I sat across from a new client recently and asked, “What lights you up?”
They paused and shifted, looking away from the camera. “That’s the thing. I don’t let myself get lit up. Being lit up is… dangerous”.
I have heard this frequently with clients, and the message is always the same: Hope is dangerous. If any of us lives long enough, we will see our sincerest hopes and dreams dashed to pieces by unwanted circumstances. In these moments of grief or devastation, we unknowingly declare things like, “I will never let my guard down like that again” or “It’s better to never try than to feel this” or “Why bother hoping for anything better, things just don’t work out for me.”
We log away this memory, sometimes so deeply that we forget we ever decided that hoping was a bad idea. But as we move through life in a more cautious, less hopeful way, we start to feel just a little dead inside. We think that our numbness is a result of our age or our circumstances, but it’s not. Our aliveness is still there, but blocked out by thick, dark clouds of fear.
When I work with my clients on living into a future of their own creation, we work on what I call “dream tolerance”. We begin to exercise the muscle of dreaming and hoping in a way that feels terrifying at first - the past stories and thoughts pulling the e-brake every five minutes.
But together, we practice staying vulnerable. We practice listening to what the fear is predicting - “YOU FOOL, DON’T YOU REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED LAST TIME?!” We lovingly bring it to inquiry, we hold it, but we challenge it with philosophical rigor. I ask, “And if you do fail again, which is possible, then what? What will happen?” We pause and consider the answer, and on we go.
Slowly but surely, the client begins to say, “I will be hurt, but I will survive, and I will try again. I can survive anything.” And like this we let another beam of terrifying, radiant, life-sustaining sunshine in. As it enters the soul, the heart soaks in all that warmth, and a blooming and a flowering process begins - one so beautiful it defies description.
Over our time together, dream tolerance increases until there is so much possibility that it simply blows the roof off. This is an utter delight for me, and it often moves me to tears. To dream is to live. We are here to hope. It is what we miss most about being children - our freedom to imagine the unimaginable.
Hope is a choice.
And now I ask you - what will you choose? What dreams have you forgotten to dream? Which ones have you given up on? Where does your resignation and cynicism lie? I invite you to think again, and reconsider what is possible for yourself and your life. The worst that happens? You fight and work for a beautiful future. You are engaged in purposeful, meaningful action. You feel excited and driven, and look back and see a life well-lived.
Honestly? I can’t think of anything better.
Get dreaming, my loves.