Learning to Dream… Again

How to dream again

When my daughter was seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college – my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared at me, incredulous, and said, ‘You mean they forget?’

– Howard Ikemoto (artist and art professor)

There is something wonderfully simple about the way young children see life. It is a way of seeing in which anything is possible, and this means that they see no reason why they can’t grow up to be an astronaut or a cowboy or a princess. Their dream vision of the future is untainted by limitations.

I personally remember a time when I truly believed that I would grow up to be a famous tennis player competing on the world stage. As I grew older, this dream changed to being a critically acclaimed movie director. Somewhere along the line, though, this dream faded and for a long time I never properly replaced it.

For some reason, I stopped dreaming. Actually, that is not quite accurate – I never stopped dreaming, it is just I developed limiting beliefs and stopped believing my dreams were possible.

We All Dream

All men dream; but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act out their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.

– T. E. Lawrence

As I look around me each day, I don’t think I am the only one who has experienced this. So why is it, then, that we forget how to dream the beautiful dreams of our childhood?

Personally, I believe that we are taught to forget. As Bill Strickland says in Make the Impossible Possible:

We’re told how complicated life is, told we can’t do this and we’re not smart enough or fast enough or talented enough to pursue that. And in hearing that – in responding to these words whose effect is to close doors and narrow our thinking – we make ourselves poor… in our imagination and in leading a meaningful life.

So the big question is: how do we learn to dream again?

How to Dream Again

Lately, I have started to again dream like I did as a child. From this I have come to a powerful realization: let go of the need to know how. You see, when I analyzed my own thoughts I found the problem was that I would quickly discount my dreams as mere fantasies because I could not immediately imagine how these dreams would become reality. But the truth is, just because my mind doesn’t immediately know how it will accomplish something, it doesn’t mean it is impossible.

It can be uncomfortable to let go of the need to know how as this can make us feel vulnerable or silly. But if we are to dream to our full potential, it is essential that we learn to have faith in our abilities and the possibilities in life. This means we should dream wildly without trying to know how these dreams will become reality. There will come a time when we should develop a plan, but initially, we should enjoy the beauty of our dreams and trust that a path exists to realizing them.

53 thoughts on “Learning to Dream… Again”

  1. Hi Peter, I’m glad you’re dreaming again! :)
    I agree that the reason many have stopped is because they don’t know the “how” of it. You’re right in suggesting that we let go of that aspect of dreamin. Doing so, frees you to be even bolder and reach higher!
    Great article!

  2. Hey Peter, a wonderfully inspiring article. I love it. I think what beats most people is the nagative voices around them. Check out my website, there’s loads of simialr artciles.

  3. Great post, reminds me of the quote from Thoreau “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”. This quote has haunted most of my life. Could it be that I have forgotten my dreams and maybe even my ability to dream?
    It’s definitely something to think about. It might possibly be the cornerstone question of a life well lived.
    Thanks for the reminder to dream…

  4. I had a similar dream about writing a book to help people find happiness. I was in a writer’s group, reading about how to get published, etc. and decided marketing was a good part of being successful at writing. Hmm. That didn’t turn me on, so I analyzed what I really wanted. It was to touch people’s hearts and change their lives. So instead I started teaching classes and leading groups locally. That worked for me because I like to listen and learn as well as to talk. Then I started blogging about nine months ago, and I’m in hog heaven. I get the interaction and may be touching a few hearts. At any rate, I’m affirming my deepest values.

    The interesting thing is my classes were mostly framed as stress management, which is just a different way of saying the pursuit of happiness, but my blog Transforming Stress doesn’t get nearly as many hits as Cheerful Monk. Cheerful Monk is “devoted to happiness as a spiritual practice”, and I thought I would be writing that one mainly for myself, because that’s what my life is really about. The reaction was a pleasant surprise.

    Talking about touching people’s hearts and changing their lives sounds a bit pretentious to me, so I focus on sharing with, and listening to, people. I try to keep my ego out of it and figure I’m doing my part exploring ideas and posting weekly on each blog. The area where I know I’m making a huge difference is going over to the local animal shelter and helping to teach frightened dogs to trust humans and then to help them find loving homes. If that were my only contribution to life (besides my family) that would be enough.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post. Good luck!

