Before we start talking about why you should stop dreaming and start living, let me share with you what happened a few years ago …
‘Is she going to be normal someday? Like, being able to work?‘ Both my husband and I asked a psychiatrist who has been treating my sister in law for years.
‘Well, she is already in a very good condition now. She can take good care of herself. She is pretty much calm and well-behaved. As long as she is not doing any harm to herself or others, she is doing great.‘
Something struck my mind as I listened to him. I could not quite comprehend why I was so surprised to hear what he had just said. It surely was not just the fact that she may not be able to work like most people for the rest of her life. Now I realise that it was his tone of positivity and optimism! The way he was saying it, that was what made it worse.
My sister in law used to be a smart and friendly person. I believe she still is, apart from the disconnection in how she perceives reality. I have always believed that she is capable of doing so much more. She used to teach Sunday school. Even now, she is still good in math and language skills. She can memorise bible verses quite well. However, something happened to her a long time ago and somehow she ended up like this. Now the doctor just told us that for her, not harming herself or others is already a great achievement!
That day I woke up to a whole new reality
Now, what does this story has to do with why you should stop dreaming and start living? The truth is, I still have the faith that God can heal her if that is His will. However, this is what I learned that day. Sometimes reality can be so different from what we expect it to be. It is not just about things that disappoint us or our unmet expectations. It is about waking up to a whole new reality. A shift of paradigm and adopting a whole new perspective to see what is going on around us.
My sister in law is currently being taken good care of in a special care home. She lives with others similar to her and she does a part-time job 2-3 days a week. Together with the others from the care home, she works for a restaurant for a few hours a day, wrapping forks and spoons in cutlery packaging. For this activity, they receive a weekly allowance from the restaurant’s owner.
Every time I visit this care home and have some of the clients greeted me or tried to interact with me, I feel like I am living in a different world. I see things that I do not usually see in my ordinary days. Some of these clients have down syndrome. Others are dealing with emotional traumas. The lady who has founded this place has been taking care of these people as if they are her own family.
Seeing the world through different lenses
This place is located in a busy metropolitan city, where everybody, including myself once, is busy earning a living, trying hard to perform well at work and achieve goals. In a way, the people in the care home are living in a ‘different world’, but at the same time, they are not that much different from us. We are the same human beings who long to love and be loved and to live a happy, meaningful life.
I am at a loss for words to fully articulate the bottom line of this story, but my message today will be based upon what I have learned from the above experience.
So, here we go, the 3 reasons why we should stop dreaming and start living:
Reason #1. You may be dreaming of the wrong dream due to the ‘success’ hype we find everywhere
Nowadays, we can see the ‘6-figure income’ being campaigned everywhere as the ultimate dream. After all, who would not dream of earning such an amount of income? They say, money is not everything, but everything needs money.
Well, of course, it is nice to have a 6-figure income. The question is, do we really need to achieve that in order to live happily or to have our needs met? I believe marriage or family is a highly important component of living a happy life, but a solid relationship with our spouses or a healthy, functioning family are terms we rarely heard when we talk about ‘success’. Does success has to always be associated with material wealth?
Stop dreaming of the wrong dream and wake up from the illusion that we can become anything some people told us to become. Choose what is important or valuable to you and make it your own personal, authentic dream. Just because some public figure has millions of followers, it does not mean that what they are saying is applicable to each of us. Each of us has our own reason for being. We have different life’s purposes.
If we were book authors, it may be nice to have our work in the ‘bestseller’ list. However, is it possible that our messages will be most relevant to those who are a minority and has the potential to significantly change their lives? Would we risk this chance by changing our content in order to follow what the majority wants and chase that ‘bestseller’ position?
If we were carers, should we expose ourselves under the spotlight in front of millions of people, just to get that ‘public speaker’ title and some media exposure? The media has created this mindset of ‘numbers’ and ‘big names’, while our sincere attention to a few elder people may help them spend the remaining time of their lives in joy and comfort instead of in loneliness or a sense of abandonment? I believe not all good deeds need to be exposed under the spotlight.
So that is the first reason why you should stop dreaming and start living.
