Something a Tree Taught Me About Going After Our Big Dreams

Every time we hold a BIG Dream Gathering, I meet at least one person who says, “I don’t know what any of my big dreams are.  I’m just not sure what to write down as my big dreams or life goals.”

I can understand.  I think we’ve all been there.  Heck, maybe you’re there right now.

If so… maybe… like me… you can take a lesson from a tree that was in our front yard.

Here’s the story.

Late last fall, we had to cut down one of the trees because it had developed a nasty looking fungus.

Now, I’m kind of dangerous with power tools, so we had someone else do it.

The team we hired seemed professional, courteous and efficient.  But as I watched them work, I started to wonder whether they had a personal vendetta against trees.

Seriously… these guys didn’t just cut down this tree… they annihilated it.

They took it down like a pack of rogue ninjas!   They chopped.  They split.  They even ground the stump so deep into the ground that a few wood chips and our memories were the only evidence a tree once stood there.

There was nothing left.  Our tree was history.

But a few weeks ago, when I went out to mow our lawn for the first time this spring, I came across a surprising discovery!

About a few inches from where the stump used to be… a row of little seedlings had popped up.

They stood in a line looking like young soldiers getting ready to march into battle.

They weren’t from the stump.  They were from the roots.

That’s right.  Even though our tree-cutter-down-guy and his pack of tree ninjas destroyed our Japanese maple and ground it into oblivion… the roots were fighting back!

Now, what does this have to do with us remembering and getting clear on our big dreams?

Well, I’m guessing that there have been a few times in your life when your dreams have been cut down like my front-yard tree.

Maybe it was it was when you were a kid and you shared a dream with a friend and they laughed instead of encouraging you.

Maybe it was when you were a teenager and you shared a dream and someone told you to “Get serious. You can’t make money at that.”

Or, maybe it was as an adult and your dream came to a crashing halt as the doors on your company closed for the last time.

I know those feelings.  You may, too.

But to that… today… I say “What if?”

What if… our dreams… still lived?

What if the roots of those dreams were still growing deep down inside of us?

After working with thousands of people over these past few years, I’ve realized that this is how big dreams work.

Dreams have a root system that goes deep.

Sometimes you have to dig a bit to find them, but they are there.

So how do we do it?

How do we dig down and find the roots to some of our BIG dreams?

Let me offer you some steps:

Step 1: Start Digging

Start by asking questions.  I’ll usually ask someone in this situation to ponder two simple but powerful questions.

  • Question 1: What are 100 things you love to do?
  • Question 2: What are 50 things you loved to do as a kid?

Then I suggest they give themselves permission to take some time to answer. The only guideline: no filtering what you write.

Here is a worksheet that makes it easy for you to write your lists. Click here to download it.

Step 2: Look For the “Roots”

After you’ve completed Step 1, go back and take a good look at your list.  Remember, you’re looking for the root systems of your big dreams so look for themes.

Maybe you have a heart for adventure and travel, but you’d forgotten about that… or it’s gotten buried over time.  If so, maybe it’s time to think about a big dream involving a trip somewhere.  It doesn’t even have to be a huge trip… it might just be making time for a 3-day weekend! All BIG dream pursuits need to start with small but significant steps.

When one coaching client of mine did this exercise, she realized she loved solving puzzles as a kid.  She remembered that this was why she had gotten into technology as an adult, because she treated software problems like they were puzzles.  However, in recent years, she had moved into more leadership responsibilities and away from the “puzzle solving” that she’d enjoyed so much.  She then put a plan in place to get back to some of the things she loved doing and her job satisfaction skyrocketed!

Step 3: Nurture the “Sprouts”

Look for places in your life where your big dreams might already be sprouting.

These might look different than you think.

The sprouts of our Japanese maple looked a lot different from the tall tree that once stood in our yard.  But they were still a start.

What might “sprouts” look like?

A few years ago, we had someone come to the BIG Dream Gathering and she had a big dream of writing and performing music for kids.  As she looked around for the “sprouts” of this budding big dream, she started to see that she was already in the children’s ministry at her church.

It was a small beginning, but she asked to help with the music.  Then she started to write some original songs when the opportunity arose. Someone else asked her to come and play some songs for a child’s birthday party, and so she did.  Again, this was a long way from a recording studio in Nashville or LA… but it was a sprout.  So she jumped at the chance and it inspired her to write another song.

Those sprouts kept growing.

She didn’t quit her day job.  But she kept looking for and nurturing those “sprouts.”

And they have grown.  So much so that she just recorded her own CD filled with original music… and… get this… her kids were her back up singers!

Did a major label sign her? Nope.  Not yet.

But she continues to nurture those “sprouts” and they are gradually growing into a tree that is impacting her family… and it’s teaching her kids to dream BIG too!

Dig in…  look for the roots…  nurture your sprouts… and just see what kind of BIG dreams grow for you! 

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Leave A Reply (16 comments So Far)

  • Mitch! Fantastic article. I love the tree story. The steps outlined here are inspiring and encouraging. Will be such a pleasure to share this post. Thank you! 