  5. Peter,
    You already are a writer–and a good one. That was the first strong impression I had of you when I started reading your blog. I read a lot of stuff that people post on the web,
    but I seldom find any of it as compelling as your writing. It is no stretch for me to imagine you becoming a published book author. I believe that is in your future.
    I totally agree with you that we must allow ourselves to dream and that shutting down when we don’t know the how part of fulfilling our dreams is where most of us derail.
    I can think of a couple times in my life when I really, really wanted to do something and circumstances seemed to suggest that I could not. But it seems that my commitment to fulfill these longed-for goals and to not let go of them brought the means to fulfill them to me. Life supplied the means for me to get there in ways I would not have imagined.
    This article was a timely gift for me. Thanks! In the last several years, I experienced an unexpected tidal wave of the deaths of seven, yes, that many, of my most cherished loved ones and the loss of my career path all at the same time. As a result, I took a long journey through grief and my life flame reduced to a tiny, flickering pilot light. I literally existed in a state of shell shock as each loss was followed by another. Now I am beginning to enter the rebuilding phase and am on the lookout for clues to my next dreams and paths to follow.
    I feel strongly that synchronicity led me to find your blog. As I come back to life again, the seeker in me found another seeker in you and other seekers in the community of people who follow your blog. What’s next? I don’t know yet, but I trust that when I get clear about a new goal, life will help me get there. And your blog provides the fuel for taking that essential first step–daring to dream again. Thanks, my dear friend.

  6. Peter,
    I enjoyed reading the post and was comforted by not being alone as a dreamer. Typicaly “dreamer” has a negative conotation. Not so with me. I dream all the time and though restricted by reality to an extent I enjoy my dreams.


  7. Hi Peter,

    The initial quote in your article sent shivers down my spine! Why do we forget to draw, write, make beautiful things… I totally agree with your comments about the way we are taught to forget our dreams. When i was younger my dream was to be a famous writer and travel the world, doing book signings, getting movie deals and generally being a fabulous person. For a long time I suppressed this dream – but it’s like trying to hold your breath underwater. Your mind doesnt forget these dreams, which is the best gift of all! So after years of thinking “it’s too hard”, “i have to get a ‘real’ job”, “its just a dream”, I finally decided to go after it. I may never be famous, I may never sell millions of my books – but if one person read my novel/s and was touched, it would all be worth it.

    Thanks for your ongoing inspiration and innovation. Your articles are a fresh take on life, and in a time when many blogs are written by older people, to read the words of a 25 year old achieving his goals are refreshing. At 23, it makes me believe that i can succeed, too!

  8. Hi Peter – this is a great article, and a great reminder to us adults to never forget to dream like a child!

    It was only recently I realized that dreams need a conscious effort to make them real, or else they may never come true. For me, dreams are always the starting point, and the next step is for dreams to become goals. I see the difference being that goals have a specific plan to make it happen.

    You hit upon a very important point – people can make goals, but they forget how to dream.

  9. Dreams are for dreamers and i am guilty of that. My life is filled with daily junk and stressfull decision. But my dreams don’t die. One day I will go to Australia and grow old there. Live on the Cape and learn new customs and rituals. My children will get that drive to and venture somewhere where their minds take them. But mostly, my dream is that children are not sexually or physically abused. Too may of our children are vulnerable and defensless agains evil. With hope, prayer and exposure we can help them have dreams too.

  10. Wow, this post triggered so many thoughts.

    My dream is very similar to yours – to be able to settle down into writing/blogging in a quiet place where I can spend time with my family. Sounds simple enough.

    I think I would differ with you a little on the “how”. We need the “how” to get to our dreams. We might stumble our way into them otherwise, but the “how” gets us there more quickly. But the “how” must come after the “what”.

    The dream needs to be there first. The dream is the “what” component. We need to dream, to create the “what” in our minds clearly, to know what it is we want. Then, right before the “how” kicks in, we need to take the hardest step – deciding to make the dream a reality. I believe this is where most folks fail.

    It really is a simple step. It is a singular decision to do what it takes to make the dream come true. No more, no less. Once you have made that decision, the “how” gets much easier. You stop thinking about the obstacles and start focusing on the destination.

