Have you seen the Academy Award-winning film, La-La Land? It’s full of beautiful moments, but perhaps the most haunting is a song that captures the entire film. It features these lines: “Here’s to the ones who dream / Foolish as they may seem / Here’s to the hearts that ache / Here’s to the mess we make.”
We all come into the world dreamers, full of longing and aspiration. But it doesn’t take long to learn that desire is dangerous. We encounter disappointment, dismissal, or even contempt. Leaving dreams behind becomes a hallmark of maturity. We shoulder what’s expected and press on. There’s just one problem: Desire is the great mover of the human heart.
There’s been plenty of research into intrinsic motivation. It comes to this: we fight harder for what we want. It’s what makes underdog stories so compelling. We watch someone ignore the odds, dare to dream, practice extraordinary grit…And win. Not merely because of skill. Underdogs win because, in the end, they want it more—and they’ll try harder and longer than anyone else as a result.
So let me ask you a confronting question. What do you want? Put differently: What do you dream?
What Do You Dream?
A new year is on the horizon. And a time will come to start turning aspirations into goals, to walk through the SMARTER framework and detail what you’ll set out to accomplish this year. But before we jump ahead, stop. Start here. What do you really, truly want?
Maybe it’s healing in a relationship. Maybe it’s to finally feel at home in your own skin. Maybe it’s to end every day knowing you did good work, without dimly felt guilt for wasting time on your phone, in your inbox, or completing low-leverage work.
Maybe you want your mind to be a place of peace, order, and clarity. Maybe you want to accomplish something that seems impossible. Maybe you want to finally start using money wisely or finally stop using work as an excuse to avoid confronting painful realities.
Maybe you want to recover from a health setback or set a new personal record. Maybe you want to run for local office or join the work of justice. Maybe you want to be able to converse with someone you love in their native language. Maybe you want to leave—but want more deeply to be a person who stays.
No one else can answer for you. You have to linger with your own heart.
Where to Begin?
Sometimes, it’s hard to know what we want. We’ve silenced parts of ourselves for so long that they’ve gone quiet. Wrestling with a few good questions can begin to point the way.
So, it’s time to courageously capture some aspirations. Think of aspirations as dreams on paper. They’re the seeds of goals. We’ve listed a few confronting questions. You don’t have to answer all of them—just the ones that resonate with you.
- Who do you dream of becoming? What would that person do this year?
- What images, feelings, or desires have stirred in you as you’ve read these words?
- What feels risky to name, even to yourself?
- What do your aches reveal about what you want?
- What did you once dream about? What changed?
- What do you wish you would dare this year?
Engaging our desire requires courage; it exposes our hearts to disappointment and rejection like little else. But ignoring our desire is frequently the path to regret. So, consider this an invitation to a better future.
Don’t let the moment pass you by. Write down a few of your dreams for the coming year. And hold onto them. Because, as you might have guessed, they’re not going to stay dreams for long.
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