Q: I’m 22, and have always had dreams for my future. But when I look around at some of the older people, it seems like they’ve given up their dreams. Why do people give up on their dreams, as far-fetched as they may be? At what point do people lose determination?
A: Do you remember what you wanted to do when you were nine? I’ve heard it said that what people wanted to do at that age was what their soul wanted, and if they could tap into those things and do them, in whatever form possible, they would be fulfilled in their lives. For instance, if you wanted to be a professional singer when you were younger, it may not be possible to do it professionally now that you’re an adult, but you could still sing in a community or church choir, or even at a karaoke bar! Hey, even singing in a shower counts. To anyone out there feeling like their dreams have been smashed, I urge you to do that simple exercise of remembering what it felt like to dream those 9-year-old dreams, then think about how you can bring those 9-year-old dreams into your adult life.
It reminds me of a Spongebob episode (hey, inspiration comes from many sources) – Spongebob is at a cemetery and runs into Squidward, who’s placing flowers on a grave that reads, “My hopes and dreams.” Funny stuff, but yet not so funny if that’s a stereotype people have about growing older. I think it’s crucial to have dreams your whole life, even if you know some of them will never come true. Especially if you know some of them will never come true.
My father always wanted a yacht. Not a little dinghy; a full-fledged yacht. He’d go to boat shows, look at them in magazines, peruse on-line, talk about them, think about them, dream about them. “Why didn’t you ever buy one?” I asked him several times over the years. “Because sometimes it’s just more fun to THINK about things than to actually buy them,” he wisely answered. What’s the fun if you can just GET everything you want? The longing is sweet sometimes.
But not always. If that’s all you do, long for something, then that can be really painful; that’s the giving up you’re referring to, I think. When someone is constantly coming up with new dreams, or actively living their dreams, they are energized, enthusiastic, bright-eyed and passionate. When someone is just living their lives on a flat line, they are dull-eyed, tired all the time, lifeless. I think you need a blend of the ‘real’ AND the ‘what-ifs’ in order to really be whole. It’s like cooking without any spices. You can still stay alive (food as your life) but there won’t be any spiciness (your dreams). It’s not too late. Start right now – start your list.
We call it our “Bucket List” in our house, based on the Jack Nicholson/Morgan Freeman movie. I’ve already crossed off quite a few of my items lately, but it’s not even just the act of crossing the items off that’s important. It’s the energy of thinking of the items in the first place. It’s honoring that place of creativity and possibility within you that needs nurturing and affirmation. Otherwise the land where your dreams dwell may grow fallow and your dreams atrophy.
Don’t censor your list or think that anything’s impossible – EVERYTHING is possible and nothing is off-limits in this land of dreaming. I don’t care if you think you’re too old, or too tall, or too smart or not smart enough. Just WRITE IT DOWN. And you can keep it secret. You wouldn’t want anyone making fun of your dreams. This is just for you.
While you’re doing this practice, you may notice an amazing thing start to happen. You may feel parts of yourself coming alive just by the act of paying attention to your dreams again. That may be the jump-start your life needs to get you going in a different direction; just the possibility of new, exciting things coming into your life. A counselor once told me that life is full of responsibilities, obligations and expectations so you just HAVE to write in the fun things or you’ll be in really tough shape. That made sense to me, so I personally make SURE to write in the fun things, then DO them.
I think people lose their determination when they’ve gone too long without nurturing and paying attention to their dreams. They become like sleepwalkers, automatons. They go through the motions of their days without really being present. And why should they be present to their lives if their lives are flat and boring? Dreams give our lives color, depth, dimension, movement. We should all put aside some time every day exclusively to think about our dreams. Dream Time. You may be seeing people that look like they’ve given up their dreams, but I believe the dreams are still there, even if they’re sleeping right now.
You can help others awaken their dreams by encouraging them to think about what they’d like to do, then challenging them to do just one thing. It doesn’t have to be big. In fact, our Bucket Lists include everything from huge dreams down to teensy ones. That way, we can be sure we’re always having fun, in some way. Big dreams may take some working toward, some planning, but our sweet little dreams can be achieved in the blink of an eye.
Be somebody’s Dream Buddy – exchange your dreams, then help each other achieve some of them. Be accountable to somebody else, follow up, phone them and ask how their dreams are progressing. Ask them what they’ve been doing to live their dreams. If everyone believes in the power of dreams, we can all help each other in some way, to resurrect our dreams and help our lives become Technicolor again.
There’s an amazing book by Patricia Polacco called “Appelemando’s Dreams” that speaks of this very thing. One little boy, Appelemando, can dream wonderful dreams. They come to life and splash everything with vibrant color. The village is really drab before, but now is colorful, thanks to one little boy and his creative imagination. But the adult villagers don’t like the color, so they tell Appelemando not to dream anymore. He becomes very sad.
One day he and his friends get lost in the forest, and the only way for the adults to find them is for Appelemando to dream a dream so that the adults can see it over his head and find them all. He does, and the adults then understand the importance of dreaming, and by the end of the book the whole village has come alive with the colors of Appelemando’s dreams.
Be like Appelemando, and dream your vibrant, real dreams, and watch them come alive and color your whole waking life. Help others remember that they can dream, too, and although Winston Churchill said, “Never give in. Never never never never,” I change that slightly to read, “Never give up dreaming. Never never never never.” And for sure, artist Paul Gauguin had it right: “I shut my eyes in order to see.” So first shut your eyes in order to see, then open them in order to bring your dreams to life.
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