If you were a healthy, fairly well-adjusted child, you probably had lots of dreams for the future. You might have dreamed of being a professional athlete, or an actress, or a movie producer. When I was a little girl, I dreamed of having a mansion, an indoor swimming pool and a crew of servants (scary, I know). As you got a little older, your dreams may have evolved, and you may have had callings or goals more sophisticated or specific; maybe you wanted to be an entrepreneur, or a photojournalist, or move to a foreign country. By the time I was 12 or 13, I dreamed of being a writer.
But somewhere along the way, for many of us, disappointment, discouragement and distraction happen (by the way,”dis-” means “reversing force”). We lose sight of our dreams, and maybe we even lose the ability to dream. By the time I was 18 or 19, I decided writing was unrealistic and impractical, and I had college, boys and a number of other things on my mind. I didn’t have time to dream.
I think many people go through life and don’t realize they’ve lost anything. Life happens (distraction), or reality hits (disappointment, discouragement). They become satisfied with less than they were meant for, and less than they really want.
So, how do we reverse the “reversing force”, the thing that robs us of that first, innocent ability to imagine something great and then believe we can achieve it? How do we learn to dream again?
1. Be creative.
A few weeks ago, I talked about finding your purpose. Maybe you need to take some time to sit down and think about what it is you really want. By the way, it’s okay to want things (seems obvious, but it’s a lesson I’m learning). It’s okay to desire things that we’ve dismissed in the past as unnecessary or selfish. Be creative in your dreaming, and think outside of the box. What did you dream of as a child, and why? Is there anyone you aspire to be like, or look up to as a role model? Is there a place you’ve never been but have always longed to go? Is there something you secretly feel you may be gifted at, but have never tried? Asking yourself these questions is key to identifying what it is you dream of, whether it be a career change, epic adventure, business start-up or creative endeavor.
2. Be inspired by others.
Be inspired by those who haven’t lost the ability to dream: those who innovate, take risks and change culture. I think of Steve Jobs, who famously recruited the CEO of Pepsi by asking, “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?” There might have been billions of dollars in Pepsi, but Jobs saw past that, because he had a dream. And we all know where that ended. Apple is the largest technology company on the planet, and has in fact, changed the world. I think it’s good to expose ourselves to the stories of those who have dreamed big dreams and accomplished what they envisioned. 99% of the time, they’ve overcome adverse circumstances to succeed. If you need a little inspiration right this second, here’s an Apple commercial from the 90’s that might move you to tears.
3. Be faith-filled.
When we dream of something, we imagine something beyond ourselves. That something probably takes at least a grain of faith for the impossible. I believe the ability to dream comes from God, who has planted eternity in the human heart.* When you have a dream for the future, even if it seems totally non-spiritual (i.e. planting a vineyard in Napa Valley, opening a cupcake bakery, backpacking through Asia), you’re engaging in the faith and in the hope (both very spiritual attributes) that your circumstances will change, you’re going to accomplish something new and that you’re going to experience goodness. Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.**
I think we were all created to long for a reality that we don’t yet know. It’s what keeps us going, moves us forward and empowers us to fulfill our purpose. Even if it’s unrealistic, crazy and too-good-to-be-true. Take some time to dream again, and then remind yourself of those dreams, even when life gets in the way. It’s what we’re made for.
** Hebrews 11:1