Many people are afraid to dream, either they simply don’t know how to, or more often because they are mired in only knowing how to color within their comfortable world-view box. So many of us are afraid to color outside our limited lines. Sometimes the fear of failure and imagined pain keeps an individual from reaching higher. So, many people don’t dare to dream!
Many walking wounded have walked through my psychotherapy doors in pain, hopeless, and hurt. Often, life has dealt them a harsh blow and their ache from something they wanted that went awry has resulted in a sense of helpless defeat. Then there are others who have reached too high without laying the necessary groundwork and planning the requisite steps to get where they want to go. They come bringing shattered dreams with little sense that a better outcome is possible.
One dream may die, only to be replaced with different dreams holding deeper appreciation and greater joy. The journey, though, is not without times of despair, eventually to be replaced with hope.
Finding the right balance between too little, too much, and one that is just right is a process that entails the ability to be both focused and flexible. Focus keeps your eye on the goal. Flexibility allows you to let in new potentially useful information, to try new ways of being, and to let go of emotional and pragmatic tools that simply don’t work. It also allows that magical “aha” moment when an idea suddenly takes a new shape and answers seem to appear from out of the blue. This is rarely an easy balance, and few are prepared for it without flips, flops, and failures along the way.
Those in creative fields tend to be our most imaginative and frequently leading-edge dreamers. They do dare where others fear to tread. The most productive of these dreamers are often born with and/or given the opportunity to create without being stifled. Not only do they have talent, but also they usually score high on a measurable scale with a quality known as Emotional Intelligence, what we loosely term intuition or a sixth sense. More pragmatic types such as scientists can also dream big. However, they tend to follow their dreams in a more logical, systematic, and goal-oriented fashion.
Whatever type or combination you may be, it’s always a mix of luck, timing, ability, and the discipline to practice as a great athlete, dancer or musician must to achieve one’s dream.
Ah, but, as Shakespeare might say, “There’s the rub.” Life is not linear and neither is the achievement of dreams. Anyone who has tried to dream beyond their current status knows they risk physical and emotional injuries. Frequently one feels like a small sailboat tossed by turbulent waves. Yes, we often get “seasick” when we follow our dreams. Shattered dreams happen every day in everyone’s real world. At the end I will list some ways to go beyond enduring pain, growing, and, in fact, learning to thrive.
A few exceptional people are akin to Cervantes’ Don Quixote or Voltaire’s Candide who live for their dreams and, a sin the latter’s case, are carried by an eternal optimism that whatever happens “this is the best of all possible worlds.” We humans embrace this sense of a hopeful dream. That’s why the varied, eternal productions of Man of La Mancha are sure to be available in a play, ballet, opera, or some other creative art form in a theater near you at several points in your life.
What is a shattered dream? It isn’t always not flying to the moon or not winning a Nobel Prize. In the world of the mundane, most of us fall short of expectations daily. Our positive attitude, how we “roll with the punches,” makes all the difference.
1. Perhaps we didn’t get the “A” we anticipated.
2. Or, we didn’t get selected to be on the baseball team we always dreamed of playing for.
3. Or, the marriage we anticipated holding for “better or worse” forever didn’t last.
4. Possibly we became a caregiver and gave up our own desires for someone we loved, as illness took over our life.
5. Our child became a drug addict, not the star we raised her to be.
The list is endless. Yet, we can reframe our expectations and a cathartic change can occur. In that change we may find greater joy in small accomplishments or in a transformational love that we never dreamed possible.
Shattered dreams are never fun and always require time to heal and the ability to morph into what will be. In fact, many believe the very act of dreaming during sleep is one way we stay balanced and heal. Old dreams may die. New ones can always emerge. One only needs to believe they can succeed.