I’ll confess that I’m an idealist at heart. I feel shy admitting this because idealism has a pretty bad reputation.
Most of us think of idealists as people who dream big dreams but who don’t know how to make things happen. Idealists are known for being impractical and naive. They often see the world as they would like it to be, not as it really is.
But I’d like to make the case for a specific kind of idealism: Realistic Idealism.
Before I get to that, I’ll say with absolute conviction that anything great that has ever been accomplished has been founded on idealism.
- The Wright brothers and the invention of flight.
- Florence Nightingale and the founding of the modern nursing profession.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement.
- Sandra Day O’Connor becoming the first female Supreme Court justice.
None of these achievements would have happened without a hope, a dream, a vision, a set of ideals.
I’ll bet you that countless people mocked the Wright brothers for believing they could fly, and that few people thought Sandra Day O’Connor would become the first female Supreme Court justice.
If any of the people listed above had listened to the naysayers who were just being “realistic,” how differently would history have turned out?
If all our decisions are based purely on what seems “realistic,” we’ll probably never accomplish anything truly significant or remarkable.
So I beg you: Please hold firmly to your beliefs. I don’t deny, however, that you’ll need to mix in some realism in order for your dreams to come true.
That’s how I came up with my philosophy of Realistic Idealism.
Realistic Idealism is about seeing the world as it is, but always having a vision of the world as it could be.
It’s about asking “How can I?” instead of “Can I?”
Realistic Idealists are driven by a sense of purpose; they’re not defined by their performance. When setbacks and challenges threaten to derail them, they adjust their plans but press on, because they know that they’re part of something much bigger than themselves.
They commit themselves to a cause. They understand that comfort isn’t the primary aim of life, no matter how many commercials they see advertising luxury cars, exotic vacations and magnificent mansions.
Instead, Realistic Idealists recognize that, in order to lead a deeply meaningful life, it may be necessary to endure plenty of temporary discomfort and unhappiness.
Realistic Idealists know that the story isn’t centered on them. It’s centered on others.
At the same time, they continually devise practical strategies to enable them to reach their objectives.
Most of all, Realistic Idealists never, never, never give up on their ideals.
To quote general and politician Carl Schurz, “Ideals are like stars. We will not succeed in touching them with our hands, but by following them, like the seafaring man on the ocean, we will reach our destiny.”
So let’s make the daily choice to be Realistic Idealists. Let’s make the daily choice to reach our destiny.
The world is counting on us.