Tell me about your dreams

pep talk
Last Updated 16 September 2016, 18:32 IST

I have a dream, a song to sing,” goes the opening line of a popular melody of the 1980s by the Swedish pop band ABBA. Perhaps, the runaway success  they enjoyed worldwide, with several of their numbers topping the billboard charts for weeks on end, started off as a dream to spend their lives making music.

Who can deny that dreams were the tiny seeds that sprouted in the minds of men and women, growing into mighty shoots of innovation and paving the way for a better world? In the annals of world history, dreams have often been constant companions of the champions and crusaders, who rose from their restlessness and brought about a change.
However, a vast majority of us are not as daring. We are meek and yet seek a sense of fulfilment in our lives. We hanker to get out of the rut and step up our lives. In quiet desperation, we wait for a fairy godmother to bail us out of monotony and mediocrity. We want to break free from the humdrum and get the adrenaline flowing. Despite our desire to lead a fulfilling life, most of us fail because we did not dare to pursue our dreams.

“Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life - think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. This is the way to success,” said Swami Vivekananda, giving a simple blueprint to achieve anything we set our minds to. It might sound too simple. But it is the only way to achieve the impossible.

Those who did

The Wright Brothers’ flying machine started as a dream; the crusade against oppression by Martin Luther King Jr began with the iconic ‘I Have A Dream’ speech he delivered to over 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC; the need to break free from foreign rule and to be governed by truth, non-violence and self-sufficiency became the dream of a simple man in a loin cloth, our very own Mahatma Gandhi; the possibility of putting a man on the moon started as a dream to USA President John F Kennedy; the idea that a personalised computer could find its way into every household in the world was the dream of Bill Gates, a college dropout; the revolutionising of stocky telephones to sleek and multi-functional personal smartphones was the dream for Steve Jobs, a wayward youth looking for meaning in life.

What does this tell us about dreams? Can mere day-dreaming help us accomplish what we want? How do we get from dreaming to achieving the dream? To begin with, it is important to pursue a worthy dream that is not self-centered.

A youngster hoping to speed through the city streets in his father’s BMW at 100 miles an hour is only thinking of himself. But if the same boy is affected by looking at the homeless people sleeping on the footpath and dreams of eradicating poverty, his actions might benefit the people of the world. Dreams of this kind, when nurtured and worked on sincerely, could become realities just as aircrafts, equal rights, independence, personal computers and iPhones did.

Push yourself

Eugene Lang, an American entrepreneur and philanthropist, was asked to address a class of graduating sixth graders at the same elementary school he had attended decades back. He had prepared a motivational speech centred on the standard themes of hard work and perseverance.

However, he changed his mind when, minutes before the speech, the school principal told him that three-quarters of the students came from a background of poverty, drugs and violence and might never finish high school.

Standing on the stage, he observed the empty eyes and the listless spirit of the students. Realising at that moment that the students needed a dream more than a speech, he took the mic and said, “If you graduate high school, I will send you to college.” He underscored the importance of having a dream and promised to help them in the pursuit.

The impetus his promise gave the students worked miracles. In the next four years, he worked closely with the students and kept their dream alive. And what ensued was phenomenal and record breaking: all but two of the 60 teenagers finished high school! And true to his word, he sent them to college. “He gave us hope,” one student said, speaking for the majority. Another, upon meeting Lang later, said to him, “Mr Lang, we did the impossible.”

Doing the impossible needs a push and this is where dreams come into play. In a constantly evolving world, we need a constant dream to keep us spirited and motivated.
Meaningful and worthy dreams of moving to the next level of efficiency, getting better skills, reinventing ourselves, making significant contributions to the environment and doing our bit in making the world a better place are significant precursors to eventual fulfilment and contentment. We need to be clear that the dreams we are chasing are well-intended; the time and energy that will be invested in our dreams ought to be fruitful with a purpose larger than mere self-gratification.

Turning dreams into action requires dedication, hard work and perseverance. A candidate was asked by the agricultural school dean in an interview, “Why have you chosen this career?” “I dream of making a million dollars in farming, like my father,” replied the freshman, without a hint of hesitation. The dean was impressed. “Your father made a million dollars in farming?” he exclaimed. “No,” the student was quick to reply. “But he always dreamed of it.” Dreaming is thus the easier part, but following it up with concrete steps is never easy.

Meaning of life

As writer Sarah Ban Breathnach rightly put it, “The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.” Chasing well-intended dreams is all about engaging in life. Being involved in our dream brings out the best in us. Whether it is a cardiologist dreaming of better heart care for his patients or a construction labourer dreaming of educating his child, dreams give meaning to the drudgery and toil that life involves. Looking at it in another way, the job at which they toil takes a new connotation when it has a dream behind it.

Isaac Asimov, author of several science fiction works, including the celebrated I-Robot series, was once asked in an interview by TV journalist Barbara Walters, “Don’t you ever want to do anything but write?” He replied promptly, “No.” She pressed on. “Don’t you want to go hunting? Fishing? Dancing? Hiking?” To which he once again said, “No. No. No. And no.” She continued, “But what would you do if the doctor gave you only six months to live?” He said emphatically, “Type faster!” The dreams he cherished of being the greatest writer gave meaning to his work and brought out the best in him.

Dreams are for all who believe in themselves, in life and in the world around them. So, lets dream selflessly and work meticulously. Like Eleanor Roosevelt, politician, activist and the longest-serving First Lady of the United States who did wonders to change the world around her, aptly said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

(Published 16 September 2016, 14:38 IST)

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