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Dreams Provide Courage

We all need dreams. Some people don't know this. Some people have no dreams. But we all need dreams.

Think about it. What do you hope to accomplish in the next year? What would you like to do with the rest of your life? If you could change one thing about this world of ours, what would it be? And (if you're not), why aren't you trying to improve it?

When one begins talking about dreams, it’s tempting to start pontificating. It's a message that fits well into the fire and brimstone (even “holier than thou”) presentations. Let's take a walk into the world of dreams and visions and see what we can see.

Something Special

We hold on to our “something Special” by allowing it to emerge and then keeping it alive. We allow it to appear by accepting the simple notion that each of us can be more than we are today. This is not to say that what we are today is inadequate. Rather, we can be more than we are today. Confusing? Well, let's stay with it.

Once that “something Special” presents itself we keep it alive by keeping it in sight. Perhaps the most confusing thing about being human is that we can turn away from what we really are. Our real self never goes away, but we can distract ourselves and then call these distractions reality. We need to focus our attention on matters that move us.

Dreamers have two special qualities. First, they welcome inspiration. Second, they stay in touch with their sources of inspiration, rarely turning away to search for safer yet less fulfilling alternatives. With every act of courage you tell the world, “This is me!” With every dream you recognize you tell yourself, “This is me!”

It takes courage to dream. To fulfill a vision can mean a lot of work; it can also mean risking quite a bit. A prominent middle-aged attorney may be frightened by a recurring desire to leave his practice to become a farmer. A college senior, facing strong family pressure to enter medical school, may recognize a growing urge to enter the field of social work. Both of these cases point to the fact that living a dream may involve moving away from security and support.

Our dreams also include so much more than careers. Ask yourself these questions. What kind of person do I want to be? Do I want to be honest, assertive, generous, curious, kind, compassionate? What qualities do I need to be true to who I really am? And if I decide to try to develop one personal quality in the next year, what will it be?

A friend of mine has an interesting approach to help students find their dreams. He has the participants write their own eulogies as a way of giving them the opportunity to describe how they would like to be remembered after their lives end. In spite of the initial anxiety, this exercise comes to teach several powerful lessons. Perhaps most important of all is the discovery that they want to be remembered as having contributed something. As they write through their fears, they come to understand what they need to contribute. In so doing they find dreams. Then they face the question of what they will do with what they have learned,

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Our present challenge is to dare to dream - big dreams and little dreams. Listen for them, fight for them, nurture and protect them. We all deserve time to dream.

Hope and energy from dreams

The dreams we must hold on to are those we cannot let go of. They make themselves known in many ways. Like light houses, once lit, they beckon us to move in a special direction.

For a time, dreams may remain below the surface, waiting for the right conditions before making their presence known. They do not stay forever hidden. The unrealized self demands visibility. It cannot be ignored for long…. We are aware that there is something missing and we have a desperate need to discover what it is.

Sometimes we may have difficulty finding a single vision to call our own. This state is called “waiting to see the next step.” On other occasions we seem to be flooded by images of what our lives could or should be. In these cases we have to make some hard decisions. We have to invest ourselves in the visions that seem vital. Certain dreams have more power than others. They give us the feeling that somehow they pertain specifically to us. For example, we would all like to win the lottery, even people who never play the lottery. There is nothing about this fantasy that points to anyone in particular and, other than luring one to buy a ticket, it does not provide much direction.

On the other hand, there are people like David, a bright, energetic, thirty-three-year-old pathologist. Already quite successful in his career, he could not escape the feeling that his talent and education needed to be applied elsewhere. After some consideration, he cut back his practice to three days a week and began writing short stories. He admits he does not need to be a best-selling author or a Pulitzer Prize winner. He does, however, find fulfillment in his writing. He had the chutzpa to reach for something out of the ordinary, tremendously important to him. His fiction would lead him to his next step, that it wasn't so much a destination as a path.