These are just illustrations of extreme comparison to show that what is popular may not be what is best for us as individuals. Ask yourself: What do I really want to do? What is most important or valuable to me?
Reason #2. The reality of life is often far from ideal
Even if we are dreaming of the right ‘dream’, there will be unpredictable factors that we may not be aware of. I am not saying we should give up our dreams just because they seem impossible or because there are too many obstacles. What I am saying is we have to go through a tough process to test them.
I also would like to point out that there are very important factors that are rarely mentioned in most motivational articles. Do you like watching talent shows? If you do, have you ever noticed that most winners in these shows have ‘personal’ supporters? I am not talking about the general audience, but their family or relatives and friends who come to the show to express their support to these winners. They have people who really believe in them. I believe there is a strong correlation between having a healthy support system and having a high level of performance.
The missing link
Have you ever heard of Nic Vujicic? He is a Christian evangelist and a motivational speaker. He was born with no arms and legs and once thought about ending his life when he was still young. Now he is a happy daddy and a great speaker. I highly respect him as he has inspired many and I believe he will always do. However, I am also aware of the fact that he was raised by truly loving parents who have always believed in him, as much as they have believed in God, His creator. This is something not everybody has.
What intrigued me more is the fact that there is a tendency in many motivational messages to focus on our ambition as the ultimate drive to keep pursuing our goals. When it comes to achieving success, I rarely heard that we should sort our broken relationships and develop healthy confidence and self-esteem. Instead, I got this perception that no matter what is happening around us, we should just ignore it and keep doing whatever we should do in order to succeed. It is as if our will power alone is enough to keep us going, while these messages do not really care if we have unresolved issues that no matter what we have managed to achieve, we are going to end up feeling empty and lonely.
We need to make a fair assessment
That misleading perception also overlooked the presence of other important elements some high achievers may have, whether it is a strong bond with their loved ones, good spending habits, an amount of saving or other facilities. It is true that we should not make these things excuses, but we need to have a fair assessment of what we have and what we do not have before we decide to work on what we have and stop focusing on what we do not have.
Stop dreaming of ‘false hope’, believing that everything will turn out exactly the way we want it to be as long as we are working hard enough to get it. There are a lot of things in life that we can not predict. Things happen and there will be trials to test us. It is our inner strength that we must grow and develop, such as our faith, integrity or persistence. For that, we need to stay fully awake.
That is the second reason why you should stop dreaming and start living.
Stay in tune with yourself as you are walking the journey of achieving what you want to achieve. Find a balanced perspective from time to time about whether what you are pursuing is worthwhile. Check your motives and keep working on your inner strength.
There is no one size fits all. Each of us is a unique individual and we operate differently. What works for somebody else may not work for you and vice versa.
Reason #3. You miss the opportunity to experience the bliss of being ‘here and now’.
Now, this is the third and final reason why you should stop dreaming and start living. Although it is a good thing to always find ways to improve yourself and grow your capacity, there is the bliss of living fully in the present. You may not know too much what is going to happen in the future, but you can do more meaningful work and make the best of what you have in front of you.
Being able to maintain peace of mind and a sense of gratitude overflowing from your heart I believe is far healthier than being constantly worried or stressed out about whether or not you can achieve your dreams.
Balance the time you spend being ‘awake’ and living the here and now and the time you spend thinking or preparing yourself for the ‘dream’ you wish to pursue. Integrate your dream with your fully awake moment. That way you spend your time truly living and not just alive and surviving. You still have something you wish to achieve but you are able to completely embrace your current situation.
Remember that sometimes a car engine needs to be overhauled and thoroughly repaired. Just because the car is not going anywhere, it does not mean it is being stagnant. On the other hand, it will be ridiculous to think about a long drive or some far destination when the engine is not even ‘healthy’ enough to make it through a short distance.
Sometimes we need to rest, sometimes we need to spend more time serving others close to us. Taking care of a relative who is struggling with a terminal illness may not be your dream, but what you have done may be the most precious thing to them and more meaningful work to you, than getting that promotion at work where everyone congratulates you.
I hope now you have a clear understanding of why you should stop dreaming and start living. Do you agree with me or do you have any other thoughts? Feel free to share them in the comments 🙂