virgin islands scene

It is not love of self but hatred of self which is at the root of the troubles that afflict our world.
-- Eric Hoffer


The MONTHLY Motivator - December 2002

Dreams and reality

Every person has a dream of some kind, a vision of some way in which life could be better, richer, more fulfilling. While we often treasure our dreams, we also tend to regularly discount them and push them aside. Too often we see them as impractical, unrealistic, selfish, and not in touch with reality. And in so doing, we overlook the realistic, practical value that dreams can bring, not only to ourselves but also to others.

The word “dream” itself conjures up an image of something that is not real, something out of a fantasy. Of course the word has multiple meanings, and that is part of the reason why we so often discount our dreams. One meaning of the word “dream” is something you experience when you sleep, something that seems real while you are asleep and involved in it, but which loses its sense of reality as soon as you awaken. The meaning of “dream” that we’ll be examining here is somewhat different, but related. It refers to something that is a lifetime goal, vision or purpose, something that is dearly treasured but which has not yet been fulfilled.

But let’s go back for a moment to the sleeping kind of dream. For most of those dreams, while they are not literally true in terms of your waking experience of reality, still do often contain valuable truth. For example, a very common sleeping dream is one in which you arrive at high school one day completely unprepared for a major test. Though you may have graduated from high school years and years ago, this dream may very well serve to make you aware of an important truth in your current-day life -- most likely that there’s something on the horizon for which you need to be better prepared. So this particular sleeping type of dream, while it is not real, is nonetheless true in some ways.

The sleeping kind of dream and the life goal kind of dream are different in many ways, yet in a couple of important ways they are very much alike. Both of them are inconsistent with waking reality at the current time, yet both of them nevertheless contain valuable truths. A nighttime dream seems very real while you are experiencing it, as does a lifetime goal while your mind is immersed in it. Yet both kinds of dreams can seem to fade away whenever cold, hard reality kicks in. A sleeping dream can make you consciously aware of what’s going on in your subconscious, while a life goal dream can be an expression of purposes which may remain hidden most of the time from conscious perception.

So, what is the relationship between the deeply held dreams that you have for your life and the reality of your life? Are your dreams simply fantasies that feel good to think about, or do they have some value beyond their existence in your imagination? Are your dreams realistic, and if not, what good are they? Are they practical, and if not, of what use are they?

The dreams that you have for your life, the things your heart desires, are not entirely realistic. For if they were, they would not be dreams -- they would already be achieved. The unrealistic nature of dreams is what gives them much of their value. For dreams have the power to change reality, to create a new and better reality, to make things different than they are now. Think of all the things we take for granted today that would have seemed completely unrealistic one hundred years ago, or even ten years ago. Progress comes about because people have dreams, because they can imagine things that are not yet real, and because they follow those dreams.

Dreams have value precisely because they are not realistic, precisely because they are not practical. Dreams are goals and ideas and visions which must be brought into practical reality through effort and commitment. Not all dreams make it that far. Some of them never even get started, and they languish forever as empty wishes.

But how can you follow your dreams when the bills need to be paid every month? How can you pay attention to anything as self-serving as your heart’s desire when there are other people who depend on you to be practical, reliable and realistic? How can you follow your dreams when life has already beaten you down and you feel forever stuck where you are?

To continue reading this member-only content, please log in if you are a current subscriber/member, or if you’re not already a member, you can join today for an annual price of just $15 and get immediate access to the full text of this article and many others, plus additional member-only content such as downloadable audio programs and e-books. If you’re not ready to join right now, we invite you to look through our extensive archive of more than 6,000 shorter daily messages, which are fully available for everyone to read.

--Ralph Marston

More Monthly Motivators...