Dreams loom larger than life but they should not be confused with fantasy. We sit back and watch fantasy. Dreams, however, take us out of the role of spectator and move us to the brink of action. Visions do not owe their existences to fantasy; rather, they are sustained by hope.

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In the midst of our darkest hours we carry with us the potential for hope. The idea that one can be “hopeless” is as erroneous as the notion that one can be “thoughtless.” Humans are never without thought just as we are never without hope. But sometimes we lose sight of the hope that always lives within. Hope is as natural as laughter; we never lose the ability to hope or to laugh, even when we have not hoped or laughed for a long time.

Certain visions belong to today, others to tomorrow. We build big dreams with smaller ones. The dreams we must hold on to are the ones we just cannot let go of. Fortunately these relentless dreams - if we pay attention to them - carry with them hope and the energy needed to get us started.

Accept the call of our visions

A dream can be difficult to maintain. A mirage calls us onward even when we feel frustrated and exhausted. It's often easier and safer to stay put and escape the risks necessary to realize a vision. And once we admit a dream, either to ourselves or to others, we feel a push to reach for that goal, a push that may require us to make changes and become more visible in our striving. By acknowledging a goal, we set up the possibility of falling short of that objective, a possibility that can stir much anxiety.

You won’t meet a person who couldn't improve the world. There are people who – in spite of this potential - were afraid to make their contributions to the planet. Maybe the biggest difference between those who do and those who don't is that those who do are the ones who believe they can.

Gandhi was right. Those who try never really fail. If we accept the call of our visions, we will never be defeated.

Satan's favorite and most frequently utilized tool

An old Mexican tale tells of the day the devil decided to go out of business. He sent word throughout the land that he would be auctioning off all the devices he used to tempt people and lead them astray. And, as he expected, people came from near and far prepared to pay great sums of money for the devil's instruments.

Politicians, businessmen, salesmen, and many others who believed they could benefit from owning the devil's tools all came to the auction. Lonely people, frightened people, as well as all those other souls looking for short-cuts to strength and happiness; flocked to the event.

When the moment arrived for the sale to begin, the room buzzed with excitement. Participants fidgeted with delight waiting for the opportunity to purchase the power of Satan. Then the auction began.

One by one the items were placed on the block. To everyone's surprise, however, all the objects looked shiny and new as if they had never been used. As a result, the bidding moved along slowly as buyers waited for an implement that had already proven its effectiveness.

Finally, that moment came. One of the devil's helpers brought to the stage an old worn device. Immediately everyone took notice of the unusual article. Although no one recognized it, they all felt certain that this must be something quite powerful.

While the crowd buzzed, a potential buyer asked one of Satan's aides what this strange object was.

“Oh, that,” replied the devil’s assistant, “is Satan's favorite and most frequently utilized tool. It's what you humans call despair. You see, Satan has found that once he can get someone to give up hope, he can do with them pretty much what he pleases.”

Keep hope alive

At times it's best to deal with the cold hard facts. At other times, it's not. The facts loom before the naked eye, but our sight is imperfect. Life contains more than we can see, touch, taste, smell, and hear. If we accept this, we may become sensitive to new and vitalizing qualities of life. The dreams we build our futures on may only loosely reflect reality. Yet these imaginative expectations have their place. Like the exhausted traveler who delays his collapse in order to reach the mirage, we sense things in the distance that seem to pull us further along our journey in life. Sometimes these mirages disappear as we reach them, but by then we are often in sight of genuine shelter. Illusions motivate.

Depressed people are often more realistic in their self-perceptions than are non-depressed people. While depressed people saw their abilities more accurately, the others saw their own abilities as more positive than they really were. The “illusory glow” of competence might be good for mental health. This indicates that healthy people have a certain healthy insanity. They see more than what is. They also see what could be.

What one person calls denial, another might call hope. A “never say die” attitude in the face of adversity does not necessarily suggest that one misunderstands the facts. Rather, people who keep hope alive seem to comprehend more than the facts; they allow for the possibility that the future cannot be foretold by the immediate present.

