Updated: Sep 1, 2019
It's hard to build a future if you can't see past today.
In the movie Not Easily Broken, the main character, Dave Johnson, was a baseball coach who took some young boys under his wing and served as a father figure to them. One of the young boys’ father, Darnell Gooden, who is not a fan of the coach, pulls his son out of practice. While in a fit of rage as he sat in the car, he went on a rant about being in the real world that is heartless. His final words to his son were to wake up and stop dreaming. Unfortunately, I’ve personally seen and heard countless stories of well meaning or sometimes, ill-intentioned people tell others to stop dreaming. While I do believe people should make plans that are grounded in reality, I believe it’s just as important, if not more important, to acknowledge and pursue the reality of what’s possible. That is where your dreams and visions come into play. One of the most dangerous and toxic things we can say to people is to stop dreaming.
What if someone told Harriet Tubman to stop dreaming?
What if someone told Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to stop dreaming?
What if someone told Bill Gates to stop dreaming?
What if someone told Barack Obama to stop dreaming?
One thing I realized is that all these people were motivated by a dream and to an extent, their dreams were realized because they fought to make it a reality. The dream was the beginning of all of the work that was done. Oftentimes people associate dreamers with lazy and unmotivated people who don’t work hard. That’s untrue. People who are dreamers have a vision that motivates them to plan diligently and work hard. Lazy and unmotivated folks chase fantasies, not dreams. As proverbs says, those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty. (Proverbs 28:19, NIV) A dream is based in the reality of what’s possible. Fantasies are based on things that are removed from reality. With a dream, you don't need to have all the details perfectly pinned down. You simply need to have courage, work ethic, and patience to see it through to completion. Dreams are necessary to keep us motivated and moving forward. I believe everyone should take time to dream on a daily basis in order for them to stay motivated on their path in life.
A dream could be a cherished aspiration, ambition, or ideal. A vision is a picture you have of that dream made manifest in the future that you desire. Oftentimes, there’s a moral element to a vision where one sees what is and thinks about what should be – what must be. It starts off as a burden or a concern and morphs into a vision. One of the steps in creating a meaningful life is having a vision of what you want your future to be and what place in life you want to reach. At this point, you may have a vision or a dream of what you want your future to be, but it may not be clear. The more you learn about yourself and about the world around you, the clearer that vision and dream will be and the farther out you can see. So keep learning and paying attention to what excites you and what you see in the world around you so that the vision becomes clearer.
Florence Chadwick was a long distance swimmer and the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions, setting a record each time. Following that, she was going to swim from the California Coastline to Catalina Island, which is a 26-mile swim. On the day of the swim, it was very cold. The surf was very rough and it was very foggy. After swimming for 15 hours and fighting the surf and the cold, she turned to her coach and said, “I can’t go any further. Pull me in the boat.” He said, “Are you hurt?” She said, “No.” He told her, “You don’t know this but your pace is really strong. You should keep going.” She did and fought for another hour before asking to be pulled into the boat. As the boat departed, the fog lifted and just a half mile away was Catalina Island. She said, “If I could have seen it, I could have made it.” The vision was fogged over. Two months later, she tried again. The same thick fog set in but this time she said she reached the island by keeping a mental image of the shoreline as she swam. Her vision of what was there kept her going.
In this section of the book, I want to help you get started with some examples of a dream or vision.
Examples of a Dream
1. Having a Solid Financial Foundation
2. Restoring Hope in the lives of people
3. Bringing Positive Change to the Justice System
4. Reducing the high school dropout rates.
Example of a Corresponding Vision
1. Having 3-6 months of emergency savings. Paying off all your debt. Saving consistently in your retirement account. Starting businesses with passive streams of income.
2. Hosting a block party and offering free healthcare to people in your community. Being a blessing to others by using your gifts and talents.
3. Working with your local legislators to change laws that harm your community. Working to build the bond between the community and the police department.
4. Starting literacy programs and obtaining funding to give after-school jobs to students in the school.
These are a few examples of a dream and the corresponding vision. Don’t be limited to what you see here. At the end of this chapter, you will have an opportunity to write out your thoughts on your dreams and visions. Writing is a powerful way to begin transmitting thoughts into reality.
