a : a strongly desired goal or purpose
b : something that fully satisfies a wish : ideal
Show me someone without dreams, and I will show you someone that has settled for status quo, and ceased to grow. Dreams are exciting at any stage of life–remember dreaming of what you wanted to be when you grow up? Or who you would marry? Or what life would be like if you EVER got out of college? Then we grow up, and the dreams become very personal–starting a business that employs women in Africa. Or finally being at a place financially to think about starting a family. Or taking the risk to start your own business, or teach a class, or write a book.
Dreams give us something to hope for; they shape our decisions and help chart the course of our future. They get us out of bed when we’d rather roll over and hit the snooze button–because dreams give us energy and purpose.
It is a joyful thing to celebrate dreams realized, whether our own, or someone else’s. But what do we do when that dream of ours is NOT realized…when all of the friends have babies…except you? When the irritating co-worker ends up with the promotion you just knew you would get? Or you are standing at the alter yet again…the bridesmaid, not yet the bride? What do we do with the disappointment that comes with yet another job rejection? Or business failure? Or you’re just in what seems to be an eternal hold…“press 1 to continue into the next decade, press 2 to jump off the nearest cliff, press 3 to move in with your in-laws, press 4 to hit restart.” I think you know what I’m talking about, because no one’s life moves forward without a few setbacks–no matter how perfect their life may seem.
So WHEN (not if) discouragement comes and that dream is not realized…what can we do?
- Fire the committee What committee? The one that sits in our head, spouting all kinds of things that if it were someone else talking, we would say, “You don’t even know what you’re talking about.” But because it’s a conversation in our head, we assume it’s true. So wrestle with what you know to be true, even if you don’t FEEL it at the moment. I love the words of Paul to the Philippians, in 4:8–“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” (The Message)This isn’t “pie in the sky” thinking, rather, it’s grounding yourself in what you KNOW to be true, and refusing to allow yourself to wallow in the committee’s accusations: “You’re not good enough. You’re not smart enough. You’re not creative enough.” Nope, push those aside and keep digging for truth that you can stand on regardless of the waves that may be crashing around you.
- Share your disappointment with someone. We are not meant to carry hard stuff alone. It means being willing to take the happy mask off and be real with SOMEONE. This takes courage, to open our heart even the slightest, and risk saying out loud to another person what is really going on inside. Just make sure that it’s someone you trust will not just listen and walk away. That feels even worse than carrying it ourselves. Use a little discernment when deciding who that person might be…and pass on the one that is known to love the chance to gossip in the guise of a “prayer request” the very first opportunity she gets. It is risky to be vulnerable, yet that is what forges relationships that will see us through the good times, as well as the hard times.
- Seek out positive mentors. It’s been said that misery loves miserable company. Don’t hang with people that just want to complain or make you feel even worse by telling you all their horror stories. Consider someone who is in a different season of life than you. Chances are they, too, have hit discouragement, and came through the other side. Find other dreamers, and risk takers….they will understand and have some insight into handling discouragement. A mentor can also be very valuable in helping you to recognize the truths in #1–they can be the voice that reiterates truth, or helps you validate the truths about yourself. You are courageous; you are beautiful; you are loved; you are talented. I love the line from The Help by Kathryn Stockett:“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”
You bring something to the world that no one else can, because you are unique. Never. Stop. Dreaming.