Have you ever dreamed a dream so vivid that when you wake up, you can still taste and smell what was in the dream? Or maybe you felt the emotions in the dream so strongly you had a hard time shaking them? The emotions were still real to you as daylight entered the room.
Dreams we dream when we are awake sometimes feel just as real. Ever imagined yourself failing a test and felt your heart racing and your palms sweating? Of course, you might as well have been dreaming about acing the test, but due to how we are conditioned as children we start imagining different scenarios and then often do things to make them come true, whether consciously or unconsciously.
In short, we become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
There are other dreams we dream when awake too — the kinds where we go to Hollywood and win an Oscar, or become an award-winning actor. How we dream those dreams play a large role in whether they become true, or not.
If you dream of winning an Oscar, imagining every painstaking step along the journey to get there, then chances are you’ll pursue it. You can feel the journey.
If, on the other hand, you just dream about standing on stage holding an Oscar, chances are you’ll never pursue that dream, because you have no real idea of what it entails.
Some dreams come with what my principal would call sense data: information from our senses. They come with the scents, tastes, sights, sounds and feelings you receive through the five senses. Other dreams lack all that — they’re just a little daydream with no firm roots in reality. Or maybe they have sense data, but what you perceive to be real has nothing to do with reality. Having all the sense data of a moment of glory as an award-winning author, still omits the sense data of the journey it took to get there. The reality of the dream.
For example, as a child, I dreamed of becoming an MD. This was a pretty persistent dream. I felt a calling to medicine; to healing. As I grew older I realized I loved taking care of people and I became fascinated with psychology. However, I also realized that biology and chemistry bored me something awful. The idea of doing surgeries was intriguing, anatomy seemed fun, but studying molecular biology? Not so much.
I ended up studying film and theatre instead, then went to volunteer in a township in South Africa, where I could care for people. However, I still felt a part of me was missing until I started to get serious about also becoming a doula and dabble more in herbology (making my own teas, essential oil perfumes and body products, etc.). I also write a lot of health articles for clients where I get to research medical studies and I’m particularly fond of the studies on herbs and other natural remedies.
My dream of becoming a doctor was a dream not based in reality. A part of it was — my wish to heal and work with people — but not all of it. This caused much confusion in my teens, when I couldn’t make up my mind about what to do with my life.
I believe most of us spend a lot of time dreaming and I think it’s therefore important that we make a conscious effort to dream about things that actually serve us.
For example, those little “mini-daydreams” where you imagine standing panicking in front of a room full of people as you’re about to give a speech, or see yourself falling over on your ass on your next date. Those dreams could be much more conducive. Instead of imagining failure, you could imagine that when you feel nervous on stage, you realize there is nothing to be nervous about. Everyone in the audience is just waiting for you to say something nice. As I believe Michael Cain once said — it’s easy to believe that everyone on set is waiting for you to fuck up, while, in fact, they’re hoping you’ll do a really good job.
Simply imagine the thing that would be the most beneficial for you; the thing that would spur you onto to doing the things you’d truly love to do. Such as give a brilliant speech, or have a great date.
My principal in drama school used to tell us to “foreburn” things — i.e. imagine them how we wanted them to go before they happened. He wanted us to take control of our thoughts. So that before the next audition, instead of giving in to our fears, we’d imagine the whole audition going really, really well. You can even “foreburn” thinking that the moment you feel nervous is a cue for you doing a really good performance. That you need the nervosity to spur you on.
My principal also wanted us to “afterburn” things. That meant, that after something had happened, or by the end of the day, you’d think through the day, becoming aware of the different thoughts that had made you act in different ways. Because it’s all about the thoughts. They are what trigger your actions. Then he wanted us to rethink anything we weren’t happy with. Imagine how it could have gone instead, thereby programming ourselves to do it the way we wanted to next time.
Some habits can take a while to change — when you first start thinking things through the way you want them to be, it doesn’t mean that you’ll hit jackpot the first time. If you’ve spent a lifetime becoming nervous when you hold a speech, whether because you think you have a terrible voice, or you once said something really silly in front of a crowd when you were five, or you think people are out to judge you, then no matter how much you foreburn the next speech, you might not deliver the perfect speech. However, with time and practice, you will.
There have been experiments done with basketball players who imagined in their mind's eye shooting a basketball and scoring and comparing their results with basketball players who actually shot the ball. The improvement in results were similar.
Take control of your mind, and you’ll take control of your life.
Then we have the other dreams. The lofty ones about becoming a famous actor, a big fashion designer, or winning the Olympics. Are these dreams based in reality? Do you know what it’s like to design clothes day in and day out? Do you know what it’s like to be in the fashion industry? Do you have a real feel of what a career as a fashion designer is truly like? If you do, then dream on. If not, start investigating. It’s more conducive to dream about something you actually want to achieve than have a daydream that’s shattered as soon as reality sets in.
Then there’s the thing about taking action. A dream will forever just be a dream unless you take action. Action is necessary for results.
Of course, there are also the dreams we dream at night. Maybe one should request, every night, just when falling asleep, to dream about something that helps one move one’s life in the right direction?
Dream on, but dream wisely.