What happens to our dreams when we become adults?
As children, our dreams are the gateway to possibility. Ask a preschooler to make a wish and it won’t take them long to provide an awe-inspiring list of mystical adventures, superheroes, ponies, and castles complete with the very best toys and treats for themselves and all their friends. Children are natural dreamers whose creativity is limited only by their imagination.
Dreams (day or night), don’t just help us pass the time as children, they allow our brains to toy with different scenarios and models of our world free from the restrictions of ego, disappointment, social constructs, and a crippling fear of failure. Without the weight of these predominantly adult afflictions to derail us, we are free to see the world’s problems (as well as our own) in new ways, generating endless new possibilities and – more importantly – Hope.
Hope is like good nutrition for our mental well-being; a rich source of psychological fuel. Hope helps us move through the world with purpose in spite of our fears and hesitations. You cannot fake hope and when it runs out, you are in trouble. As hope declines, our chances of anxiety, depression, self harm and even suicide skyrocket with only timely and effective intervention able to reverse this devastating trajectory.
How hopeful were you?
What wishes do you remember making when you were young? What dreams did you have? Did you dream about your future home or career? Did you dream about the person you would marry or the places you would go? Do you remember feeling hopeful?
Now look around… are you surrounded by your dreams? Do you have any of the dreams or relationships, or material things you dreamed of? If not, what is missing and why? How hopeful do you feel about your life and future? If you lost hope, what happened and what took its place?
Hope lives in our ability to dream of infinite possibilities. Our dreams are limited only by our imagination, but what happens when our imagination is limited?
The death of dreams
“Get your head out of the clouds.” “Money doesn’t grow on trees!” “Be realistic!”
This is the sound of hope dying as its rich soil of imagination is poisoned with fear. This is how it happens to children all over the world. These phrases are often offered as guidance by well-meaning adults to keep children from the future pain of disappointment and unmet expectations. Having developed no other response to the sting of their own “failure” than to avoid hope altogether, these well-intentioned souls cut down a young, untethered spirit with a single message, “Hope leads to hurt”. After hearing this message consistently in different ways, children start limiting themselves, rejecting the natural creativity and genius of their own minds to embrace the faulty, fear bound beliefs of the adult.
How much do we limit the world by destroying imagination at its source? What would be different in your life if you were given the courage and confidence to see every desire as possible and every dream as do-able? Who would you be now?
The power of hope.
I was fortunate to grow up with a father who insisted I find a way for any dream I could dream. As a child living in a paycheck-to-paycheck household, my dreams were always about seeing the world, building a great career helping others, and helping my family experience the things that were outside of our financial means. Many times after leaving my small-town home in Nova Scotia, I felt the world tugging at my dreams trying to convince me to make them smaller and, to be honest, there were many times when I almost did. I would question myself and wonder, “How far could this free-thinking, non-linear daydreamer actually get anyways? What could I ever offer to others?”. At times, I wanted to just settle and take the safe route. Through these tough times, however, I had my father’s voice in my ear saying, “If you want it then you will just have to find a way. If you haven’t found a way, then keep looking until you do”.
I have not reached every dream I have set out to reach. I have bills, and responsibilities, risks, stress, and fears just like anyone else. That said, those words have been the launchpad for some incredible adventures and accomplishments. I was fortunate to have had words of hope to guide me but I know this is not everyone’s truth. What if you have lost hope? Or had it overwritten by the “better be careful” virus of adulthood? No worries, there IS a fix!
If you have lost or are losing hope, you need to daydream!!!!
No really, I’m 100% serious. Consider imagination and creativity like muscles. If you want to build them, you need to work them. Let your mind wander and notice how many times you shut yourself down. Each time that ‘voice of reason’ gets between you and a goal or passion that could bring positive change, tell it to, “Get Lost!”, and go right back to daydreaming. If you ever feel you are out of new ideas, start exploring something completely outside of your comfort zone.
Once you start dreaming and feel hope building again, it is time to start asking the right questions! Replace common fear based thoughts with fresh and hopeful new ones. Here are a few examples:
|Old thought||New Thought|
|1. What could go wrong?
|What obstacles would I have to overcome to make this work?
|2. What if I don’t have enough (time/money/knowledge/help/etc.)?||How can I access more (insert resource)?
|3. I’ve never done anything like this before. I don’t know what I am doing?||Who has already achieved this goal or something similar? How can I get information or learn from this person?
|4. What if I fail?||What if I don’t? How great would that be?
What could I learn if I do not achieve this goal right away?
This is not a comprehensive guide to rebuilding hope but it is the quickest and easiest way to get started!
Now is the time.
Les Brown, one of my favourite motivational speakers, says, “The richest place in the world is the cemetery because so many went to their grave with their dreams still inside them”. Imagine how the world could have benefitted from all they had to offer, had they not lost hope and hidden their dreams.
Your time is now. Your dreams might be big. Your dreams might be small. You may want material things. You may just want more boundaries in your relationships. Whatever your dreams are, they matter, and they ARE POSSIBLE. You just have to pay attention to them.
From one non-linear dreamer to another, I’ll leave you with this:
You can never know where your dreams will take you and who they will help. Your dreams might hold an idea that changes our world or the world of someone you love. I had no idea that my dreams to help others would one day lead me to becoming a therapist, speaker, and coach for clients all over the world. If I have learned anything in my adult hood, it is that every positive change first starts with a dream.
So, light your imagination, fuel your dreams, and let hope guide you forward!
Bonnie J. Skinner, MEd, CCC, RP
B. Skinner Coaching & Psychotherapy