On Monday we celebrated the life of a man whose most famous speech began with… “I have a dream.”
His words were simple, yet deep.
Humble, yet strong.
Hopeful, yet assured.
Oppressed, yet also empowering.
…And I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately, because they connect to something within each of us: the desire to continually make our world a better place for ourselves and for those around us. The urge to always keep reaching, creating, changing. The deep-seated need we all have to rise up above the things that constrain us. To leave our own mark on this place in a way that made a difference. No matter how large or small.
That’s what our dreams are for. They inspire us to do more than simply keep living. They give us a purpose; a passion. A joie de vivre. And yet, they are all too often squelched. They are too often dismissed as silly or outlandish by the heavy inertia of the status quo and those who only believe in it. But it is our dreams that make us truly human at heart and in spirit. Dreaming allows us to remove ourselves from our current world; to conjure new possibilities. It makes us our own change agents and gives us cause to chase the new realities we seek and bring them into being.
Einstein said “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” That “The person with big dreams is more powerful than the one with all the facts.” Gandhi implored us to “Be the change [we] wish to see,” and Steve Jobs reminded us that “The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that actually do.” (Really, is it any wonder that the people with that mentality – with those unshakeable positive self-fulfilling prophecies – were the ones whose beliefs, words and deeds ended up echoing so loudly around the globe?)
Now, you may say to me, “We can’t all be an Einstein, Gandhi or Steve Jobs.” That we are each just one of seven billion. That achieving the thing that’s out of our reach has more to do with luck or the powers that be. And if you do think these things, I appreciate your pragmatism. Being down-to-earth certainly has its merits and rewards, and even though I sit here writing a blog post about the importance of pursuing your dreams, I often find myself succumbing to skepticism… But after I’m finally able to get myself un-stuck, I always ask myself: Why actively choose to deny myself the possibility of what I want most? Why not put aside that fear of failure and decide to believe in myself instead? And, no, dreaming big might not be the only factor in getting myself where I most want to go… but it’s certainly one of them. And I’d argue that it’s the first and most fundamental. We can’t afford to stop. Not now. Not ever.
So, I say – whenever you can and as much as you can – let yourself detach from reality a bit. Believe in the thing you want most for yourself, for others and the world. Invest in that which may not yet be real; in the things that seem out of reach.
Look up at the neon fuchsia lights of an impossibly beautiful sunset, and let yourself dream. See what comes of it.