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When you run out of dreams

Yesterday, I facilitated a workshop (“Leadership Day”) for a network marketing team. They were a great group of people, and the day was a big success.

One of the exercises early on in the day had each person stating their 90 day and 2-3 year earning goals, along with their answer to this key question: “What dreams and desires do you plan to accomplish in the next 3 to 10 years?

As I listened to their answers, I became more and more intrigued. Almost all of the responses to the dreams and desires question could be grouped in one of three categories: travel, house or self-care.

And then one answer really got me thinking. One woman said “Well, my dream was to have a pool in the backyard, but we did that anyways last summer. I guess I’ve run out of dreams!

Why do most people’s dreams have to do with consuming things or experiences? Is a dream really a dream if you can “run out” of it?

I believe that the purpose of a dream is to ignite passion – the positive, creative tension between the reality of the now and the future reality that can be. This creative tension fuels our human drive for progress, growth and evolution, and moves us into action.

However, we are bombarded on a daily basis with messages exhorting us to buy, buy, buy, in which the act of consuming is equated with creating a more desirable, more exciting, slimmer-figure, younger-looking, sex-attracting, sweeter-fragrance future. So we become conditioned to think of dreams as things to acquire and consume, and we go on a search for more money to buy the dream.

The trap of this “consumer dream” is that once the object of the dream is purchased or consumed, then the dream dies and the creative tension evaporates with it. Think of this as the Boxing Day syndrome, the day after the kids open the presents, the toy gets pushed into a corner, unused, while the child starts wailing about wanting the next thing.

Consumer dreams are a dirty, non-renewable fuel. After super-sizing your consumer dreams a couple times to keep up the momentum, the game wears thin, and you have nowhere to go but down into “depression”, mental as well as economic (Exhibit A: the US economic crisis due to the mortgage meltdown).

The finite nature of a consumer dream forces one into small, survival-based thinking. Their corrosive nature ends up eating away at passion, sapping the will to go on, making one feel boxed-in, with few options to move forward. I see this with one of my sisters-in-law, who although a well-meaning person with a big heart, is so wrapped up in the consumer mentality that the stress and worry about keeping up with the payments (current and future) is eating away at her health, and also that of my brother… (Although they have a healthy six-figure combined income, so money really should not be a problem…)

But what is the alternative? What kind of dream can create energy that is renewing, engaging, inspiring, motivating?

Gandhi once said: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

And therein lies the key to igniting true, constructive, motivating passion: find the change you wish to see in the world.

A sustainable dream is about making an impact in the world, creating a positive, evolutionary difference in our society, our environment, our planet, or our consciousness, to bring that aspect more in alignment with our mission, our values, our true essence.

To me, the ultimate dream was President John F. Kennedy’s call to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960’s. That call to action ignited a huge leap forward in creativity and ingenuity that still echoes today, fourty years later.

Other big dreamers transformed their world in their own way, think of Mother Teresa, or Bill Gates (“a computer on every desk“) or Harland Sanders of KFC fame, or Mary Kay Ash, or Sam Walton, or Anita Roddick, or Ray Kroc, or Martha Stewart, or Henry Ford, and the list goes on and on.

(We can discuss what happens once the dream starts to become reality and takes a turn for the worse, but because this post is about the passion to start something, let’s leave that other discussion for another time, okay? Do you agree with me that each of the cited examples changed their environment at the time?)

Imagine if all Sam Walton wanted was a bit more money to redo his house. Would he have had the passion and the energy to build the next generation of retailing?

A passion-sustaining dream is one that involves all our being, expressing Who We Really Are.

A true dream is bigger than any one person, but it has to start with yourself.

A true dream can take longer that a lifetime to achieve, but it has to start with the “fierce urgency of now“.

A true dream creates the space to do great things and the energy to move into action.

If you can run out of a dream, it is because it is not really a dream. Start dreaming dreams that make space for powerful results, that can change your little (or big) corner of the world…

What is the change you wish to see in the world? How big do you dare to dream?

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