Leadership Wired Blog

Dreaming in the Daily Grind


We use the expression, “the daily grind,” to describe the mundane unpleasantness of our work routine. Interestingly, the word “grind” has multiple meanings:

1) To wear down, reduce, or crush into powder by pounding or abrading
2) To smooth, sharpen, or polish by friction or abrasion

Though we cannot escape the daily grind, we can determine whether it crushes our dreams or polishes them. How? I’d suggest the following three behaviors.

Realize the Dream Is Costly

The dream is free, but the journey to its completion isn’t. Failure is the price of success. If you naïvely believe the dream will happen easily, then the setbacks of the daily grind will shatter your dreams. However, if you understand the dream is costly, then you can take failures in stride as necessary steps on the road to success. From this view, mistakes do not prove our inadequacy; they sharpen our abilities and prepare us for success in the future.

Engage in Possibility Thinking

When you have big dreams, the drudgery of the daily grind can be disheartening. It’s maddening to feel as if your dream is on hold while you spend each day on seemingly unimportant work. Yet as Jesus of Nazareth said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” In other words, the skills you develop in unglamorous jobs train or qualify you for greater responsibility in the future. If you disdain the small tasks of the daily grind, then your hope of accomplishing your dreams will eventually erode. However, if you look for possibilities to grow in every situation, then you gradually will gain the experiences needed to achieve your dream.

Separate the Firefighters and Firelighters

Criticism can be crushing, yet honest feedback refines our vision. The key is to avoid firefighters who will douse your dreams with negativity and to surround yourself with firelighters who will fan the flames of your passion with their consistent support. After people lose hold of their own dreams, they tend to hold down everyone around them who dares to dream. Other people’s success makes them feel insecure. For this reason, be wary of people without well-defined passions of their own—they’re almost certain be firefighters.

The daily grind tends to sidetrack us from accomplishing our dream, forcing us to take unwanted detours. In these moments, we need people who will encourage us to persevere and who will believe in our dream, even when our faith in it wavers. In addition, we need people who will gently, but firmly, help us confront our shortcomings. Without their feedback, we will not be able to make the personal and professional adjustments required to reach our dreams. Firelighters, then, can be identified by their sincere encouragement and their willingness to say what we need to hear instead of what we want to hear.


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