Charles Dickens and Dreaming Big

Charles Dickens and Dreaming Big

I am reading an inspiring book right now called How Successful People Think and in it, the author quotes words spoken of novelist Charles Dickens:

“He did each thing as if he did nothing else.”

We live in a world built on pressures; the pressure to be successful, the pressure to be happy, the pressure to be someone great. We are taught, not necessarily by our parents but certainly by other influences, that we both need to reach higher yet stay in our place. We are taught to get a stable job and work for the promotion. We are taught to seek someone wonderful to marry so that we may find stability. We are taught that we should have dreams, yet work for the good of the team. And indeed, each of these things can be individually rewarding. Yet the lessons we are taught by those who influence us, especially as we grow, are very often contradictory.

Instead of being taught to dream big and do what we need to do to achieve that dream, we are taught to dream realistically. Instead of being told that we can be great, we are told to try and be great while staying inside the confines of what is socially acceptable. Each of these paradigms is what ultimately holds so many people back from doing what they love or defining happiness for themselves.

Part of the problem is how widespread we are as individuals. We do what we think we need to do to serve others, and in doing so, very often, forget to serve ourselves. We please our parents and we please our friends and we take care of children and we help our boss, yet behind all of that is a sense of self. We are taught that we must please those higher up than ourselves, that we must obey our parents, that we must, must, must. And behind all of those “musts” is what we need to nourish our souls.

“He did each thing as if he did nothing else.” I think this quote is so powerful for two reasons. One is of presence. To be present is to perform each task as if it were the only one; to get rid of distractions and embrace a life in the now. The other reason why I love the words so much is what it implies about the man himself. In order to do each thing at such a level, one must place value on the self so as to see value in doing anything at all.

I do not believe that this quote indicates he did everything better than other people, but instead that he placed value in each thing that he did and was engaged enough to focus his energy into them. So much of our problem today lies in two places: distractions and self-doubt. We doubt ourselves because we are told to, whether directly or unintentionally. Take going to school for art. If you are someone who has done this, it is very likely someone along the way told you how impractical that would be. In my case it was deciding to be a photographer. I had no training and no idea of how to run a business, but my heart was set on it. And as a result opinions came out of the woodwork, and I was told of how practical I needed to be.

“People don’t make money selling art. You need a backup plan.”

These words are commonly spoken and meant to be caring most of the time. Yet at the same time, they inadvertently tell the person to whom they are spoken that they are not good enough, will not succeed, and should not try. With messages like this floating around everywhere, self-doubt is a disease that plagues many, and understandably so.

What if we could channel some of that Charles Dickens magic and create a world for ourselves where we did each thing as if we did nothing else? What if we made decisions that could change our lives, and do change our lives, and we lived them as though nothing else mattered? To be present, to get rid of distractions, to believe you are worthy of pursuing such goals…that is the ultimate in finding your voice and finding a story for your life.

How can we get rid of the doubt and the anxiety and the distractions? Two simple ideas: The first is that few people care about you as much as you care about yourself, and the people who might care more are the people who will try to keep you safe. You need to take risks. You need to do something scary. And those who love us most will often hold us back, in the kindest way possible and for the very best reasons. Yet we need not listen. We must move forward. The second thing to realize is that you are the only one making decisions in your life. If we place the blame on other people for offering their opinions, we are living life in the shadow of someone else. A journey in the shadow of another is a very dark road.

Every single person has an incredible, unique story and vision. That story needs to be told, and that vision expressed, and to do so is to empower others to do the same. Dream big and dream often. Find your voice and share it. Tell the story of your life through your own words. And next time you take a leap and do something important, do it as if you did nothing else. Do it wholly, with confidence and pride, and do it with love…for yourself, as much as others.


**Image by my friend Seth Cashman, who is as kind and true as he is talented.**

20 thoughts on “Charles Dickens and Dreaming Big

    1. Brooke
      Wise words! Nothing makes you feel more alive then to be alive! To experience the moment, I know it can be hard not to let people make you think you are to wild, like when your own friends call you crazy, until they experience an adventure with you because then they may say you are magic! I love converting neighsayers and doubters to full fledged believers!
      Chrystal Kelly

  1. “He did each thing as if he did nothing else.” This is powerful, for the world has too many distractions. We can easily get side-tracked and be pulled in too many directions.

    I believe that today, more than ever in the recent past, everyone needs to know that they CAN create success through passion and hard work. Climbing the corporate ladder is no longer a stable path, and those of us who choose to live our passion and dream big, work hard can be more successful than others imagine.

    The key is to NOT GIVE UP, despite others’ well-intentioned comments throughout our journeys.

    {Tell Seth that the portrait is really beautiful!}

    1. I agree completely – when the economy isn’t doing so well we get a glimpse into just how unstable so many jobs can be, when we grew up thinking just the opposite. Creativity IS rewarded, perhaps now more than most times in recent history. So amazing to see, really!

      I will absolutely pass that on to him! What a great talent he is!

