For many, the barrier to big dreams (and small ones) is money -- the lack of it, the complications around it, the uncertainty of future supplies of it. Waking up with no debt; retiring at age 48; having the kids' -- and grandkids' -- college savings in the bag seems so unimaginable that the dream is summarily dismissed as untenable.

Instead of focusing on the small stumbling blocks, think big. Act like your dream is within reach. In fact, imagine the very day you achieve that seemingly insurmountable financial peak.

Thinking big somehow gets stunted in adulthood. It's as if our minds become too bogged down with the minutiae of reality to make room for flights of fancy. Even workaday goals are scaled back for our rigid mindsets.

Diet gurus have long preached the merit of setting small, easily achievable goals and taking baby steps to reach them. But the failure of so many dieters over the long term tells me that there's something missing from this short-sighted strategy.

It is true that the path to almost any dream is paved with small stepping stones. Not spending $8 a day on lunch is the best way to apply more money towards your bills. Staying in your small home for another five years so you can apply your raise to your retirement savings instead of a larger mortgage makes early retirement more achievable.

But it's also the everyday struggles that trip us up. We run to the corner deli for lunch -- just this once this week. We peruse the real estate listings for more comfortable digs for our growing families. Just because we forget to brown bag it a few times or decide to move our family out of the cramped Cape Cod doesn't mean that we've abandoned our bigger dreams. But when we cheat on the small stuff it snowballs, pushing the long-term goal farther from reach.

Mind over mind
In moments of money weakness, imagine your goals as if you had already achieved them. Imagine the day you became debt-free. Let your mind wander ... remember that day. The day you became debt-free, you sat down with your sweetheart and talked about what to do with the $850 a month that was now yours -- not your lender's -- to keep. That's the day you sat at your desk and calculated how long it would take to save for a down payment on a house.

"The day I knew that my retirement was secure ..." What would you do on that day? Would you look into quitting your desk job to start the organic farm you've always dreamed of running? Would you take a month of unpaid leave and plan a family getaway in a far-off land or a trip to Disney (NYSE:DIS)? Maybe that's the day that you started truly enjoying life's free joys because the money thing became a non-issue.

What was that day like?

I say dream bigger. Start by imagining the day that your credit cards are paid off; the day you realize you can retire next year -- 17 years early. In moments of weakness, think the unthinkable.

Keep daydreaming:

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Dayana Yochim owns no shares of companies mentioned in this article and always plays by the Fool's disclosure policy rules.