It gets better

Hope can heal. Indeed there are times when only hope can clear the road to recovery. Recovering alcoholics, for instance, encourage those new to sobriety by simply saying, “It gets better.” To someone struggling through the withdrawal, confusion and a multitude of mixed-up feelings, this reminder puts a light at the end of the tunnel. Coming from someone who really knows, it can be a powerful directive. It provides hope.

The same lesson applies to those facing grief. Grieving people benefit significantly by hearing from others who have survived similar losses. Hearing that even though things may never be the same, they will get better, helps supply hope to what can feel like a hopeless situation.

Anyone can tell a suffering soul, “It gets better.” But there are those who - because they have traveled a like passageway - possess a special ability to bestow hope. This gift that rises from tragedy can be seen in support groups. In these organizations, more healed survivors help less healed survivors largely through the transmission of hope. These groups help people through divorce, the aftermath of child abuse, cancer, mental illness and many other kinds of misfortune.

Like courage itself, we each strengthen our hope in special ways. A certain person, place, or passage can ignite faith, inspire optimism, and make the future a friend again. And hope can build when we are reminded of things we have known all along.

We all have dreams

We can't put everything into words. Certain qualities and experiences produce more power than can be contained in mere terms. At times we can only approximate through words the immensity of a particular trait.

We can identify many others including the likes of Joan of Arc Dorothea Dix, Helen Keller and Mother Teresa who have also touched “that something” in their souls. Moreover, we could all compose a list of folks who have never caught history's spotlight but who have taken “that something” and used it to make lasting improvements in their causes and communities.

Unfortunately, in some people “that something” sleeps until their deaths. But we must bear in mind that this force exists always and in everyone. We can try to ignore it but we cannot destroy it. If we have chloroformed “that something” within us it may be difficult to revitalize. More often though, when we come to give it our consideration we realize that it has been screaming for attention all along … screams that may have produced restlessness and boredom. It takes a certain chutzpa to greet the unknown. Even the unknown within us.

We all have dreams. Sadly, some folks never find them.

Nurturing a dream

Again, it's time to move on … time to consider how visions turn into action. A most important step this; we should tread carefully. Someone once remarked that in life you have to compromise ninety-eight percent of the time but don't you dare compromise on that last two percent! This two percent represents our convictions, our most fundamental and sacred hopes and beliefs. There was this Japanese martial arts instructor in an American college who would scream, “You must be prepared to die!” He tried to teach “bushido” - the way of the warrior. It seemed so ridiculous to think of college karate as worth dying for. But absurdity, of course, has its lessons. Perhaps the students were too young to understand, or maybe Americans have difficulty comprehending that we can prepare for those times when we have to put it all on the line to live out our convictions.

Fulfilling a dream often requires a struggle of some kind. Yet if It is one of those visions you cannot let go of, the struggle must occur. To do otherwise would mean abandoning that special calling meant specifically for you. During the course of a lifetime, you may have hundreds of visions that come and go. A select few call to be acted upon.

We have considered the dream before beginning the act because the dream deserves time to itself. Once a vision starts to emerge it must be nurtured and protected. We can play with it and think it through for a while. If we care for it properly and it strengthens and withstands the test of time, then we are called to act.

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Some dreams, in their early stages of development, are too weak to encourage our efforts to achieve them. The child who dreams of being a physician is not ready for medical school. But if the vision continues to grow, it may sustain her through all the obstacles she will face on the way to her goal. In other words, give a dream time to be a dream. Attend to it. See what it does. Only then will you be able to distinguish a calling from a passing fancy.

If you pay attention to your visions, you will know when it is time to act on them. Once a dream becomes strong, It produces courage. Like the athlete who uses mental imagery to see himself successfully complete his purpose even before he begins, in our minds we see ourselves fulfilling missions that seem right to us. We then feel pulled toward these visions. A dream that has been nurtured and protected provides us with the courage needed to begin reaching for its fulfillment.

Society | Self-Help | Lifestyle


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