  2. I hate this word “practical” for all these very reasons – it comes with such baggage in this context. There is much truth in this article – brilliant read 🙂

  3. I hope your readers heed your well-chosen words and consider the strategy of one of my favourite authors. My odyssey, to discover my unique self, lasted six decades and it culminated in a one-day Brooke Shaden workshop in New Jersey. Today, I just published my first website I plan to spend the remainder of my life following my passion, my bliss.

  4. Every time I feel low on confidence or needs motivation i come to your blog. Every time you teach me something new and different at the same time give me motivation to go out and do what i need. I have never received any appreciation from my family for my photography whatsoever . they just think that I am doodling around and wasting time and money. Obviosuly i havnt been creating the great pictures But there are times when i needed a pat on the back , a lift or motivation. You have always been that source for me for a past 7-8 months. You have been one of the best teachers in my life . Thanks for making me dream and making me push the limits

  5. This is very true. It reminds me of an article I red the other day. The author wrote that to get to know yourself and love yourself, you should (or rather could) date yourself once a week and do whatever you feel like. Like a love affair with yourself. Isn’t that a great way to get to understand yourself and your feelings, your thoughts and dreams?
    The ability to concentrate on one single thing is within us. Look at the children! They get absorbed by their play. I think we can learn a lot from them. They don’t care if things are practical. They just care about “the thing” they are doing at that moment. :o)

    Have a lovely day, greetings from Germany,

  6. Thank you to sharing everytime so wise words. Your are so an inspiration for all who reads this promoting passion website . I hope one day to meet you again I don’t know where but the art you make is so amazing it’s like magical dust. With this i enter everytime an amazing world with so much wisdom of an incredible wise women. Thx Brooke <3

    Also thx to Seth for the amazing pictures of the amazing Brooke.

  7. Ah this message touches me so much! I have been wresteling with my dreams as far as I can imagine. Art acadamy was hard. I was doing textile design and definatly not the best of my class. I had this world inside of me and I couldn’t get it out in it’s full potential. Now I see textile wasn’t the right choice. I graduated and did two years of fashion which i hated. than did graphic design which was oke… than I started photographing and my whole world changed. Now I do weddings for a living. Which I do so love. Love is the anchor that holds me. My inside world is very much of a spiritual nature and I love people and the beauty that they carry. Now said I love photographing weddings I could extend my creativity up so far. With a lot of other talented photographers I felt/feel like one out of a million. Although i love their work and also mine.. it just does not feed my inner world enough. And than I saw your work on creative live. I ofcourse already saw some of your work and other Fine Art photographers and I just thought it was out of my league. Than the creative love workshop just made me so excited. Last weekend I did my first shot.. with a dress hanging in my closet for ages, which I have been dreaming for ages to use. The result to me is amazing. Maybe not the best ever.. but hey it’s my first! I love it! I’ve showed it to a few to help me decide on some final details and most people are like “wow”! And than you have the critics that say.. “not my cup of tea” & “how can you use it commercially” “what is the sence of this?”. Only a few comments that make me wonder. Am I an artist at all? And then I read this and realise; I am made to share my inner world. I am here to show the world something that I think they need. Love, hope, colour! I haven’t shared the image on the web yet I still have to finish it but I hope it will inspire other to follow their heart. Thanks for sharing Brooke and thank you for you work. it is amazing!

  8. Thats one of the best quotes and a beautiful written article I read today. Thank you for inspiring! And your photographs inspire a lot too 🙂

  9. Thank you for sharing from your heart. You are quite an inspiration.
    I presently have several books brewing in my head. I would love your permission to use this blog post in one of them…obviously you would get full credit. This particular book is entitled “On Being”. ♥

  10. Thank you for another great post! I can realate. I went to art school, so I have had my share of unwanted opinions lol. Thankfully I am finally starting to learn to pity the opinion givers instead of letting their words bother me as much. I realize they are probably miserable in their own life and want to feel validated. I think most people doing something they love battle with self doubt on a daily basis. I love that quote. It is a good one to read regularly.

  11. Hi Brooke,
    I would like to thank you for being such a positive, and creative, inspirational person. You help us all refuel our faith and hope when it runs empty. You are a true inspiration and a true magician. I love how you continue to share what you know. Your positivity is contagious. Whenever insecurity and doubt creeps in, I visit your blog, read your post, and instantly feel uplifted, inspired, and motivated.

    I also want to share one more thing before I submit this comment: It is such a relief to read blogs by someone who, although goes through trials and tribulations like everyone else, continues to be optimistic and positive. I was told recently by someone I love dearly that optimism can be very annoying and unrealistic. I begged to differ because I have noticed over the years how magical your reality can become when you dream big, think optimistically and creatively. I tried to explain this to the person that I love, but it all fell on deaf ears. After that, I began to question my sanity. LOL.

    Again, THANKS A LOT for being you. You are not only an artist and visionary, but also a healer. 🙂


  12. I recently had this discussion with my 16yr old daughter who decided that being an art teacher was more practical than pursuing her actual dream. I will definitely have her read this post. I truly believe that we can all have the lives we truly want if we can uncover and admit to our true passions!

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