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Radical optimism

Plan for a future you can't quite see, then take small steps toward it.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 16, 2009 11:13AM
Last week I found vegetable and flower seeds in a clearance bin for 8 cents per package. I bought a dozen even though I have nowhere to plant them.

Call it radical optimism, since there are no guarantees that I'll be a homeowner any time soon.

Yet I see no reason not to believe that I will be. Thus I am keeping that dream in the forefront for 96 cents plus tax. I could also have bought a key ring for my someday housekeys. I just happened to find seed packets on sale.

Maybe it's time for a symbolic act in your life, too. Look at your own long-term goals -- yes, the ones that feel so distant and/or unattainable. Think about ways to make them seem more real:

  • Research grants and scholarships for a new career, even if you can't go to school quite yet.
  • Start a bank account and name it after one of your goals --  "Debt Free," "Next Car for Cash." Make regular deposits even if some weeks it's only a dollar or two. (Watch for one of those free money
  • Paint the sign for the restaurant you'll open in three years.

You don't have to spend a lot. In fact, radical optimism is possible even if you're seriously broke:

  • Anxious to travel but can't even afford to renew your passport? Keep your edge with free foreign language classes online.
  • Design a nursery for the baby you want to have by the time you're 35.
  • Create a name for your start-up and order free business cards.

Dreams are great things to have. But sometimes it's hard to keep them on the front burner instead of relegating them to a hazy "some day."


For me, the pictures on the seed packets bring matters into focus. I can't grow Long Island Mammoth dill, California Wonder peppers or White Lisbon Bunching onions until I have a place to dig.

The seeds will be good for a few years. During that time they'll be a tangible reminder of the goal toward which I must continue to work: A place of my own. I can already see its vegetable garden.

Related reading:
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