The Power of Dreaming Big…

August 9, 2010

Photo by Jill Allyn from Creative Commons

One of the fascinating things about living overseas is realizing the little things you’ve taken for granted for the majority of your life.  Many of these realizations are fleeting and merely leave you with a deeper sense of gratitude.  Others, like the one I experienced today, quite simply rock you to the core.

This morning I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop, engrossed in a great coaching conversation with one of my Filipino clients.  We had noticed a pattern in his progress whereby he’d have a breakthrough in our session, experience momentum for several days and then fall into a place of paralysis.  In addition, we were both growing frustrated by the fact that every time we’d try to do goal setting we’d come up empty.

This had been going on for quite some time and today I intended to get to the root of the issue today.  We both felt that it was related to a limiting belief that was holding him back, so we began to dig around below the surface and see what we could find.  What ended up emerging was the realization that he believed he didn’t know how to dream.

Quite simply, no one had ever taught my client how to do this.  No one had modeled it for him or encouraged his earliest memories of “I’m going to be a _________ when I grow up.”  He was perfectly capable of identifying his wants and desires, but when it came to manifesting that dream and turning it into a physical reality, he dead-ended each and every time.

As I spent more time thinking about it, I realized that I had seen several other examples of this phenomenon in Filipino culture.  For example, I had once asked Norma about where she dreamed of visiting one day and she told me she didn’t let herself think about it because then she’d just be disappointed when it didn’t happen.  My friend had also asked her helper what job she wanted to advance into after being a helper.  Her helper’s response was that she dreamed of cleaning the US Embassy instead of houses, for that was the extent of what she could fathom.

This hit me hard for many reasons.  On one hand, it broke my heart that my client (and so many others) had been robbed of the joy of seeing their dreams come to life.  It also made me realize that I’ve never fully appreciated the fierce independence and endless possibility that are the hallmarks of the American lifestyle.

I sense now that the chance to ‘taste that dream’ is exactly why the good majority of Filipinos I meet dream of getting to America.  And to think I’ve had that all my life and never appreciated what that confidence enabled me to create in my life!  I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – it is a true gift to be a citizen of the United States of America.  Spend 5 minutes today and reflect on if you are taking the gift of your citizenship for granted.  The answer my surprise you, like it did me.  In closing, I thought I’d share with you (and celebrate) a few of the dreams I’ve birthed over the last 30 years:

  • Marrying an amazing individual whom I love with all my heart
  • Getting my MBA
  • Learning to take stunning pictures
  • Becoming a Coach and being paid to do work that brings me immense joy
  • Building a house of my own
  • Riding in a Hot Air Balloon
  • Living overseas
  • Owning My Own Business & Working from home
  • Swimming with a dolphin
  • Letting my voice be heard publicly (via this blog & public speaking engagements)

Now that I’ve shared, would you kindly celebrate with me by sharing what you’ve manifested or created in your life?

Filipino friends, can you please share your experiences and perspective on the role of dreaming in Filipino culture?  I am very eager to have more dialog on this topic.

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  1. Sara Roy says:

    realized dreams:

    marry an amazing man
    have child 1
    have child 2
    to not live check to check
    getting a job in CR
    running two 5K’s

    dreams I’m dreaming:

    being out of debt
    having child 3, 4, 5…6?
    seeing my children growing into amazing people
    finishing my bachelor’s degree in Management
    running a 10K

    Thanks for giving me a chance to put this down in words!

  2. sarahlynn60 says:

    Woot Woot! What an incredible list! Thanks for getting us started… that was way inspiring!

  3. Daniela says:

    While I am eternally grateful for all the opportunities and dreams come true I’ve had since moving to the US with my husband and later becoming a US citizen, I can definitely understand other cultures’ attitudes towards dreams and dreaming. If you live in a country that is not a meritocracy or where poverty is rampant, dreaming is inherently problematic and can lead to a lot of disappointment unless you are one of the chosen or the elite.

    I grew up in communist Bulgaria and my parents were not part of the communist establishment, which excluded us from many things. However, I was lucky that my parents believed in me from a very young age and supported me in everything I was involved in. They encouraged me to dream and verbalize my dreams. They never told me that I couldn’t do/be this or that. Other people eventually did and it hurt because by then I was already a dreamer of sorts. There were also people who ridiculed me and my dreams but it was usually people who had not been allowed to dream and thus had no dreams or were afraid to dream for themselves.

