This time of year always has me thinking about dreams and goal-setting for the New Year. But what people don’t talk about so much is the importance of picking yourself up after a dream has shattered, and, when that happens, having the courage to dream again. If the loss of a dream has crushed you in the past, this is my pep talk for you…
Now I’m no stranger to dreams crashing and burning before my very eyes. When this happens I have this intimate grieving process which usually includes a melancholy musical theatre style sing-song in my bedroom to the Spring Awakening soundtrack. Mama who bore meeeeee! I like to work with my grief in creative performative ways in the hope one day I can use this emotional memory to win an Oscar or an Olivier Award. I’m not fussy.
It turns out I’m pretty successful at failure. You might say it’s one of my core skills. One of the reasons why I am able to pick myself up is my ability to keep dreaming after I’ve fallen on my ass.
As soon as I stop dreaming I’ll probably start melting – like the aliens in that movie Signs. Why? Because I believe the ability to keep dreaming is important. Think about it, pretty much everything that you see had to be conceived in someone’s mind before it existed. That’s right. Dreamers dream up cool stuff. Dreamers rule! But if you are dreamer (and when I talk about dreamer in this context I also mean a person who actively pursues their dreams) failure is is just an inevitability.
‘The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.’
You see, dreams are connected with purpose. Purpose drives action. If you’re not ‘doing’ anything, what the hell are you living for? Dreaming is life – the conception of ideas in the swirling vortex of your mind. To deny the act of dreaming is to kill the essence of what it means to be human.
‘Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live’.
Listen to Norman. Don’t let the death of one dream kill your ability to dream again.
The process of dreaming belongs to you. It’s your intellectual property. It’s creative – birthed out of supernatural possibility, natural inclination and, for the rhythm conscious of us, 90’s Ricky Martin videos.
If you are a person who has experienced the death of a dream, if you have ever felt the pang of bitter cold rejection or the pain of a door slamming in your face, I suggest you give your dead dream the momentous future academy award-winning cry it deserves. The kind of crying where you don’t even mop up the tears – you let them just stream down your face. Ooo dramatic! Then, I suggest you drink some strong coffee (or whisky), crawl out of bed and put some knickers on. You really aren’t capable of making decisions without knickers on. You are brave.
Unspeakable Misery or Bitter Humiliation?
I know the fear. The fear of ridicule. Of judgy comments. Of comparison. Of pity. Of sitting at the dinner table with your extended family on Christmas day explaining your failures to partially deaf relatives, who make you repeat yourself, so you’re forced to reconcile with cruel reality again and again.
The problem is, there is no other way. If you stop dreaming – you are surrendering to a life of unspeakable misery. If you keep dreaming you risk bitter humiliation. Unspeakable misery or bitter humiliation? Hmm tough choice!
Why is it important to keep dreaming? Dreams feed you, fuel you and focus you, that’s why. But successful dreamers also understand the nature of dreaming-good.
Dreamer’s Advice 101
1. Dreams should not be held stagnant.
If they do they begin to get polluted like a bucket of water left outside for a really long time. It’s an evolving activity. You must both grow into your dreams and not be afraid to birth new ones simultaneously, or at least birth new ways of achieving your dreams.
Did you know that the first time Sesame Street was tested on an audience it crashed and burned? It was small tweaks and subtle re-writes that channeled what Malcolm Gladwell calls the ‘tipping point’ that flipped the outcome of just another failed pilot into the global phenomenon we still celebrate today. Someone on that show believed in the dream that children’s television could appeal to adults – good job they didn’t give up. But they were willing to adapt. My point is, let your dreams evolve and shape-shift as they materialise and do not be fixated on one blueprint.
2. Don’t do yourself the injustice of attaching your dreams to someone else’s calling.
You’re not going to wake up as Beyonce. It’s something we all just have to deal with.
3. When you fail, which all dreamers will do, remember: it doesn’t necessarily mean a dream is dead.
Failure might just be like God’s way of saying – Hey girl, try another door. I don’t know why God is talking like Feminist Ryan Gosling – but in my mind that’s just how he speaks.
4. It’s okay to abandon some of your dreams.
Even if it hurts like crazy. Even if you wrote them in your school leavers book. Like experimental haircuts – some things should be left in the past.
5. If you must let go of a dream – don’t you DARE, in the process, convince yourself you’re a failure because of it.
It takes courage to abandon something you loved. If it all goes horribly, horribly tits up, at least you were brave enough to try in a world where most people settle for unspeakable misery. You’ve only failed if you do not recognize the lessons your past experience taught you.
6. When it comes to dreaming bold, vivacious, outrageous dreams, I have a proposition – instead of asking ‘How could it be me?’ why not ask ‘Why not me?’
Switch your mind set. If it’s not you, it will be someone else. And that is reality. But why couldn’t it be you?
‘Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up’.
What if Howard Schultz had quit dreaming after he had been rejected by 242 banks? Unfortunately for the world’s declining Orang-utan population and the depleting Indonesian forest, he didn’t, so we have Starbucks.
What if Jon Hamm had abandoned acting before the age of 36 – he would have missed out on becoming Don Draper, and how many Emmy nominations?
What if Susan Boyle had decided against auditioning for Britain’s Got Talent? Do you think Les Mis would have had the same revival? No, seriously, I’ve always wondered.
Moral of story: dreamers don’t quit. So keep your head in the clouds and feet on the ground. (I stole that from someone.)
It’s not over unless you’re dead. I mean, like, literally dead. The single most dangerous thing you can tell yourself is that it’s too late. Too late for what? For who? Don’t buy that lie. I don’t care if you’re 9 or 90, if your heart’s still beating and you’re still breathing dammit, you’re young enough to dream again.
Have a great week peeps!
If you enjoyed this post, why not check out ‘4 Reasons, whatever you are going through you are STILL the hero of your life’?