William Arthur Ward argued that “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.”

This isn’t altogether true but is definitely a popular, self-affirming message for most people, most of the time. One can easily imagine being faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and perhaps even leaping one of those tall buildings in a single bound; but no matter how much you dream, you still aren’t turning into Superman. It’s also true that you may find that you have achieved things you never imagined and have become someone you didn’t think it was possible for you to become, in your wildest dreams. Unfortunately, that can work in both positive and negative directions. The reality is that imagining and dreaming can lead to achievement and becoming, but only within limits. Exploring those limits is instructive.

Imagination and dreaming can assist in avoiding bad outcomes and finding oneself in undesirable circumstances. Think about what you don’t want to happen, where you don’t want to end up. Once you have a clear picture, figure out what you need to do to get that outcome or to end up in those circumstances. Now, make sure you don’t do whatever your imagination and dreaming tell you would be required. Just don’t do it; don’t knowingly screw up. It’s surprising how often people know they shouldn’t do something but do it anyway.

Are you committed to avoiding screwing up, to the extent you can, whenever possible? If so, the next step is to avoid Superman thinking. Is what you want to achieve or who you want to become possible, given your skills, talents, and circumstances? You can improve your skills; but if you frequently miss the ball when you swing, you likely aren’t going to make it as a professional golfer. If you can’t carry a tune, you probably won’t ever be asked to sing a solo at the opera. If you spent a few years in the big house for robbing a bank, a seat on the Supreme Court isn’t in your future. When you do your imagining and dreaming thing, be sure your actually being in the picture one day is at least possible, no matter how unlikely.

You have now pretty well defined the limits of imagination and dreaming. Achieving and becoming are in your sites, although they may yet be hard to see. What to do? Well, you’re in luck. JP Morgan’s strategy is here for you. “Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you’ll be able to see farther.”

Now you know so there you go.