“Within each human heart is a dream waiting to be born.”
Why do we find these words so poignant? Because, as we all know, so often we never really come to know those dreams waiting to be born. And just like human babies, we have to give birth to our dreams. Which means we have to name them. See them. Just the way a baby is conceived from an egg and a sperm, a dream is conceived when desire and imagination come together.
But what I’d like to talk about here is how to deal with—and overcome—what I call the tragedy of dreams. Not, by any means, an inevitable tragedy, but an all-too-frequent one. It’s the tragedy of what happens when the fragility of a dream meets the solid rock of reality.
We’ve had to face this in our writing careers. Our dream was...well, what was our dream? To write books that would get published, and reach many people, and change people’s lives, and give us leverage to make a big difference in the world.
The hard reality we ended up facing was that even just getting published is really hard and that to do so you can’t just say whatever you want: you have to figure out what people need and want and target your message for them. And if you want to reach many of them, well, good luck, because so do a lot, a lot, a lot of other writers who are all trying to elbow their way to the front for attention. Where no one really knows what will gain attention!
And then to get leverage to make a big difference, you have to write huge best sellers.
That’s a tall mountain to climb, and a tragedy for people who are counting on climbing it all the way to the top.
How can you have dreams that survive and thrive the journey into reality?
Here’s how. It’s by looking at your dream and asking yourself—with unflinching realism—“How much control do I have over making this dream come true?”
If my dream is to go fishing as much as possible, well then, I have a lot of control over making that dream come true. I just have to get some fishing gear, go to a place where there’s water and fish, and BOOM! my dream has come true. Now if my dream is to catch a lot of fish, or to catch “the big fish,” then I’m starting to set myself up for tragedy, because I’m edging into territory where I have much less control.
You love to sing? You want to sing? Your dream is to sing? Do-able. There are, for example, lots of church choirs that don’t require auditions. If you can sing at all, you’re in. Is your dream to be a singing star? The problem is not that achieving that is hard or unlikely. It’s that it’s an outcome you have no control over. You can’t make it happen. Not even with talent and hard work. Just ask all the singers with talent who’ve worked their asses off who’ve not become stars.
So if you were to think of this as a game and ask yourself who are the winners at this game, there’s an easy answer. One where ALL dreams come true.
Dream whatever you want—stardom, catching “the big fish,” whatever—but love the journey to that dream. And understand going in that you can’t expect to achieve anything you don’t have control over, but—and shake hands with yourself over this deal—accept that that’s okay BECAUSE you love the journey.
Anything else is just setting yourself up for tragedy. But this approach I’ve just outlined is so, so do-able, and if you can just hang on to it, you’ll never have to walk into walls of sadness or regret again. No. You’ll feel grateful and fulfilled, no matter how things turn out.
By the way, Why Couples Fight has been the latest step on our publishing journey. You tell us how far that’s taken us!!