home mom is small until she becomes a diamond-level sales rep in the MLM brand of her choice. The woman painting furniture and selling it out of a booth at an antique mall is small until she launches an online store and starts her own traveling antique market. The blogger is small until she has 100,000 followers on Instagram and a book deal.
Does anyone else feel like this is the message that’s being sold and certainly bought? And we’re all buying it. I find myself buying it! The push for more is never-ending.
Allow me to shift gears for a second…
Did you know that the measured size of an object changes depending on the unit of measurement you’re using?
It sounds crazy, but it’s true. For example, if you measure the perimeter of a lake in miles, you’ll come up with one measurement. If you measure it again in yards, the perimeter measurement will be larger, because that smaller unit of measurement won’t be skipping over all of the small inlets and other variations along the banks. Then, imagine measuring it in inches or millimeters or a measurement that is even too small for the naked human eye to appreciate and the results are even larger.
This is called fractal dimension (and I can’t even believe I’m nerdy enough to mention it in a blog post, but it is relevant!) The finer the measurement, the larger the item becomes. It doesn’t actually grow, but you have a better, more accurate measurement of it.
I would propose that the same thing is true of our lives.
When you assess the life of a typical stay-at-home mom with the measuring stick of accomplishment and earning potential alone, that might seem like a small life. But change the unit of measurement to intimately influencing and impacting the life of another and you start to see how large of a life that actually is.
I’m not trying to pick on people who are selling the “dream big” message. I believe in dreaming big and I think there is a lot of value and encouragement in much of what they are saying. But, I also think there is a danger that comes with this idea that one person’s life is big and another’s is small, especially because it’s typically based on professional accolades, acquired wealth and material possessions, social media following, moving in the right circles, and even physical appearance.
And the challenging thing in today’s world is that we can readily compare the “size of our lives” to millions of people just by the flick of our thumb through Instagram. She has more followers, she’s traveling more, she’s creating more, she’s skinner, she dresses better, she’s funnier, she’s a better mom, she has it all together, she’s living my dream...
Suddenly, our life, that never looked small before, looks small. It feels small. We are the mouse trying to make our way through what feels like an entire world of elephants. And we have to go buy a book or attend a conference to learn how to live a bigger life.
But big is never big enough because there is always someone or something bigger.
And that is a tail you can chase, but never catch.
Instead of trying to change our size, I believe we simply need to change our standard of measurement.