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Whose dream?

The dream house, the dream job, the dream life. If we dare to, we all dream. We dream about death and life. We dream about money, failure and success. Whatever the topic, the length or frequency we all imagine something bigger and better.

They say if you believe in your dream with all your heart, you can achieve it and make your dreams come true. They say that that all you need is a burning desire in your heart and passion to achieve that dream. Then follow this desire with a detailed plan. Plan exactly what you want and take baby steps. For sure, you will hit some road bumps along the way, but if you learn from your setbacks, you will realize your dreams.

In my opinion, there are two types of dreams. Dreams you have for yourself, and dreams “others” have for you.  The American Dream is one such dream that is predesigned by “others”. James Truslow Adams, in his book The Epic of America, refers to the American Dream as a dream of a land in which life is better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. The American Dream is commonly perceived with a white picket fence encompassing a mother and father drinking iced tea in the backyard, surrounded by their two children playing with the family’s dog. This is an idealistic myth. Most families are not nuclear nor do they enjoy the fruits of their labour with a glass of iced tea. So whose dream are we really talking about?

The thing is, we have blurred the lines between what we dream for ourselves and what “others” dream for us. If we are not careful, we can unconsciously be following someone else’s agenda for our lives. This usually happens because we are unwilling to take responsibility for our own lives and when we don’t question ourselves deep enough. If helping someone else’s dream will help realize yours, then by all means go for it, but this is usually not the case. More often than not, latching onto someone else’s dreams serves as a convenient excuse to avoid your own dreams.

I recently began the process of applying for graduate school, and the first question I was asked was; Why do you want to study in this school? I could have easily replied saying, it has been my life’s dream to study at such a prestigious institution, but I stopped to think. Was it really my dream? Or the dream of “others”?  Do I want to go to such a school because it will give my life meaning or because it will mean a lot in my life?

Have your parents ever asked you to do something because it was their dream; and because growing up they did not have the opportunity to do such things? Again, ask yourself, do you dream for the perfect vacation in Mombasa because it is what you want or because your friends went there and you saw pictures on Facebook and decided it’s what you need also? Are you doing what you love most or something that is expected of you?  Do you feel the joy of going to work every morning or is it just something that needs to be done?

Every man has the right to become whatever his manhood and vision can combine to make him. Dreams do not happen by chance. It takes a lot of hard work, risk and perseverance. So when you look back at your life, you shouldn’t see which dreams came true and how it came true, instead you should see which dreams were truly “yours”. This way you live a meaningful and intentional life.