I want you to be excited for the journey that you are about to go on and be intentional about the direction you want your life to go. Take some time alone. Go for a walk. Go in a quiet room in the library. Go sit in your car. Go anywhere where you have peace and quiet and take some time to think and write down some of your thoughts. If you’re like me when I started, you didn’t really have a lot to write down, but the more you learn, think, and plan, the more you’ll be able to write.
Take the time now to write out your dreams and vision.
Things to Remember
1. A vision doesn’t always require immediate action or action at all on your part. It will always require some form of patience. Something that was meant to be a blessing can be a curse if you get it too soon so you have to let the vision mature in you. A good idea may not be the vision you have to invest in because not everything that’s a major concern today will be a major concern tomorrow. It may be someone else’s vision that inspires you so you have to be able to support other people's vision without getting lost in their vision. Be patient to sort all the emotions you’re having. A genuine vision will eventually feel like a moral conviction and imperative. This can only be determined through patience and constant reflection. Patience is not a lack of belief but evidence of wisdom. Patience will come from the strength of your vision.
Has your vision become a moral imperative or is it just something nice to see?
2. You have to mature to meet the vision. At first, your vision will probably be bigger than your ability to achieve it. You have to take the time to determine what your vision will take and how you’ll need to grow in your skills and abilities. I.e. getting a degree, books to read, attending conferences, classes to take, getting mentored…etc.
3. You are the guardian of your dreams and vision. You have to affirm your vision every day. Don’t measure the clarity of your vision by how others respond. As a matter of fact, sometimes opposition determines the legitimacy of your vision. Some of the most successful and fulfilled people I've met have had the greatest opposition from their own friends and families as they pursued their dreams. Sometimes the people closest to you are the ones who either can't see or won’t support your vision. Vision speaks to change and some people simply don’t want change because it makes their life inconvenient. Be wise about who you share your dream and vision with because some people are small-minded and may be intimidated by someone with a big vision and attempt to sabotage you.
a. Vision doesn't stick without constant care and attention. There are times and even seasons when you don't feel passionate about your vision. These moments are never easy but in the pursuit of purpose, it's almost inevitable. Watch movies and read books that nurture your vision. Surround yourself with like-minded people who will help you nurture the vision. Find a story, a quote, or a scripture that serves as a benchmark. This will ensure that you can sustain yourself on the journey for the long haul.
4. When people are convinced that the vision has stuck with you, they will stick with the vision. If you are the person who has the vision and want others to support you, you have to be the champion of the vision and strong enough to have the tenacity needed for others to invest.
5. Having a vision helps you get back up after you fall down or encounter obstacles along the way. Also, having a vision will keep you from going back to unhealthy activities from your past.
6. Vision doesn't have to be grandiose. Having a vision has nothing to do with being famous. It’s about bringing into reality what’s envisioned in your mind. Remember that everyone who is famous is not great and everyone who is great is not famous.
7. We can never see our vision clearly if the trauma of the past blocks our perspective. I believe one of the dimensions of wholeness in someone’s life is their vision. Part 3 addresses emotional tools needed to get unstuck or to free up the emotional energy to pursue your dreams because if you can't visualize what you want your future to be, you'll likely become a victim of circumstance.
8. Be committed to your vision but flexible in your approach. Things won’t be perfect on the journey. You will encounter challenges so you have to grow in your ability to adapt to change (see chapter 30). Problems are a part of the journey, but they are not the journey itself. Keep this in mind and you can adjust your expectations.
Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
Never reduce your life to the event you're facing now. If you do that, you will not see what's ahead of you. The enslaved Africans didn't envision President Barack Obama. They couldn't imagine that. They did imagine a future different from where they were.
A vision that really works is something that excites you - something so exciting, so attractive.
The best way to predict the future is to make it.
If you can close your eyes and visualize, you can open your eyes and realize it. You will know when you've arrived because you had a destination in mind.
If you don't know what you're precisely looking for, you have no right to expect it.