Where do dreams come from? What does dreaming do for a leader? How can I verify whether my dream is a worthwhile vision or a fictitious fantasy?
Let’s begin to investigate these questions by defining what we mean by a dream. A dream is an inspiring picture of the future that energizes your mind, will and emotions, empowering you to do everything necessary to achieve it. Dreams inspire us because they fill us with a sense of joyful possibility. They energize us when our hope that they can come true is rooted in reality. And they empower us by providing a clear picture of the future that we can work to realize.
1) Give your dream a beam of joy.
We discover dreams by following pathways of joy. What makes you sing? What activities make you come alive? What past accomplishments have brought you the greatest sense of satisfaction? The answers to these questions provide valuable clues to your dream.
It’s critically important to realize that authentic joy involves much more than the experience of personal pleasure. “True joy in life,” George Bernard Shaw wrote, is “being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” We encounter joy, then, only by examining our burdens. What makes you cry? What do you feel must change for the world to be a better place? Dreaming isn’t a purely intellectual exercise; it’s an emotional enterprise. We could all list dozens of things that we know need to improve the world around us, but only a couple of them capture our heart. A dream doesn’t feel like a chore we should do, but like a moral imperative that we must do.
2) Give your dream reality for a support beam.
Dreams, by definition, do not originate in reality. Rather, they are birthed in the imagination through hopes and desires. Yet, there must be some actual evidence that achieving the dream is possible. The more unrealistic your dream, the more you will be tempted to rely on luck to make it a reality. By concerning yourself with things you can control, you strengthen yourself to succeed and you reduce the role luck plays in determining your future.
Influential dreamers keep their eyes wide open to the facts of their situation. As T.E. Lawrence wrote, “All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”
Realism is the foundation on which we must build; the dream is what we aspire to create. Mature persons make sure the right support beams (skills, resources, partners) are in place before they begin construction.
3) Give your dream a beam of light, clarifying it through careful study.
A dream begins as a vague impression, which only disciplined study can give definition. In the words of Giovanni Boccaccio, “You must read, you must persevere, you must sit up nights, you must inquire, and exert the utmost power of your mind. If one way does not lead to the desired meaning, take another; if obstacles arise, then still another; until, if your strength holds out, you will find that clear which at first looked dark.” Bringing a dream into focus takes effort, and ultimately only those who see their dream lucidly are able to seize their dream.