    • Thanks Dondi!  That means A LOT!  Thanks for sharing it… AND thanks for being such an advocate for my big dreams!  You’re a big cup of awesome!

  • Mitch, love this article my friend. I especially love the point you make about nurturing the “sprouts” of our BIG dreams! 🙂

    • Thanks Josh!  And thanks for all of the big dreams you encourage every day buddy!  Your ripple effect is off the charts!

  • Beautiful article. Love the imagery and the power of speaking into people’s dreams. I shall nurture the sprouts, and bring people with me to nurture theirs!

    • Thanks Gina!  You’re awesome!  I know that you’re encouraging “sprouts” all over the place!  Keep it up!

  • Anonymous

    Mitch, I enjoyed your illustration.  Step 2, on finding roots was is great.  Thanks!

  • Ashley – Thanks so much! I really appreciate it!  I’m glad you like Step 2!  It can be really revealing and encouraging!

    It was funny because I was thinking about this this morning… and when I did my own list.

    One of the things that popped up from my “kid list” was that I loved watching… get ready for this… LA LAW.  (weird… right?)  And that led me to dreaming of being an attorney. 

    So at first, when I remembered that… I thought… “Well… I’m not an attorney now.  I thought about law school when I completed college but my wife and I chose to move to Montana instead and the rest was history.”

    But then I asked another question. 

    That was, “What was it about being an attorney that I really wanted to do?”  (Other than slam my BMW trunk all the time… ala my friends at LA LAW) 

    Then I realized that I wasn’t all that hip with the idea of actually being in a court room.  The thing that grabbed me as a kid was standing up for people.  I wasn’t all that tough but I was pretty quick witted so I think that part of my heart thought that being an attorney might be  way that I could stand up for people. 

    Once I uncovered that… I thought… that’s pretty cool.  Because then I realized that THAT part of my dream has played out.  I just get to it in different ways now. 

    (I will also admit that I slam my Nissan trunk instead of my BMW!)

    So, I offer that as a bit of a follow up because when you dig into your “kid list” especially, there can be a temptation to think “Oh, whelp! I MISSED that one.” 

    But I’d encourage you to take another look and ask…

    “What was it about that thing that I loved to do as a kid that made it so cool?” 

    “What made ___________ so appealing to me as a kid?”

    Because, although you may not be doing some of the things you loved to do as a kid… there might be something to the “root system” to those things… that can help you to uncover or rediscover some of your BIG Dreams now!

    I hope that helps!

    Thanks again for the feedback Ashley! 

    By the way, what would be something you’d put on the list from the things you loved to do as a kid?  I’d love to hear it!

    • Anonymous

      Mitch – Great conversation. 
      Ok, I laugh at the LA LAW trunk slam.  I watched Little House on the Prairie and although I never desired Laura’s clothing.  I did like that she was adventurous.

      As a student I loved playing sport.  As I drill down now, I know that it was the challenge of pushing myself farther than I initially thought possible that fueled me.

      I’m still competitive and I’ve got Ironman Cozumel in the queue for Nov.

      • Ashley –

        Wow!  Loving that!  Glad you got the slam reference too!  That made me laugh out loud when it came out! I can almost hear the theme music now!

        Loving the fact that you’re digging in deeper!  That’s just so confirming to know that challenge of pushing yourself is a part of your deep-down dna! 

        That will serve you well!  Plus, I love the fact that you’re helping other people to do the same!  Keep up the great work!

        Also… have a great time in Cozumel! Wow… if you’ve got to do an IRONMAN… that would be the place!

        Love it!

        Thanks again,


  • I LOVE trees … well, you kinda know I got a thing for apple trees 🙂 … but I’ve been using the Value Tree and other trees as symbols for years in my peak performance and life design work.
    Trees are not only beautiful, but when tended with care as they grow, they are magnificently resilient. As they bend through the wind and storms…they become stronger.
    A brilliant anology for our dreams. From tiny sprouts to towering oaks or maples or whatever one’s dream looks like … the smallest beginning can bring BIG dreams and great joy and inspiration to many.
    Thanks for your inspiration and generous sharing of tools, Mitch!

    • Thanks so much Mollie! Yeah, I had to think of you guys and all your amazing apple trees as I was writing this!  Thanks for planting so many seeds of inspiration and hope and know that we’re especially pulling for you all this week!

  • Mitch!
    You and I must think alike.  I’ve been writing a series on my blog about business lessons from the garden. I love the parallels to be able to weave beautiful stories and imagery and share lessons.

    Thank you so much for this post and the awesome tool you provided. I have people in my life who could use it and I’m thrilled to share it with them.

    • Thanks FS –

      Heck… I love the thought that you and I were thinking alike!  That’s fun AND dangerous!! 

      Thanks for spreading the word on this!  You’re awesome!

  • Michelle

    Excellent story Mitch!  I agree with Felicia – there is a nature thing going on as I just wrote about one with a bird!!  Great lessons natures provide and thank you for sharing such an inspiring one.  Michelle

    • Thanks Michelle – I’ll have to head on over to check out your story on the bird! Love it!  Thanks so much for the encouragement and all that you do!