Dreams can be achieved when they suit your psyche, innate talents, skills and the reality of your present circumstance. Truth is far more effective and empowering than an ill-fitting fantasy of greatness.  For happiness, figure out what is innate or uniquely pleasurable for you and take it from there. You might be able to do something practical with it.  As you know from Shakespeare (To thine own self be true) your mother (Just be yourself) and the bible (The truth shall make you free) there is much to be gained by mining what you have or who you really are.

  Fantasies/daydreams are healthy and useful as they free the mind. They give clues about sequestered wishes, conflicts, abilities and limitations. By the way, knowing your limitations is a great strength. It teaches you to create from flaws or to focus on other things.  Fantasies /daydreams are good because they spark motivation, optimism and even the precursor to a concrete plan.  

Start with the fantasy and figure out how to make it work in real life.  But pick a fantasy that fits and that you have a reasonable chance of achieving. You can’t make it happen with effort alone. Occasionally people pick a suitable dream and do all the right things and it doesn’t work out. With some creativity and flexibility, you can move on. Loss has led to many surprising gains. Stay attuned your inner life and you will make good choices. But be honest about what is not working.

Telling people they can do anything they set their mind to just isn’t true and it can be damaging. By asking questions and noting eyes lighting up we can help people uncover inclinations that they may not even be aware of. It is easier to do well if you are interested in the subject and if you have a feel for it. Passion is not a requirement, but it helps to pick something that has enough pull to make you stay the course.

 Recently a lawyer friend told me that she would have become an architect if she had been exposed to the field earlier in her life. She builds homes for a charitable organization during her vacations. In fact, she built her own home. Another lawyer I met became a dog walker and still another opened a knitting store. All of these people seemed to move away from a thinking profession and into one that involves the hands, the body and use of the five senses. A patient told me that some of his happiest moments came from building cabinets although he enjoys  practicing law as well. Another patient was forced to become a classical musician and cried about it. Matthew Crawford in his book Shop Class as Soulcraft writes about how the switch from being an academic to being a mechanic was a positive move for him.

 It is not that we judge, tell people what to do, or even know the best course for someone else, but exploration might help someone uncover some life-altering material. A conversation with a friend, a pastor, a therapist or even a person in a coffee shop can make you think.  Of course it takes courage to go against familial or cultural values.

 A few weeks ago, I was teaching my psychotherapy class and was told about a patient who had worked for a business for many years but was let go. He then spent $50,000 to return to school but failed out. His fantasy about himself did not match his innate ability.  Now he has the debt but no degree and no job. He was hospitalized because he wanted to kill himself.

These days there are some unrealistic education fantasies floating around.  Jacques Steinberg of The New York Times writes about about skipping college and Plan B possibilities.  There are many options if we think creatively about what it means to live well and if we pick a dream or a pursuit that suits our psyche and our circumstance. There are many dreams from which to choose. And it is never too late to find activity that makes you feel alive.


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