The relationship between dreaming and success is a complicated one. On the one hand, without dreams you’re unlikely to seek new things for your life. On the other hand, just being a dreamer can keep you in the world of ‘one day’. An eternal fantasist without a plan to execute.
“If you can dream it, you can do it” – Walt Disney
The most successful and admirable people have vivid imaginations and are proud dreamers.
“I really had a lot of dreams when I was a kid” – Bill Gates
All progress and evolution has come as a result of this process. It’s said, if you can’t see it you can’t do it. Dreaming gives us the ability to visualise something we haven’t yet physically seen, encouraging us to create it.
But when I was 19, I’d had enough of dreams.
For as long as I could remember, I was a big dreamer, and my dream was to be a Popstar. I would watch ‘Top of the Pops’, every Friday, copying the routines, dreaming of when I would be on the other side of the screen.
We didn’t have much cash lying around and my parents themselves weren’t musical or particularly creative. They believed in education, so despite my pleas for dance class, I didn’t get any extra-curriculars. It wasn’t until the choir teacher really impressed on them her opinion I had ‘talent’ that they decided to let me try piano.
Once my initial excitement had passed, I found piano kind of a chore. I couldn’t really be arsed to practice and the lessons took me out of my favourite classes at school. Hardly Chopin, I gave up after Grade 2. Despite my parents explanation that most Popstars played instruments and wrote their own songs, I determined that not all were and I would be one of the ones that wasn’t.
Through my teenage years my dream evolved (changed). I was to be an actress. I was cast as the lead role in the school plays, I was a Grade A Drama student. I had ‘potential’. At 18 I went through the Drama School Application process, and it was horrible. Expensive once you factor in travel, accommodation and application costs, I selected the top 5 schools and auditioned for those. The auditions were a shambles. Most of them I didn’t make it past the first round. At the very prestigious, R.A.D.A, I could barely speak as they asked me fairly simple questions such as ‘Tell us about a play you’ve seen recently’. The standout memory for me of the process for me was standing on the street, around the corner from R.A.D.A, bawling my eyes out, crying down the phone: “My heart is breaking”. It was.
Fuck dreams, they’re too painful.
I’m now back in a good place with dreaming; I think it’s incredibly powerful and important if you want a rich life; the bio of Cleopatra’s is “For the dreamers and doers”. But I also know that there is a right way to dream, and that lies in dreaming about the thing and not the presentation of the thing.
When I used to dream about being a Popstar, the thing I dreamt about wasn’t being in a studio for 24 hours going over and over the same riff until it just chimed right with the bass. To then decide actually maybe there was a more interesting rhythm for the bass to punctuate the melody. When I dreamt about being an actress, in many ways I was actually dreaming about being the character in the film, on the edge of a cliff with my hair blowing in the breeze. Sitting in a cold trailer alone, reading and reading and re-reading my lines wasn’t in there. Neither was pulling pints behind the bar I would be working at on the side of auditions, to pay for a small flat, desperate to make it into that cold trailer. There was nothing real in what I was dreaming. They would therefore stay where they were meant to be. As fantasies.
Actress, writer and comedian, Amy Poehler says the following:
“You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.”
Not only has she been to the Golden Globes, she has hosted the Golden Globes. How many people dream about that?! She didn’t get there by glamourising the end goal, but instead by focusing on the creating and the work that would lead to her being there. This is where the power of dreams can be manipulated.
Rather than living in a fantasyland dreaming of hosting, could you instead daydream and visualise being in the writing room, working on a script with other writers and comics. Who are they? What do they look like? What do they do in their spare time?
This isn’t about making your dreams smaller; it’s about making them real. Making them digestible and bridging the gap between achieving them within the complexities of our world.
When your dreams start to exist in the real world, you can shift from fantasist to creator. When you strip away unfounded delusions of grandeur, you clear the way for actual achievements.
Of course there is nothing wrong with wanting your dreams to only ever exist in your mind. As is so perfectly described in ‘The Alchemist’, this is exactly where many people want them to stay:
“You dream about your sheep and the Pyramids, but you’re different from me, because you want to realize your dreams. I just want to dream about Mecca… I’m afraid that it would all be a disappointment, so I prefer just to dream about it.”
But many of us aren’t so easily satisfied. You don’t just want dreams, you want experiences, whether they’d be a disappointment or not. So, see the dream. Then re-see it but this time closer, smaller. And chase that down, one small step at a time.