Giving Up a Dream to Receive a Vision

Dreams are overrated and not for everyone. In fact, after living a life where I have worked in almost every type of organization with almost every type of person, in numerous different cultures and backgrounds, I can affirm that for most of us, a dream for our lives is a distraction to living the reality of our lives to the best of our abilities. Truth be told, most of us are never going to live our dreams anyway. So, the net effect of holding on to them may actually be negative when you consider the human tendency to compare what is to what could be or what might have been.

I’ve talked to a lot of unhappy people in my life and I can tell you with certainty that most of them are unhappy because they never fulfilled their dreams. That’s why I suggest giving up on your dreams and instead seek a vision for your life because if you have a vision, there is a good chance you may live some of your dreams. But, if you seek a dream, while having no vision–even if you force your dream to come true, it may distract you from witnessing life from a place of wonder, which can be a lot more fulfilling. I’ll use my life as an example.

A Family’s Dream Fulfilled

According to family lore, when I was born, my father announced that I was going to be a pastor–a role he always thought he would have been good at had he not made so many mistakes in his life. But, it wasn’t only my father who saw being a pastor in my future. My mother also saw in me the possibility of her dream being fulfilled. She too wanted to be a pastor. But because the denomination that she was in didn’t believe women could serve in church leadership, she decided that it would be up to me to live her dream. So, it was no surprise when others saw me as a pastor in waiting as well. And when I was six years old, I too decided that this was what I was meant to do, after what I can only describe as, a God encounter.

And so for several years, I saw myself in that light until about age 10 when I started feeling like I didn’t like the idea that my mother could not live her dream just because she is a woman. This angered me and caused me to question whether or not I wanted to dedicate my life to serving as a pastor in an institution that wouldn’t let my mother in. So, I gave up that dream and decided that I would just take the main lessons of treating people the way I wanted to be treated into whatever I did and just trust that if I did that well, everything else would work itself out. But, the question remained, if I wasn’t going to be a pastor, what was I going to do with my life?

As I look back on that time, I can admit that for the 25 years that it took me to finally go to seminary, I was always trying to reconcile that unfulfilled dream with whatever other work I chose to do. But, my main focus was on living the Golden Rule. So, even when I did decide to go to seminary, I wouldn’t say that I was going to become a pastor. I was clear that I had given that up. I told myself and everyone who asked that I was just going because I wanted to learn the skills of a pastor so that I could positively effect workplace cultures–not with religion, but with the awareness that individual and collective transformation was possible in an organization. That was going to be my “ministry”–to help people create organizations that were communities of embodied belonging where people bonded over providing life enhancing goods and services to our world.

Of course, there were probably other places that I could attend to hone those skills. But, while recruiting for a Dean for a Leadership Academy with a major corporation, I met a CEO and another high-level executive both with seminary degrees who gave me a bunch of reasons why this degree was a better education than many other programs for understanding Western culture. So, I went for it with the intent of bringing all these pastor skills to the people in the companies I intended to serve. Having witnessed how many organizations’ existing corporate cultures often inadvertently discouraged the realizations of the very cultural transformations they aspired to, I felt the ministerial training and learning the tools for narrative construction would go a long way in helping corporate (workplace communities) go from aspiration to actualization.

However, by the time I was graduating, I was at the top of my class and had even been chosen to give the commencement address. So, when people heard that I had not applied to serve any churches, they were shocked. People from my past and my present all agreed that I was supposed to be a pastor. And if you look at my profile, you will see that that is exactly what happened albeit not through the path that most people in my new women honoring denomination took. I quite literally visited the church I served once while checking out communities in the new city I was moving to. Next thing I know there is an opening for a minister, and I am saying yes to it and turning down a role in a tech company that I had been trying to get into for 6 months because even I couldn’t deny that this felt a lot like destiny.

It was as if the whole Universe had conspired to get me into that pulpit in the one town that my wife wanted to live in in the country. So, I decided to see it through. And then 6 and a half years later, almost as suddenly as I felt called there, I felt called to leave. So, I resigned with no idea what was next. But do you see what happened? While holding on to the vision of being someone who treats people as I would like to be treated, I had accidentally fulfilled the dreams of my parents and the younger me. And a long the way, I had done many other things that I never dreamed about such as serving in the military, learning Mandarin, creating music, being in two documentaries, doing standup comedy, writing a book, and more.

So, you may be wondering where my vision is now taking me. Well, because what goes around comes around, I am now working for an organization where I am able to bring all of me as well as who I am becoming to all we do at YOUnify. In many ways, the very work I am doing in the bridging movement comes down to helping people learn how to treat people the way they would want to be treated in service to the larger communities of which we are a part. Whether it’s providing trainings in JODIE (Justice Opportunity Diversity Inclusion Equity), working at a national level creating opportunities to minimize toxic polarization, or helping everyday citizens build a nonpartisan coalition of voters find their voice so they can help create the community they would like to see, it all comes down to that vision–treat people the way I would like to be treated.

Now, I know that there are many of us for whom the idea of giving up a dream to receive a vision feels like loss. But, I invite you to consider that dreams are often associated with being asleep. While vision is associated with having our eyes open. So, I invite you to take a good long look at whether you are being held back by an obsolete dream that you could give up to receive a vision for something more.

If this is something you’d like to discuss with me, let’s schedule a time to chat.


I Work For Your Organization. And You Can’t Stop Me.

Bring Your Aliveness To All You Do

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