    I like using the roadmap analogy. Roadmaps are phenomenal tools. They show you how to get to where you want to go. Their weakness is that they can’t tell you where you want to go, only how to get there. When you pick up a map, you are usually looking for how you get from point A to point B. There are myriad ways to do it. But you already know the destination. Without the destination, all those squiggles and lines on the map mean much less.

    Dreams work the same way. You have to decide that you will get there before the “how”, the roadmap, can tell show you the way.

    So I say, don’t forget about the “how”, but decide on the “what” first.

    Great post!

  11. Peter and Jessica,
    “Oh, and like you I would much rather write a book that no one reads then to never write a book at all.” That reminds me of a quote: “It’s better to write for yourself and have no audience than to write for an audience and have no self.” Of course, the way it really works is if we go deep enough and write honestly there’s a great chance we’ll connect with another person/other people out there.

    Best wishes to you both!

  12. Thanks for the great post. For me, there have been several times throughout my life where I’ve had a dream and then had to abandon it. Right now we’ve had to move to a new city for my wife’s job and I’m not currently employed. It’s given me some time to think about my life, what I want to be and what direction I want to go. Somehow, working in a cubicle sucks the life out of you and for some reason my dreams disappear when I am working. Now, with no where to go everyday and time to think, my dreams have resurfaced. I’m hoping to be able to move ahead with becoming self sufficient somehow. That’s my ultimate dream. I’ve got ideas but need a few dollars to move ahead with them. We’ll see I suppose…

  13. let go of the need to know how….. my problem is letting go of the need to know WHY. Why keeps me up at night, it makes me cry, it makes me second guess myself. Why.

  14. I use to want to ‘train dolphins’ when I was about 12. That was a fun dream. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and then a travel writer — now of which I am both. Lately I have a dream to move to a cosmopolitan city where we can afford to buy a house (NYC is kind of expensive in that market nor are we sure we’d want to stick it out). I have an ongoing dream to earn passive income so I can continue to explore projects on my own time. I’ve dabbled in ebook sales, which worked fairly well, and google adsense is picking up. I also have a dream to help people travel with fulfillment. My trips aren’t ‘vacations’ but either work (which is fun) or complete self-exploration. Or both!

  15. Excellent.

    There’s a congruency between individuals who live life to the fullest and those who are still in touch with the part of themselves that offers the child-in-them’s wonderful simplistic viewpoint.

    I really like the “Letting go of the need to know how”. Once you can let go of need to know how you’ll instantly get the “hey, why not?” attitude that’s the first step to dreaming free.

  16. As a college student I hear negative things all around. I think that the best people don’t take into regard negative aspects that people say. They sort of have selective hearing or just take in the good parts of what a person can say. I will be the first owners of your book, *when you get that published. Your wisdom is taken greatly by people who don’t have a mentor or who such a mentality.


  17. I think that the reason why we stop dreaming is because we become programmed to avoid failure. We learn to go the safe route and avoid failure at all costs. We have such an adversity to failure that we start to become afraid of our dreams and start suppressing them until we forget how to.

    There really are a lot of things we can learn from kids. For example, when did we all forget how to play? I miss freeze tag.

    Great post!

  18. dreams are great, even if you dont remember them the next morning. i heard that if you dont dream at all whether you remember or not you can die in your sleep. that definitely one for mythbusters though. LOL

  19. I’ve spent a lot of time as a young person trying to figure out happiness and meaning in life. I wish you would follow your dream and write that book.

  20. Hi Peter,
    This is a great post. I think we all dream in life but difference between success and lack of it lies in the action. Success comes to those who seek action quickly and are slow to change once they begin. I would love to reference this article on my blog if you allow.


  21. My childhood dream was to become an artist. In kindergarten we once had to paint a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up. I painted myself behind an easel. The picture hung in our kitchen for a long time, so I remember it well. All through childhood I was very active with color and texture (I was generally very active,also in sports and socially), and I always dreamed of many more projects than I could ever realize, but that didn’t bother me because I always realized a few.

    But lately (I think only since I passed into ‘adulthood’, around the age of 22), although I haven’t stopped dreaming (I ‘see’ creative projects everywhere, have thousands of ideas a day) I have started holding myself back. I don’t work on a certain idea because it’s not feasible, or because people might not like it, or because I don’t have the know-how. This feeling of having to accomplish something, rather than just doing stuff, just passing time, makes it almost impossible to get into the flow, impossible to enjoy being creative or be content with the result of my work (or not care about the result, which is also fine,I’ve thrown or given away tons of perfectly beautiful work, just because all I cared for was the process of making it, not the end result).

