Before I jump any farther into my thoughts on dreams and following them and what it all means, I want to talk a bit about the message I keep hearing. It's important to me to articulate what I'm hearing, both so moves from subconscious to conscious in myself, and so that we're all on the same page as we begin this exploration.
I feel bombarded with people saying "Follow your dreams." It's more than just that, though, more than something that reduces to "Follow your heart," though that's definitely a part of it. I hear that I'm supposed to follow my dreams so that I can be sure to contribute to the world and, more specifically, so that I can contribute what I am meant to contribute, or made to contribute, or supposed to contribute, or contribute something that the world won't have if I don't follow my dreams.
This message implies that my purpose in life is hidden in my dreams, that my dreams indicate my calling, that where my heart wants to go is where I should go, and that, therefore, everyone else in my life either needs to come along with me or be left behind. It implies that God speaks to me in my dreams or, if from a secular source, that the universe or some larger source communicates my purpose to me that way, or I hear a larger need and that forms my purpose, or something like that. It's a combination of internal and external forces, though, that dictate what I want to do.
Along these lines, while following my dreams is not supposed to be easy, it is somehow supposed to work out eventually, if I fully give myself to the dream, continue to pursue it despite opposition, believe in it, and maintain suitable levels of passion for it. Because it is what I am supposed to do, God will eventually move or the universe will eventually align in such a way that I will find some measure of success when it comes to my dreams and my contribution to the world (though this can be defined in many different ways).
In addition to hearing that I should follow my dreams, I also hear that I will not be happy until I do so, that doing so is the only way to find fulfillment, and that I will end my life with regret if I don't follow my dreams. I hear that I have the choice to truly live or just to exist, and that I can never enter my "real life" without following my dreams.
I hear that there is much to get in the way of following dreams. Things like fear, resistance, and distraction can keep me from this true purpose and calling, and if I give into them I will never reach my potential, give the world what I have to offer, or find happiness in life.
In fact, there's often implied threat in all this talk of dreams - something like "If you don't follow your dreams, you'll be unhappy and unfulfilled for the rest of your life," or "If you choose not to pursue your dreams, you're giving into fear and disappointing God."
This seems like the dark underbelly of this message. Following my dreams, as it turns out, is not just about my own and the world's fulfillment, but also about avoiding pain, disappointment, ambiguity, confusion, shame and a host of other negative emotions that could arise in me if I don't do these things that I'm made to do. I don't know if this threat is meant to motivate me, or is just articulating the natural consequences of not following my dreams, but it almost always seems to be part of the message I'm hearing.
Alongside this, there is also a distinct "should" here (though this isn't present in all the versions of the mandate to follow dreams) - I should try to do what I dream of doing, for all the reasons that I'm teasing out here.
There's also usually a part of this message that has to do with faith and trust - mostly in myself, but also in God or the universe or some other sort of higher power. I'm to trust that I'm hearing my dreams accurately, that what I want to do or feel pulled towards doing is, in fact, what I should be doing. I'm to believe that I have what it takes, that I am enough to make my dreams happen, sometimes alongside God or the universe or some conglomeration of the force of all things. There's faith that God is communicating with me, that he is telling me how to work and move in this world via my dreams, and that he will eventually make me successful if I choose to believe that these dreams are the way I'm to contribute to the world.
This is the message that I'm hearing, over and over, from both secular and Christian sources. As you read this, what do you think? Do you hear the same message? Is there anything you would add or take away? Am I being fair in my portrayal of what I'm hearing? Let me know what you think.