When as good as it gets isn’t good enough

Actor Jack Nicholson is often cast as quirky movie characters and his take on Melvin Udall in the 1997 film “As Good As It Gets” is no exception. Melvin is the supremely cranky, obsessive-compulsive writer who finds his life totally uprooted when his gay neighbor/artist is hospitalized and he’s left to canine-sit the man’s small dog. To make matters worse, the only coffee shop waitress who can tolerate him must leave work to care for her sick son, making it impossible for Melvin to eat breakfast. At some point, we are left to conclude that this may be as good as it gets for him.

While Melvin might dream of a major, sweeping change transforming his peculiar life, it’s hard to imagine that happening.

Truth is, for Melvin—and you and me—life is more frequently a series of incremental changes, not major transformations. And that has its plusses and minuses.

On the up side, small changes are easier to handle and keep things on an even keel. On the down side, by only making small changes in our lives we may become complacent and accept the status quo—a sort of “as good as it gets mindset” that keeps us from taking leaps of faith.

Here’s a question for you: If you could do anything in the world, without restrictions of any kind such as income or education or experience, what would it be? No limitations at all. What would it be? It’s a sort of, “If I could relive my entire life—wipe the slate clean, if you will—this is who I really want to be and what I really want to do” question.

Maybe you want to be an author, or design golf courses, or help kids in Africa stricken with HIV-AIDS. Or perhaps your other calling is to be a minister, to own your own coffee shop, or to become a famous chef.

Here’s a second question: What’s the essence of your first answer? What’s behind it? What would that mean to you?

For example, if your goal is to move to Africa and provide help to children suffering from AIDS, what’s behind that? Perhaps that would mean educating parents, to relieve suffering and reduce the number of HIV cases each year. In other words, you want to make a small difference in the lives of people who are largely forgotten in the mainstream.

Or, if you want to write a book, what would it be about? How would that make a difference to others? Why is that important?

Now, for most of us, pulling up our job-stakes and embracing a life changing transformation is not practical or doable. Lots of things stand in the way. But if your dream is big and would really energize you, is there a way to give yourself—and the world—its gift?

One last question: What can you do today to bring even a small part of your ultimate dream into your life? Not the whole thing, but a part.

If becoming a chef is your big dream, what about taking a cooking class? Or preparing a special meal for your family? Or volunteering at a local food kitchen?

If you want to help with AIDS in Africa, is there a way to contribute money to those who are doing such work today?

Or, if you really want to write a book, is there a way you can share your writing skills in a slightly different way? For example, there are literally hundreds of online, part time writing jobs on the internet. Many of them pay quite well.

The case can be made that we should always pursue our dreams and maximize the way we use our talents. No question about that. But a single step toward that dream is better than no step at all.

One last thought…it’s amazing that when we share our talents with others, everyone benefits.

Tell us how you are pursuing your dreams in the comments section.

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3 responses

  1. What a wonderful question! I have often played the game of dreaming what I would do if I had no limitations or if I won the lottery. My answer is help animals. I would build a shelter, much like Best Friends in Kanab, Utah. I would take in orphaned or injured animals of all kinds, rehabilitate them, adopt out if possible or keep them forever if needed. Unfortunately, that costs a great deal of money. In order to indulge a small part of my passion, I have volunteered with the local shelter. I also seem to be the company animal rescue person. In the past several years I have rescued about 8 animals, got them the necessary shots & medicines, had them spayed or neutered and gotten them adopted by some of the wonderful people I work with. I know they are in good homes and I get updates on them too!

  2. Pingback: A subplot that plays itself out all too often « Jake’s World

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