    I think a large part of what holds me back is a (perceived) lack of time/money. Over the past 21 months I have graduated and given birth to a son and 20 months later a daughter. I started work as a GP in one pratice, then switched to another practice where I can do more socially relevant work (that was always a dream of mine,which I have now accomplished :-)). I love my job,I love taking care of my kids, I even love most of the household work I do, but I don’t have any time left to just ‘doodle’ creatively.

    I could take say 6 hours a week off (not just off work, but off everything: work, children, household,…). I can afford it, and my husband even supports it. But I would feel guilty.Towards my kids for not wanting to sped that time with them, towards my husband for spending money on daycare when I could be earning it. I don’t think I could really enjoy those 6 hours, and I know that if I feel I have to ‘achieve’ in those 6 hours, I will be sure to fail…

  22. Hi Peter,

    Nice Article.We are losing our dreams as we grow because of stress,financial burden of day-to-day life.
    Keep on dreaming,not worrying about how it is going to be achieved,you will fulfill the dreams,if you take small actions towards them consistently.
    My dream is to start a IT company,offering chances to poor,smart suburban kids.I am going to start a education foundation which helps helps poor students to fulfill their dreams.I am going to put up a library full of self improvement resources.
    I will achieve all these dreams with the help of like minded people.
    Thanks for giving me a chance to share my dreams.

    Best Wishes,
    Kannan Viswagandhi

  23. Hi Peter,

    I too believe that we let go of our dreams because they appear unachievable. Often life experience tends to navigate ones course. We tend to do what we know is achievable…a sure bet. No one wants to fail so pursuing an easier path can give one the feeling of accomplishment or “success”. The problem is, there’s very little satisfaction in achieving something that you aren’t really committed to or passionate about. There’s still a void that needs to be filled.

    I believe that if you have a dream or a passion, you’re more than half way there. Many people don’t know what they were born to do and struggle to figure it out. Their are many signs for those who struggle to figure it out, but reality can kill a dream. It’s hard to focus on destiny when you can’t pay your bills. People who achieve goals and live there dreams have an uncanny sense of urgency. They are willing to work harder than others, act while others try to figure out how, work while others sleep and play, believe while others doubt, fail publicly while others pretend to succeed, ask for help while others try to do it alone, and share their knowledge while others selfishly feel that those who come behind them must struggle as much as they did.

    I am a firm believer that most goals are achievable and that dreams are waiting to be realized. The problem is, most people are so busy looking for the easy way. They want to wake up and somehow find that they are living their dreams without having done any work. Unfortunately it doesn’t really happen that way.

    I am the author of Learning to Dream with Your Eyes Open: A Survival Guide for Inner City Youth. Peter, I had never planned to write a book but was often told that I wrote well. I also found myself in the Human Services field where I regularly worked with disadvantaged youth, adults, families and communities. One night I had a dream that I had written a book and the title was Learning to Dream with Your Eyes Open. The dream was so real and powerful that I decided to write the book. I had no advanced knowledge of the industry or any information about how tough it would be to find a publisher. I just started writing. Afterwards, I sent out query letters expecting positive results. Unfortunately I could not find a publisher. I didn’t give up though. I went to the library and took out several self-pulblishing books including Daniel Poynter’s self publishing guide. I followed the blue print in Mr. Poynter’s book and started my own publishing company and published my own book in 2005. the experience has been amazing and extremely rewarding. So if you have a dream, just get started and you’ll be amazed at how fast doors will swing open!

  24. Hi Peter,
    I guess I am from the believers. I believe in myself and my ability to create a life in which I am happy. I think dreaming is like having a wish. If you really wish it and believe in it, your dream comes true.
    Sometimes it takes its time but I know that it comes to me in the moment I am ready for it and by then the “how”s are going to be just details, so I have learned to be patient.

