The Path of the Practical Dreamer
"Aim for the ideal; understand the real." Jean Jaures.
Dreams are, by nature, not practical. Practical has to do with what is; dreams have to do with what could be but isn't yet. So we do question them, we questions ourselves and so does the world. Should we have such a desire? Why aren't we satisfied with what we have? Is it appropriate? Is it possible? Realistic? Dreaming about a return to simpler times, for example, may be understandable when three out of four people report feeling stressed out, but do we dare think we could actually live a simpler life with time for family, personal fulfillment, nature, and meaningful work? To many that seems impractical, unrealistic, and even impossible.
Yet bridging these two worlds, the actual and the desirable, is the practical dreamer's challenge. The practical dreamer is both the architect and the builder, creating what could be from the reality of what is. So the practical dreamer must walk with one foot in the world of imagination, hopes, wishes, dreams, and possibilities and the other firmly planted in the world of physical reality with all its limitations; like time, money, space, form, material and the needs of other people. While our imagination is limitless, reality is not.
Many people choose not to walk the path of the practical dreamer, disliking the inconvenience and discomfort of having to straddle two very different, seemingly incompatible worlds. Some people prefer to live in the comfortable, imaginary world of their dreams, always talking and thinking, wondering, and planning about what they will do, could do or should do ? someday ? but never actually acting on their ideas. Without using some type of mind-altering substance, however, those who only dream are never truly satisfied with this choice. "Reality" has a perverse way of intruding into our awareness whether we want it to or not, reminding us again and again, often at the most unexpected moments, in the most unexpected ways, that our lives don't match our fantasies. So, as the Everly brothers song bemoaned in the 50's, inevitably we realize, "Only trouble is, ghee wiz, I'm dreamin' my life away."
Others prefer to live strictly in the world of practical reality; they choose not to wander into the "unrealistic" and impractical realm of dreams. "It's never been done before," they say; or "That's not the way we do things here." But those who never dream rarely feel truly satisfied with life either. They become enslaved to what is, and sooner or later sense that there could be more, especially when someone else attains what they would have enjoyed but never dreamt possible. It's a tedious, gray and gloomy world that's never lit by glimpses of a treasured dream.
How about you? Are you comfortable in both worlds? Can you dream? Do you dream? Can you accept and use reality as it is or would you prefer to ignore or fight it? Can you bring your dreams into reality and reality to your dreams?
Trying to walk between these two worlds can also put us at war with ourselves. The dreamer in us may thwart our efforts to be practical, realistic, and disciplined. The practical side of ourselves may squelch our dreams, declaring them impossible before we even have a chance to explore their potential. Thus it's easy to get stuck at some point in the cycle that turns desire into action and action into satisfaction. We can become disillusioned, stop dreaming and bury our desires. We can fail to act or become consumed with action and lose our dreams in the busyness of always having to be doing something. We can dream or work our lives away without stopping to savor or feel the satisfaction we crave. Who hasn't done some or all of these at some point in their lives? But we may tend to get stuck more often at one place in the cycle than another. I know for me it's in doing. I can literally "do myself in."
Where do you get stuck? Can you hold on to your dreams through thick and thin? Do you get down to work on them or let them sit on the back burners of your mind? Can you stick to business and persevere? Do you allow yourself to savor the satisfaction of what you accomplish, each step along the way?
Practical dreamers embrace both the dreamer and the practical taskmaster within themselves, welcoming and encouraging their imagination while honoring their ability to face and live within the practicalities of reality. Their inner dreamer and their inner taskmaster become allies, working as a team toward a shared vision, drawing equally upon the unique perspectives and tools of their two worlds.