Dream a little dream

Power of dreams

Dream a little dream

All great things in the world start with a dream, writes Monideepa Sahu, urging us to dream a little dream, without which we would be mere drudges working to maintain a routine existence that lacks a sense of purpose

  

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer,” said Harriet Tubman. “Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” Everyone can overcome obstacles and fulfil their dreams if they are dedicated and enthusiastic enough, say great thinkers. Reality, however, doesn’t quite live up to such inspirational wisdom. We are urged from childhood to excel at anything and everything.

We grow up with ambitions to skyrocket through IIT and IIM, command dozen-digit salaries, vacation on the Riviera, look like supermodels and win the Magsaysay or Booker, if not the Nobel Prize. We struggle to climb every mountain and follow every rainbow. We also stumble and fail to achieve every impossible dream, despite our most heroic efforts.

Sometimes we actually find the end of a rainbow at last, only to discover a pot of mud. Try as we might, all of us may not be able to launch a revolution, become crorepatis or eradicate corruption. The best and sincerest among us may only succeed in making a modest but positive difference.

Let’s face it. Everyone cannot always win first place in the game of life. In fact, much of our adult lives are spent fulfilling routine duties, towards our families, our employers and our community. If we have special dreams, we need to find the space for them only after dealing with the mundane responsibilities of life. Each of us is a unique mix of merits and human failings.

Each of us is special, and we need to nurture our talents and aspirations. We also need to come to terms with the fact that most of us are ordinary and average. It would be shallow, even disastrous, to limit ourselves to inspirational quotes, feel-good aphorisms and quick-fix success formulas offered by self-help manuals or new-age spiritual gurus.

 No magic mantra can make everyone flash like a supernova. Even if we think big, have faith in ourselves and try, try again, we might fall flat on our faces. Suc oversimplifications fail to do justice to the complexities of the human condition. Must we all have sky-high goals and noble dreams? What about people who are competent, but not dazzlingly brilliant or fired up with some noble goal in life? 

Ordinary people who are content to do their duty faithfully, earn an honest living, support their families, and serve society sincerely, are invaluable because they keep the world running. Are such capable and responsible people inferior beings because they have no overwhelming passion or some lofty aim to change the world?

On the other hand, dreamers who follow their passion by compromising on their normal duties may not be ideal, perfect people. What should we think of a parent who abandons a sick child to go and save lemurs in a remote rainforest? What if all industrialists shut down their factories and offices to chase dreams of becoming bestselling authors or karate champions? 

Setting priorities

As we navigate the sea of life, we need to achieve a sense of balance. In the craze to become overachieving success machines, we can lose touch with our inner selves. It’s vital not to confuse our priorities. Life isn’t only about acting boldly and persistently. It’s also important to rest and relax, enjoy golden sunrises, and share priceless moments of togetherness with our loved ones. Dreams offer limitless options and possibilities. There are many models of success in various fields and at various levels.

Is it humanly possible to do our best at them all? Also, following one’s dreams does not mean one should run away from responsibilities. True success will follow when we choose our priorities and strategise to focus on what matters most.

It will be sheer madness to try to learn Kathakali, produce a blockbuster movie, find a cure for cancer and cultivate ten thousand Facebook friends, all at the same time. No matter how noble or exciting our many dreams may be, we need to consciously choose to pursue the ones closest to our hearts, and discard the rest. Sometimes, it may be necessary to give up on old dreams, and follow new and more relevant dreams. We can focus and outshine in what truly matters, only if we opt to be average and low-key in other fields.

The killer instinct might end up killing us if we sacrifice our morals, duties and peace of mind for its cause. A true winner is not one who gets every award and destroys the competition. A true winner respects and learns from others, improves, adapts, is inclusive and turns competitors into collaborators supporting his dream. It is important to introspect, understand our strengths and limitations, and accept who we are.

It’s also better to have a healthy amount of self-doubt, rather than leap blindly to boldly go where no man has gone before. Thoughtful people may appear indecisive or unsure of themselves, but it is because they weigh all sides of an issue before choosing a course of action. As Charles Bukowski rightly said, “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”

That doesn’t mean we should give up on our dreams without trying. Many of us are all too conscious of being ordinary. We stifle our dreams for fear of failure. Instead of acting on our dreams, we find excuses not to act. Obstacles will rise on our paths, but we must try to overcome them. “It always seems impossible until it’s done,” said Nelson Mandela. “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.