    There is something about your second quote: “All men dream; but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act out their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.” – T. E. Lawrence
    Since the day I red Vanity Fair the word “vanity” and its use have always been special for me and this is what triggered something.
    I think the dreamers of the night are all the people who dream and do not believe that they can achieve their dreams, so they make up small justifications, small lies they tell themselves and end up not having achieved anything they really wanted.
    The second case are the dangerous ones. I think you can see some of them in the politics of the present and the past, quite controversial figures. These are people with big dreams, that want to shape the society, the world, itself and believe in themselves so much that they actually do it.
    The only wrong thing in changing the world is that happiness has a different meaning for everybody, what one wishes, the other may not desire.

    So I am a small scale dangerous person, as I dream only for me and my life.
    Thank you for the great article,

  25. Excellent post, Peter! When I changed careers a year ago, I wanted so much to have a clear plan, but it just wasn’t possible. One of the most important things was trusting that I could make the switch and that I would, though my hard work, come across the path I need to follow. And I did (phew!). It’s so critical to trust oneself.

    Love your posts!

    Monica Hamburgs last blog post..Play that Funky Upside Down Chair, White Boy

  26. I have been so miserable as a stay at home/part time working mom for almost twenty years, that I have spent most of my thoughts in a land of dreams. Most times, I didn’t worry too much about how to make them real. Sometimes they were a passing fancy. Sometimes I thought about them day and night. Sometimes I wrote them out in a journal everyday for several months. None of them came true.

  27. i really like your post, when we grow up we build false beliefs that prevents us from reaching what we want, i guess its the child’s mind set that can help you dream again

  28. As you said I will share my dreams … at least one of them. I have a non profit organization that can help kids in the streets, which is a big problem in my country.. A place where these children can live comfortable , making sure each of them are happy, feel safe. They can grow mentally and physically good , to be a successful person in their life. A place they can see it as their family . A organization can help them to integrate to the society in the future . A dream that with persist ency and optimism can happened!

  29. People definitely are affraid to dream big. Most are affraid of disappointments, so they stop dreaming. One of the important steps in achieving a dream is to stick to it. If we don’t pursue what we want, then maybe we don’t really want it?

  30. My dream nowadays is to just be able to write and blog productively enough so that I wouldn’t have to work for someone else just to earn a living. I don’t have clear plans however. I just let things happen as they come. I don’t know but I have a feeling that I really need to draft up a plan of action if I really desire to move forward. Lately, I’ve been on a rut as I can’t seem to find some new ideas to write about. And I don’t subscribe to some bloggers’ suggestion of just re-writing someone else’s work and publish it as my own.

    Oh, to be free to go places purely for leisure.

  31. Hi Peter,

    Good post, and an impressive amount of comments. I am trying to ‘grok’ how to kickstart a community around the idea that a community of dreamers can help each other attain. So allow me use this spot to point towards the community around realising dreams, that I am trying to host.

    I’ll look around on your blog and see if there should be other good posts.


  32. Thank you so much for a great article. In this article, you articulated how I had been feeling about my life, in a way that even I could not put it into words. Thank you!

  33. I am a 35 year old mum with a 15yr old son and the while with my husband facing difficulty on the work front and the years of responsibilites tied to being the breadwinner for most of our marriage i have found myself so tired and completely unable to dream let alone even recognise what i want from the future. Are there any suggestions in finding out what it is you even want of where to begin….

    Thank you for all your posts and your beautiful article.

  34. EGYPTION for ever

    we’re told how complicated life is, told we can’t do this and we’re not smart enough or fast enough or talented enough to pursue that. And in hearing that – in responding to these words whose effect is to close doors and narrow our thinking – we make ourselves poor… in our imagination and in leading a meaningful life.”
    Really AMAZING words & this article is very good.

    I wish you could write your book and achieve your dream in the future.

    I dream of a bright future,change the world,be a role model for all Muslims and Supervised all the Egyptians…Also,I’ve some beautiful & great dreams,but I wouldn’t mention them here,but Once I read this article, promised myself to write my dreams(which didn’t mentioned here) in note and read it every morning so as not to be who forget their dreams.:)

    When I achieve my all dreams (en shaa allah *IF GOD WANTED THAT* ) I will enter this page and mention that >:)


  35. Amazing thoughts. Dreaming is free. And its amazing how we can get into tunnel vision and mediocre thinking. Its time we started believing that our dreams are so possible!

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