I love to dream, to imagine that my house is clean, freshly painted, sustain-ably landscaped, newly carpeted, and tastefully furnished, and that I have guest rooms with comfy beds and crisp linens. That my kids are successful, in strong relationships, building their own healthy families, and happy. That I know all my neighbors and we gather for impromptu parties and lend a hand to one another often and know who's birthday it is and who just got bad news and who could use a bottle of wine and whose dog that is outside.
What's the difference between dreams and goals? Lots of productivity experts and life coaches and people who like to hear themselves sound smart have written answers to that question -- goals are dreams plus action, dreams are goals without a plan, dreams become goals with commitment. I think it goes much deeper than that, and that our very personal, closely held dreams are fragile and we fear they might crumble if exposed to the light of day and the aggressive self-help experts.
I dream of being thin. If forced to admit it, I'd say that being overweight is the single failure in my life, the one thing that breaks my heart, that feels insurmountable, that grows to impact every goal I set -- if I can't even get my own body healthy, how do I expect to help anybody else? It holds me back and generates fear of other failures. I can only admit this now because I've lost nearly 100 pounds, even though I'm still drastically overweight and the pain of that fact is still crippling.
We all have tender dreams like that, which we admit only to our most trusted friends, if even them. Loved ones with good intentions can grab onto these painful truths and try to support us, to convince us that these dreams need to become goals, that success is achievable, that our pain or weakness or fear doesn't have to be permanent. We know this to be true, and sometimes a good nudge gets us over that first hump and transforms a dream to a goal, but we must be ready, and must have strength in other parts of our psyches to bolster up the tender newborn goal. Well-meaning friends, please be gentle -- this dream has tried to run so many times and fallen down and broken, that now it only hopes to walk without a limp.
What's your dream? Your true, deep, seemingly impossible, the-world-would-be-so-much-better-if-only dream? Health? The end of racism? A secure retirement? A home of your own? Peace in the Middle East? A cure? Love? The freedom to give without fear of loss? The dream doesn't have to be noble. The noble ones are easy to share. It's the personal ones that weigh us down, that generate pain and fear and loneliness. If only I could get my teeth fixed, I know I'd be able to make a better life. If only I didn't snore. If only it didn't hurt to walk. If only...
Dreams are ethereal and magical. They may become goals someday, if the conditions are right and they can be tenderly and relentlessly cultivated. But they aren't goals now. They're precious and secret and beautiful. They make us who we are. Hold them close to your heart and keep them safe. They're depending on you to give them life ... someday.