Dreams – not the kind you have while you sleep, but those that are manifestations of the longings of our hearts and souls – are both blessing and curse rolled into one.
On the blessing side, they serve as great motivators, a vision of what might be and of what in our deepest selves we long to become. As such they reflect our values, our desires, and more often than not our pathologies. I love to ask people a couple of questions that provide some insight into their dreams. The first one is, what makes you happy? The second follows from the first, what makes you sad? The third is what makes you angry? The fourth, and potentially most revealing, is if you could have anything you wanted, what would it be? If they answer the fourth question, “world peace” I put a tiara on their head and send them packing. I want to know the real, honest answers to these questions because within them lies a clue to a person’s dreams.
On the curse side, our dreams can easily be the source of our greatest disappointments and miseries. It’s easy to see that unrealistic dreams would lead to disappointment, but it’s much harder to see why something that seems so realistic and achievable – for example, “wanting to love and be loved for who I am” – seems so difficult for many people to achieve that they come to believe it is as unrealistic as dreaming of leaping a tall building in a single bound.
I believe that the reason we struggle with our dreams is that we aren’t willing to invest in them fully. Sally wants to be loved for who she is, but she will settle for less out of fear that true love will never come. Isn’t that a lot like going to your favorite steakhouse and settling for a peanut better and jelly sandwich because the steak takes longer to make? Maybe Bob is looking for his dream career (which is a multi-step dream) but allows himself to become complacent and comfortable in his current position and stops searching for more. I guarantee one day Bob will look back on his life during the “mid-life reassessment” (see an earlier blog on this topic) and be perplexed about “how all this happened” to him.
When I was younger I played a fair amount of softball. I’ve never been an outstanding athlete, but I never embarrassed myself either. I learned early on that when athletes hold back, when they don’t give their all, when they play it safe to avoid injury, they get hurt. It seems counter intuitive, but it’s true. When you play all out, throw yourself into the game with all you are and all you have, it’s much less likely that you will be injured. I think our dreams are a lot like that. I also think they reflect where we are meant to be, where we are called to be.
If you go after something half way, you will never get it. If you take the safe way out, you create your own disappointment. If you settle for less, you will never be happy. If security is more important to you than your dreams, please remember that most often security is only an illusion because everything changes – everything.
The good news is that it’s never too late to go for it. Of course, people will try to stop you because when you go for it they are reminded that they don’t have the courage to do the same. Don’t take the new job, they will say, because you might lose it and have to sell your house. Don’t leave your neglectful and abusive spouse, because in the divorce your credit rating might be damaged. Don’t move to a new town, because you don’t know anyone there. Don’t change your religion, because you might go to hell. What these people are really saying to you is, “don’t change anything in your life because it points out to me that I am afraid of my own dreams.” That isn’t the kind of advice a friend gives, that’s the kind of advice someone who is using you gives.
Don’t sell out. Don’t run away. Don’t exchange one prison for another. Dream your dream, and trust that the universe will not disappoint you. Surround yourself with people who will support your dream and remove yourself from those who would imprison you or use you as a anesthetic for their pain.
Your time is now!