So, You Don’t Know What to Dream?

I’ve talked to several people lately who claim they don’t know what to dream. Honestly, six months ago, I’m not sure I would have understood what they meant. “You don’t know what to dream? How could you not know what to dream?” I would have said.

Dreaming had become an everyday, regular part of my life.

what-to-dream
Photo Credit: motiqua, Creative Commons

Then the weirdest thing happened.

As 2013 came to a close and I reflected on the last year (or few years) of my life, I realized most of the things I had dreamed of doing or seeing—I had done. Most of the dreams I’d dreamed had come true. I know that sounds irritatingly like a Disney movie or something, but I’m serious. I had gotten married, launched an online magazine, published a book, started speaking, traveled to some long-awaited locations and moved a few times until we finally settled in our home in Nashville.

I don’t say any of that to brag. I say it to point out that I think dreams come in seasons. And, at the end of last year, I realized a long season of dreaming had come to a close, and I really felt like I was supposed to rest for a little bit.

So I did. And I’ve been resting. I continue to rest. My theme for this year has been to be gentle with myself, to take care of myself, to learn to change my inner-dialogue. And, honestly, this season of rest feels important, but I get the sense it’s sandwiched between a season of dreaming that was bigger than any I could have imagined, and another one coming that will be bigger still.

And yet, when I hear people say they don’t know what to dream—strangely, I totally understand. I think there are a few reasons we don’t know what to dream.

First, as I mentioned, I think dreaming comes in seasons.

So if you’re in a season where you don’t know what to dream, I don’t think it means you’re “not a dreamer” or that you’re not capable of dreaming or that God hasn’t given you dreams. I don’t even think it’s a bad thing. Sometimes periods of rest are when our dreams are busy percolating behind the scenes, or when we’re busy growing into the person we need to be to fulfill those dreams.

Second, I think dreams often come in seasons of desperation.

For me, this is true. Usually, dreams don’t come to me when I’m living smack in the middle of my comfort zone. They don’t usually come to me when I’m being pampered, or when every need is met, or when I’m living in luxury. There are certainly times for comfort and luxury (and even pampering) but dreams usually  come to me when I’m tired, confused, anger, afraid or pushed to my limits.

Dreams come to me when someone coaxes me to a place I don’t necessarily want to go.

Dreams come to me when I’m fed up, frustrated, or bored out of my mind and can’t bear to stay in my current situation any longer.

Third, I think many of us are scared to dream.

I know I am. No matter how many times I’m reminded of the life-giving power of dreams, I’m afraid of the responsibility that comes along with dreaming. Sometimes I fear my dreams are selfish. Sometimes I fear I’ll never accomplish them. Often, I fear the criticism or ridicule I’ll likely receive for chasing what I want.

Daily I think of how vulnerable dreaming makes me, and how much sacrifice it takes to achieve anything important.

But I also try to remind myself that dreaming matters, that it isn’t selfish to dream, that it’s actually one of the most humble, giving things we can do. That doesn’t make it feel safer to dream, but it makes it feel worth it.

It almost makes me feel like it’s time to start dreaming again…

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Allison Fallon

I write books. I help people write books. I believe a regular practice of writing can change your life.

3 thoughts on “So, You Don’t Know What to Dream?”

  1. Allison…thank you so much for your beautiful and timely post this morning. I, too, find myself in a season of rest right now and at a loss as to what I “should” be dreaming of. I always have known what I want, but now I struggle to put those wants and needs into words leaving me to feel adrift. I strive to be content in the here and now rather than focus too heavily on the future. Not being able to identify my dreams makes my future-gazing murky which causes me angst and fear. I keep telling myself that when I have to sit down and really focus on what I want then my dreams will come to me. This post has helped me to see that perhaps instead of worrying about my lack of dreaming, I should embrace this period of rest so that I can be prepared when the dreaming begins again. Thank you for that and for committment to this blog. I look forward to your entries and consider you a kindred spirit.

  2. As not infrequently happens, just what I needed to hear. For years I didn’t have a dream, or even a goal. I was stuck in a limbo-land of apathy. Last year I began having hints of a dream, which brought hope. I’ve been planning to work on that dream this year – but still have fears not just of negativity from others, but of it turning out to be not what I wanted after all…and what will I dream then? 🙂

    Curious to see what your next dreaming season will hold.

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