The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” We cannot all be giants like Nelson Mandela. But we can learn to persist and work towards our chosen dreams by following his shining example. When we feel disheartened or fear failure, we need to remember that success does not come easily, even to the great Mandelas of our world. “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

Even if our best efforts do not help fulfil a cherished dream, we can have the satisfaction of knowing that we tried our best. Pride and joy in our work can make the journey enjoyable, even if we cannot work miracles. Our efforts may not always produce the desired results. But if we do nothing, nothing can ever be achieved at all.

We need to accept responsibility for ourselves and our actions. It is defeatist to throw up our hands in despair and leave everything to fate. Humanity will never progress if we do not strive to do our best, and continuously try to improve our condition. We cannot simply sit back and complain, and hope somebody else will improve things for us. Some dreamers sit around idly dreaming of what miracles they could work, if only they had enough money, supporters, education and other resources. Such people waste the opportunities they do have.

All of us have our strengths and weaknesses. Instead of lamenting our shortcomings, we need to identify our strengths and make the most of them to attain our chosen dreams. As Swami Vivekananda rightly said, “We are responsible for what we are, and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves.”

Dreams, hopes and visions, aspirations for a better life, are a vital part of human existence. Without them, we would be mere drudges working to maintain a routine existence. We would be no better than wild animals clawing each other to survive in the urban jungle. Dreams lend a sense of purpose to our humdrum existence. Pursuing a noble goal makes us feel more energetic, alive and better connected to other human beings. Dreams give us something worth sharing with others, and win us new friends.

A selfish life is only half-lived. Even if we only succeed in encouraging and inspiring a handful of others towards realising their dreams, it is an invaluable achievement. Dreams boost our self-esteem when we succeed in even a small way to make this world a better place.

Carrying forward

Age is just a number when we have a dream in our hearts and a song on our lips. Having a sense of purpose and making a positive contribution to society makes us feel worthy, energetic and young-at-heart. Working to realise a dream makes us hopeful and positive. It’s a powerful way to dispel negativity and depression. Dreams and hopes can help us overcome the worst experiences. Disappointments and loss are a part of life.

It is our dreams which give us the energy and hope to carry ahead in search of a better tomorrow. Dreams make life worth living and keep the magic alive in our lives.We have only one life to live. Our time on this earth is limited. It is better to chase a dream, rather than waste our days leading an aimless existence. If we do not make serious attempts to follow our chosen dreams, we will be overwhelmed with remorse for the rest of our lives. We may fail to realise those dreams despite our best attempts, but we will have the solace of knowing that we tried our best. Regret and sorrow are terrible things, and we may have only ourselves to blame when nothing is achieved because of our lack of initiative. 

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and much planning is needed beforehand. Many of us hesitate to make that dream journey for fear of the stumbling blocks that lie ahead. Some of us feel defeated even before we begin, and our dreams die because of the hurdles that we create for ourselves. It’s vital to strategise, create the right situation, garner enough supporters and hone our skills. But if we wait for the perfect conditions to take that vital first step, it may never be taken at all. At some point, we need to understand that no situation will ever be ideal.

We will also need to accept and make provisions for differences of opinion, even among our supporters. Trying to please all and sundry is a sure path to disaster. Theoretical training will teach us only so much. Hands-on experience will teach us much more. A surgeon must progress from classroom lectures and textbooks to operating on real people. A writer will need to move on from creative writing courses to actually writing that novel. We must brace ourselves to take that final leap of faith, and turn ‘not now’ into ‘right now.’

Most of us will spend a large chunk of our time and energy doing things we don’t particularly enjoy. Cleaning the house, attending to sick children, coding software, selling insurance, churning out content for websites or paying loans are dreary and exhausting jobs that must get done. A sensible goal is to find joy and meaning in what we are already doing. Instead of treating our duties as burdens, we can feel a sense of achievement at any job well done. Rather than grudge labouring in the kitchen for example, we can savour the togetherness of a happy family dinner.

Sometimes we need to appreciate ourselves and others for their good work, even if it’s just ordinary, everyday work. If we are positive ourselves, and spread good vibes, we can create the right conditions for dreaming, and making those dreams come true. Let’s appreciate what we have. It isn’t essential to have high flown dreams or ambitions.

Often, it’s those small moments of joy that transcend the clutter and drudgery and make life worth living. Sometimes it’s enough to be responsible, kind and connected with one’s inner child. It’s hard work being a good friend, parent, employee and citizen. It isn’t easy to let go of resentment, envy, sorrow and regret, and reach out and help less fortunate souls around us. As poet Emily Dickinson said, if we can revive even one fainting robin and help it back to its nest, we shall not have lived in vain.

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