Once upon a time, I did not know how to dream. I realized my deficiency when after a year of being saturated with “dream” prompts, props, and protocol, along with inspiring talks and encouraging oration, I still could not muster a dream.
That was when I realized I had never really dreamed. Instead of dreaming, I had been planning. I have since learned that there is a huge difference between plans and dreams. As a planner, I considered my circumstances and extracted the best possible scenario. For example, as a child, I was a great student, and I loved school. So, I “dreamed” — no, more like planned — to go to college. When I thought about what the future might look like for me, I looked at my parents with their respectable jobs and planned to follow suit.
There’s nothing wrong with that, right?
My plans were good, practical, and aligned with my circumstances. As long as I kept advancing, I could probably execute my plans with very little effort. My plans were low risk and high predictability. My plans fit my circumstances, so they did not require much growth. As long as I maintained the illusion of being in control, my plans allowed me to be safe and comfortable. Planning allowed me to take what life had handed me and make the best of it.
There’s nothing wrong with that, right?
But later in life, I found myself in unfavorable circumstances. The illusion of being in control had been replaced with a more honest reality. Frustration set in as I tried to construct a plan for making lemonade from my lemon-like situation. I was miserable and had no idea how to dream beyond my misery. In my desperation, I was forced to learn to dream.
I learned that unlike plans, dreams are larger than life — or at least, larger than my life. Dreams befit the size of their source. I saw this in the lives of two of my favorite dreamers — Joseph in the book of Genesis and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Both dreamers were visited by the future in the form of visions. Not even Joseph’s father, who loved him favorably, could fathom the possibility or probability of Joseph’s dream realized. Likewise, Dr. King’s oration of a future symphony of brotherhood in a nation steeped in racial inequality was far beyond the present hope of people simply asking to be treated with civility.
I also learned that unlike plans, dreams made me feel uncomfortable and insecure as I knew that I did not have the capacity or capability to realize them. Honestly, dreams scare me a little. And that’s good. Can you imagine how Joseph and Dr. King trembled under the weight of their visions?
And finally, unlike plans, dreams required me to grow significantly. Dreaming demands a departure from the status quo. Both of my two favorite dreamers had to supersede their existing conditions. Each had to consistently grow and transform. Each had to rise above family, social, and cultural norms. Each had to persistently develop the will and skills to persevere.
Ultimately, dreams are audacious, hope-winged leaps inspired by a future that awaits us. Dreaming takes courage!
In 2016, I dared to utter these words out loud to a listening ear, “One day, I will do a TED Talk.” At that time, I had been cocooned in a stay-at-home mom life for several years. Any dream beyond my husband, children, and the threshold of our front door seemed extremely far out of reach — especially a bucket lister like being on the TED stage.
Later that year, like a kid in a candy shop, I was elated to be in the TED audience. I was in awe of the speakers and their “ideas worth spreading.” I wondered, “Do I have an idea worth spreading?” I encouraged and comforted myself with the notion that in five or ten years, I would have an idea, I would be good enough, I would be ready. In another audacious move, I posted a picture of my event pass on Instagram with the caption, “Looking forward to when it reads SPEAKER,” along with the hashtag, #dreaming.
Thinking that I had safely tucked my dream away into the comfortable “in five or ten years” nook, I was shaken by what unfolded next. Another TED-bucket-lister saw my audacious Instagram profession and invited me to join her on a “Road to TED” journey. Together, we chartered our way through applications, months of auditions, more auditions, drafts, coaching, and finally jumped through the millionth hoop to the TED stage. The dream that I thought I needed five to ten years to realize only took one. Coincidentally, the theme for that year’s TEDx Charlotte Talks was “Next.” In 2016, I had dared to dream a dream that was waiting for me in the NEXT year!
Dreaming can be scary, humbling and risky, but taking the leap is worth the pounding heartbeats, deep breaths, and sweaty palms. Our future demands us to dream above and beyond our conventional plans. How are you honoring your future?
Dreams are audacious, hope-winged leaps inspired by a future that awaits us. Dreaming takes courage! -@brownicity: Click To Tweet