Five Reasons Why Dreaming is Essential to Intentional Living

 

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I’m a daydreamer. I’m also an idealist. I love to imagine life’s possibilities, plan out the future in my head and imagine myself already there.

It’s fun, but it’s also beneficial to me. There was a time, though, when life seemed so hard. My dreams felt very much out of reach—not even worth pursuing.

Do you dream anymore? If I were a betting girl, I’d say that once upon a time you had all kinds of wonderful dreams just waiting to burst out of you and become reality. You dreamt of lots of things. You dreamt of growing up. You dreamt of falling in love. Of getting married, having children, having a career.

Do those dreams seem like a hazy, distant memory now? Do you even recall your dreams?

If that’s true, what happened? 

When life gets challenging and overwhelming, imagining a better life can feel self-indulgent and wasteful. In those times, it may feel like you’re in survival mode. No mental time to waste.

For me, just contemplating the future was exhausting. I was so burned out with the-day-to-day that stringing more than two tasks together felt like hard work. I was in a mental fog, with no light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

Someone recently likened their own similar experience to wading through deep water. I thought to myself, “Yeah, that’s it!” When you’re that stressed, moving forward intentionally seems like a monumental, exhausting task. Strong forces continually try to drag you backwards, down. Then something changed—gave me permission to dream again. And hope came back. That’s what dreams do for you; they give you hope.

But what is a dream?  Truly?

Avoid the Unimagined Life

A dream, at its core, is a mental image or succession of images. Those images may be very tentative or incredibly defined. They may contain bodily sensations and provoke certain emotions. They may occur subconsciously (while you sleep), pop into your head when you least expect them or be part of a concerted, conscious effort. In all instances, dreams involve imagination. The imagery contained within your dreams is extremely useful. Why? Because, as you sift and sort through them, you can begin to form a blueprint for life. The most useful type of dreaming is self-directed. Dreams that occur at night are your brain’s way of sifting and sorting through the day’s events—processing information, sensations, emotions and experiences.

Dreams, however, that guide you towards living intentionally are self-directed. They require conscious effort on your part. Self-directed dreams give you something to look forward to, to strive toward. They also give you opportunity for:

1. Creativity

Dreaming is fun. Or, it ought to be. It’s fun because when you dream, the sky’s the limit—or beyond! You don’t let yourself be hampered by lack of money, lack of support, lack of time, lack of energy. You just dream! When you do, when you just free up your brain to let loose, something fantastic happens. Your brain starts to relax. It starts to move into creative mode. One dream flows into another, and another, and another.

So, what to do with those dreams? Write them down! There’s nothing worse than a dream that floats into your consciousness, only to disappear just as quickly—and you didn’t grab it before it was gone. I’ve been frustrated on multiple occasions when I wished, futilely, that I could recall that “great idea” I’d had. So find a way to capture those random thoughts—a notebook, your phone, a voice recorder.

Not all dreams occur randomly though. Setting aside time to purposefully dream is essential to creating an intentional life. Your dreams are your starting point because they provide energy, excitement and movement to your day. Without them, life becomes drudgery.

2. Self-discovery

Dreaming teaches you a few things too—about yourself!  Your dreams are the lifeblood of who you are. They reveal what excites you, makes you come alive, and fills you with passion, energy, joy. They are a synthesis of who you’ve been, who you are now, and who you’re desiring to be. If you’ve stopped dreaming, you’ve stopped thinking about what makes you happy. You’ve stopped learning about yourself. If you don’t know what makes you tick, others won’t either. They only get to see what you show them.

3. Rehearsal

The more you dream about something, the more you practice that dream in your mind. And, as the saying goes, practice makes perfect. I think a better way to say it, however, is like this:

You know this is true. Somewhere in your past you’ve probably wished something into being. You thought about it so much, fleshed it out in such vivid, kaleidoscopic color, that it began to change the way you thought and behaved. And those changed behaviors led to your dream being realized.

4. Problem-solving

Dreaming has the added benefit of helping you to problem solve. Remember those “aha” moments you’ve had at “random” times:  in the shower, while driving, lying in bed, first thing in the morning?  There’s really nothing random about that at all. According to Muireann Irish, a cognitive neuroscientist, the brain never really rests. It’s always working in one way or another. Daydreaming actually “fires up” a “complex network” that uses multiple regions in the brain (“Daydream Believer: Why Your Brain is Wired to Wander”). That’s good news for those of us who are already inclined to dream! 

If, however, you’ve been ignoring your dreams, thinking they’re a waste of your precious time, STOP!

Start dreaming.

Your brain needs time to creatively process, imagine possibilities and arrive at solutions.

5. Complex thinking

When we dream, we are testing out possibilities before they happen. The use of inductive and deductive reasoning, formulating original ideas, and using critical thought—all of these are sophisticated abilities that are relied upon when you dream with intention. That’s healthy for your brain. Complex thinking allows you to understand new ideas, connect the dots, read between the lines and take calculated risks. And the best news…dreaming is a great way to improve your complex thinking skills!

God wants you to dream too. The best example in the Bible, for me, is the description of the Proverbs 31 woman. Knowing whether she actually lived or was just an ideal put forth by the author is irrelevant to me. I don’t find her to be an impossible ideal. Instead, I look on her as a wonderful description of a woman who’s determined who she wants and needs to be. How?  I guarantee that in becoming that woman, she started with an ideal, a dream. She envisioned the life she wanted, that God wanted for her, as a wife and mother, as a businesswoman, an entrepreneur. She imagined how best to utilize the gifts and abilities God gave her to be a help to her husband and her children, to produce merchandise, to organize a busy household. She didn’t become the ideal by accident. She became it by purposeful planning that started with a dream. That dream undoubtedly shifted and changed over the years. It became the springboard for a multitude of dreams. She encountered challenges and setbacks, as we all do. But through it all she would have kept her eyes focused on her vision of what God was planning for her (Proverbs 31:10-31).

It all starts with a dream.

 

References:

Irish, Muireann. “Daydream Believer: why your brain is wired to wander”, 20 October 2013,

 

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