    Then one day communism fell and things that had been simply impossible, became somewhat possible. For example, I was able to go to college and study International Economic Relations, a field previously reserved for the sons/daughters of the communist elite. My chances of actually practicing in that field in Bulgaria were still very slim because knowing the right people was crucial and I didn’t know the right people.

    In my last year in college I met the man who would be my husband. He also encouraged me to dream (and does to this day). We eventually got married and moved to the US, where I got to do things I never ever would have thought I’d be able to do. I worked in International Development, I got my MBA and after that worked in Marketing (which had also been a dream of mine). I was the first one in my family to get a graduate degree and have an actual career as opposed to doing odd jobs here and there. It’s not much by US standards but my parents are very proud of me.

    I still write down my dreams and there are quite a few that I haven’t achieved but intend to keep working on them. With my husband’s new FS career and our impending move(s) overseas I find myself at a crossroads again, wondering “what I want to be when I grow up”. But that’s part of life and there will inevitably be some re-prioritizing of dreams as I reinvent myself and decide what do do next.

  4. naomi says:

    I totally take my citizenship for granted … didn’t really think about it much though until we moved to India.

    My dreams, manifested?

    start and run a business
    travel to Italy
    raise children who are confident and vivacious (boys can be vivacious too, right?)
    break the cycle of divorce in our family (7 years of marriage is no small number … still counting!)

    on my list of to-see happen?

    bring lacrosse to India
    Donate $10,000 in the next 8 months to charity via the Fading Ladies tshirts

    I have more … but that’s enough for now :)

    Thanks for the thought provoking, Sarah!

  5. Megan says:

    What a facinating discovery. I never really thought about not dreaming as we are so conditioned to do it. It also lead me to think about believing in your dreams. We all have dreams, but do we honestly believe we deserve them or that we have power, skill and worth to manifest them?

  6. sarahlynn60 says:

    I know right!? It never even dawned on me because it is like second nature to us. Love your final question too – that is definitely tied into this!

  7. elise says:

    ok i tried to comment yesterday, but my comment was lost in www. so here goes again:

    this post gave me goosebumps and was insanely just what i needed this week as a reminder to be thankful for all i have and for the gift of possiblity when i think times are tough.

    so here goes my list of dreams (realized and in the works!):

    1. Marry the man of my dreams (check!)
    2. become a mom of one little dark, curly-haired boy (and i got two!)
    3. be my own boss, grow a successful business that feeds my soul creatively and lets me stay at home to raise my children with no regrets
    4. be a world renowned artist…ok be famous!
    5. run a marathon
    6. live in Paris
    8. renovate a craftsman style home & build a fairytale garden
    7. travel the world

    the list goes on. i’m a BIG dreamer.

    thanks for sharing sarah and letting us share!

  8. Diplowife says:

    I can definitely understand the way my kababayans have either very simple dreams or none at all. I find it sad that many kids back home now have a different sense of reasoning when dreaming. Ask them what they want to be, and they’d say they want to be a nurse, or an engineer, but not because they want to take care of others or build skyscrapers but because they want to go abroad and earn lots of money. Never mind that they get sick at the sight of blood or are afraid of heights or is terrible in math and science, it’s a good living so that’s what they aim for. Passion and talent can no longer be considered and honed because that really doesn’t bring food on the table.
    And I do know lots of people who have often told me that I live too much in the clouds, they, like Norma, refuse to let themselves even think about dreaming because they want to spare themselves from what to them is the disappointing reality that it cannot be done. But I hate that, that they do not even consider trying to find a way, convinced that it is impossible.
    We have a saying in Tagalog, Libre naman ang mangarap (dreaming is for free anyway), Filipinos love saying that, but it is really a sarcastic, projecting way of saying “keep dreaming”. It may never come true, but Libre naman mangarap.
    Thankfully I, like Daniela, despite lacking the opportunity and means was encouraged to dream and believe that it will in someway work out. For example, I have always dreamed of writing about something, a book perhaps, or a travelogue. Nevermind that I do not get rich trying to do it, but the idea of being able to do it one day drives me to look forward to everyday. It may not be exactly what I had in mind, but I get to do that today, so it did turn out okay. Take that, none dreamers!
    As for my dreams, I still have some more:
    -prepare, cook, and host a great dinner for friends and family
    -speak fluent french
    -learn to sew like a pro
    -earn a masters degree and teach a totally unnecessary-to-life subject in college
    -be a great mom and raise happy, independent, smart, loving kids
    -publish a book
    -own a bookstore
    -grow old with my husband
    -die w/o regrets

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