The Truth About Our Dreams

What’s your dream?

To become an artist? To travel the world? To start your own business? To spend more quality time with your loved ones? To be happy every single day?

If time, money and energy didn’t matter, what’s that one thing you want for your life such at the end of it, when you look back, you can say it was truly well-lived?

Whatever you believe your dream is right now, there’s a common misconception that our dreams are something on the horizon, to be looked forward to in the distant future, and so we end up waiting for “the right time”.

There’s also a common misconception that our dreams are not to be taken seriously, and are sometimes even in contradiction to the more important, practical things we need to focus on now in order to “survive”.

As someone who has spent my life trying to fulfil my dreams (and changing course many times along the way), this has been a constant struggle for me.

But for the past eight years, I’ve been really fortunate to be a part of a coaching community, where I’ve trained in leadership and other skillsets, such that I’m able to create the necessary structures that have allowed me to fulfil some of my biggest dreams: becoming a professional visual artist (a forgotten dream from where I was 8 years old), and starting an international project that allows me to travel the world and connect people to their dreams through street art.

In my journey so far, I’ve learned a few things about what our dreams really are, and what’s behind some of the common mis-truths we tell ourselves about pursuing them.

First of all, our dreams are similar to what inspiration is to an artist. When an artist is inspired and has a vision for a new work, it’s their job to act upon this inspiration and express it by transforming it into a tangible form. In other words, they turn an intangible idea into something we can perceive with our physical senses in reality.

This tangible form will typically go through a few iterations, edits and adjustments, all of which come about from further inspiration and ideas, before the artist decides the work has evolved enough and attained its final form.

But if the artist never acts upon the inspiration or their vision, then no tangible form can come from it. And if the artist stops taking action at any point in time, the artwork will not attain its final form.

It’s the same with our dreams. No matter how silly, impractical or insignificant we think our dreams are, it’s our job to act upon the idea and the vision, and to take action and express it in a tangible way, such that it becomes a part of our physical reality.

And it’s only in the process of acting upon the dream and expressing it tangibly, that new ideas, information, and insights about our dream emerge, which we continue to take action and express, and so on… until finally we’ve created our entire life as our masterpiece, something that truly embodies who we are and our truest intentions, much like the artist’s magnum opus.

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

In theory, it is simple: You have a vision, and you make it happen in your reality.

But why do many of us not take action on what we truly want, and continue to perceive our dreams from afar as something meant for “someday” (which inevitably keeps getting postponed and procrastinated)?

This is because over our lifetimes, in almost all aspects of our lives, we’ve been unconsciously conditioned to follow the majority, and to stick with conventions. We’ve become comfortable with what we have been told is the “right” way to live. We’ve become creatures of habit, and the unconventional nature of our dream threatens to upset the (illusion of) balance and stability we have worked so many years to establish in our lives.

And coupled with the internal self-limiting programming where we’ve learnt to depreciate ourselves — fearing that we will screw up and fail, that we’re not good enough, that we don’t deserve to get what we truly want — the stakes of going after something uncertain and unconventional become so much higher, because we think we stand to lose everything we have worked so hard to attain and maintain.

Thus even if we know we have a dream, even if we intend to fulfil it “someday”, we’re unlikely to take action to pursue it because we don’t want to upset this nice little stable life that we’ve already made for ourselves.

Another reason we don’t pursue our dreams is because we think: “If it’s my dream, I should feel passionate about it, thus it should come easily for me.”

This is a common misconception that having passion for something means we will want to do it all the time, and hence it will be easy every single time.

Over years of pursuing various passions in writing, acting, singing, dance, and visual art, I’ve discovered that nothing is easy in this life, not even what you’re passionate about.

To some extent, being passionate about something helps to bring you back to it whenever you feel like quitting (which happens more often than we think for those of us who know what this journey is really like).

But overall, the path to living your dreams and pursuing your passion is no less challenging than living a conventional life that you have been conditioned to choose.

With this misconception that fulfilling our dreams should be an “easy” journey, we don’t anticipate that our internal barriers will always stop us, and we might then think: “Hey, aren’t I supposed to feel like doing this all the time? How come it’s so hard and I don’t feel like doing it anymore?”

And then we tell ourselves: “Because I no longer feel like doing it, it’s probably not my passion, and it’s not really meant for me.”

When more often than not, this is the very sign that you’ve once again stopped yourself from going after your dreams and what truly matters to you.

At times like these, you could leave your dream and your passion alone for awhile, and wait to see if it comes back. And usually when it does come back, it means this is something that truly matters to you, and you must see it through, lest you regret not doing so by the time you arrive at the inevitable end of your life.

“Dream & Desire’s Cosmic Adventure” (2017)
Watercolor and white gouache on watercolor paper, 11.7 x 8.3 in.