Each one of us must think and work in ideals. What’s an ideal? It’s an image, picture, or vision that exists presently only in your mind. An ideal is very simple, not complex. You look at current reality, the way things actually are at the present moment the way you live now, the way you dress, your work, your health, your community, and the state the world. You look at current reality, and you say to yourself, “What would be the ideal for me? What would be the ideal way to treat my spouse and children? What would be the ideal work for me? What would be the ideal month, week, day?”

Let yourself be free of “reality” for a moment. Let yourself picture this ideal without worrying whether you know how to get there or how to do it or even know what it entails. Just draw a beautiful, simple picture of how it might be, and then keep that picture in mind.

I know that’s difficult in day-to-day life, hanging on to your ideal and not getting pulled back into the reality of the moment. But don’t get trapped by how much money you have or how effective or ineffective you are, or how powerful or powerless you are at the moment. In one sense, it doesn’t make any difference. You must think in ideals first.

Thinking in terms of ideals may be new for many of you, because you’re trapped in your present reality and can’t get out. You’re trapped in a mental prison of your own making. And when you’re immersed in a present reality, you tend to think you “know the truth” about it. But someone coming in from the outside can better think in ideals because they’re not caught up in the realities of your life.

In my current roles as a consultant, coach, mentor, speaker, husband, father, grandfather, and business owner, I’m often coming into other people’s lives and organizations from the outside. I’m not experiencing all of what they are experiencing, and so it’s relatively easy for me to think in ideals, to inspire them to think in ideals, and to provide them with a process to reach the ideal.

I advise them: “Think in ideals, even when all about you is insanity and denial.”

Some people reply, “You don’t know me. You come here talking fantasy, with no foundation in reality. Why think in ideals? Nothing in my life is ideal. Why set myself up for disappointment?” I respond: “I’m just asking you to have an idea of what could be. I’m inviting you to work in ideals and to be courageous and confident enough to believe you can pull it off. Establish what you want at the moment. I don’t care what you want. Figure out what you want. Your wants will change down the road. But if you can focus on what you want now, and know why you want it, you will likely achieve it.”

I then invite them to affirm: “I know what I want. I know why I want it. I listen to people who have helpful information, and apply it to something that’s real to me.”

You want to reach for something. You want to grow as a person, as a family, as a company. You want to become more. More of what? That’s what I keep asking myself: “What do I want to become? What do I want to do?” Often it’s no big deal something simple for my family or for my business associates or for myself.

My ideals have taken me around the world. In Spain, I visited the home of Miguel Cervantes who wrote Don Quixote de la Mancha. One theme of that book is the conflict between the real and the ideal. Our dreams, ideals, and quests give us a sense of what we might become. But after Quixote embarked on his quest, some thought him to be a maniac. Likewise, we might appear to others to be crazy and that perception becomes reality, to them.

business ideas

To make the ideal real, you’ve got to pick out something in your mind that you want to reach for your impossible dream. What do you want for yourself and others? What do you want for your community, your family, your friends?

Many of us are taught to have a “realistic” point of view. Our friends might tell us, “Forget your ideal. Not everyone will like you. You’ll have your critics and enemies. You’ll never achieve what you imagine.” And if you are weak, you might accept their negative affirmations as reality.

I have a more positive philosophy in my life. My own self-talk is the most powerful affirmation. My intent is to positively talk to myself and influence the talk around me. I find that to be very hard. It’s hard to keep from being pulled down with all the negative talk around me and to help people become more positive without being perceived as someone who doesn’t understand what reality is. Because that’s what I get when I try to turn things around to a positive way. People say, “He’s living in a dream world” or “He doesn’t understand what it’s really like.” That’s not true. I do understand, but to them I sound like a dreamer, an idealist, a Quixote.

Your quest will take some form of commitment on your part. Others will challenge you when you share your ideals. They might say, “Since so many people and things in this life are unfair and unjust, why try? Why believe? Why hope and dream?”

I can’t talk to you in terms of my ideals. You must identify your ideals, starting from where you are. And as you grow, your there will keep getting bigger and better and greater. That’s the natural process the journey of getting there from here.

Three years from now, at another starting point, you might say, “I want to get there.” You have to determine the new there and use the same process. The there may be the new marriage, a new family, expanded business, a new home, increased income, or improved health and fitness.