I Can Dream, Can’t I?

A client recently shared something I’ve heard many times. They reported having a hard time envisioning their future.

As we dug in, we discovered that, more specifically, they were finding it challenging to imagine the future they wanted.

They, like so many people, had absolutely no problem worrying about ugly stuff that might be coming down the road.

It was the good stuff that seemed so slippery.

When I pointed out that they were quite skillful in their ability to envision futures they didn’t want, a light came on.

They realized that they’d been doing a great job of creating some pretty vivid, however undesirable, visions.

Thing is, while my client was under the influence of persistent worry, they were far from alone. Worry, in my unscientific observations, appears to be the single most popular variety of regular visioning people do!

We have a well-practiced cultural default to the Dark Side, and it gets in the way. (We also have thousands of years of brains wired to keep us safe from creatures that are, in most cases, no longer hungrily roaming our neighborhoods…)

At the same time, we’re really good at imagining positive short-term outcomes. For instance, when handed a menu, we have no problem envisioning the items that are going to make for an enjoyable dinner. Fulfilling that short-term vision is as simple as placing an order and waiting a few minutes.

Longer-range visions are more challenging for a number of reasons. History and evidence enter the equation, as do uncertainty and, for many, questions and stories about deserving. Machinations around how to get there have sidetracked so many promising ideas that a mentor’s father, encouraging him to allow himself to dream, often reminded him, “A ‘how’ will spoil a good ‘what’ every time!”

Last, but not least, many of us were taught that, because there are no guarantees, dreaming of desired futures is nothing more than a set-up for eventual disappointment, so why bother?

Of course, few people are taught that not dreaming is a slow-burn formula for guaranteed disappointment. (Hmmm… There actually are guarantees!)

There’s a cliché that says that everything ever created, from chairs to cars and toasters to rocket ships, began as ideas, as someone’s dream…

And clichés become clichés because there’s truth to them.

What’s more important than attaching to the details of a specific future vision is the possibility-filled emotional field generated when desire and imagination meet. The emotions in that field serve as added fuel for the imagination, setting up an energetic feedback loop that powers one’s experience of the present moment.

Kinda cool, eh?

In case you’re wondering whether the feedback loop above really works, think of how worrying drags you down physically and emotionally. It makes sense that the inverse of worry has the opposite impact.

Because most of us have far more practice with worry, albeit unconscious, positive visioning can feel like an uphill slog.

And, in the beginning, it may be just that.

Like a new fitness regimen, learning to consciously play with visions of desired futures takes discipline and repetition. It also requires tapping into creativity and imagination – whilst setting aside attachment to specific outcomes.

If all that sounds like work, it is indeed work. And it’s work that becomes remarkably playful, empowering and, in relatively short order, fun and even joyous.

So yeah, just as my client discovered, you too can dream.