“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

Nelson Mandela

“I don’t make dreams, I make plans.”

From time to time I hear this in response to one of my posts, or during a Creative Life Coaching session with me, or in one of my Artist’s Way or Living Your Dreams classes, where we spend a good deal of time uncovering our heart’s dreams and learning how to follow them.

I got this comment again in response to my post last week. (If you missed that post, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want, But. . . ”, you can read it here.)

I feel both sad and frustrated when I hear this.

After all, a big piece of my work is to help people hear and follow their heart’s dreams. And I do this work because I believe our world deeply needs each of us to hear and follow those dreams.

Why we don’t let ourselves dream

Almost always it is a man who makes a comment like the one I got last week.

Maybe they feel they are being realistic and grounded, rather than airy fairy and pie in the sky. Maybe they are patting themselves on the back for “actually getting things done,” instead of just dreaming about them. I understand that.

Likely, what is happening in a person who says this is they were wounded, ridiculed or disappointed in following their dreams earlier in life and/or have been acculturated to the notion that dreaming is foolish and a waste of time. Instead, they may tell themselves, what matters is logic and action.

Most of us learn this programming in the Western world to some degree, but males tend to be trained this way even more strongly.

What happens if we don’t dream

But this is a misunderstanding of the word “dreams,” as I am using it. And of how we are designed as human beings to live our best lives, lives that make a contribution to others and are fulfilling and joyful to us.

If you make plans but do not first allow yourself to dream, then you are following  your mind, letting it run the show.

But the mind’s role is to be a servant of the heart, not the other way around. When we get that order wrong, we wreak havoc on our lives and our world.

We see the effects of letting the mind run the show all around us in the world today. In its worst forms it occurs as rampant materialism and greed, violence, rabid individualism, lack of care for all life, both human and non-human. Most commonly, it appears as depression, anxiety, lack of deep meaning, joy and connection in life.

We must first let ourselves dream, listen to the callings of our heart and soul, to know what it is we are to make plans for.

The heart and soul give us the vision, the heart-centered vision of how to lead our lives for the highest good, how to walk our heart path. Then, and only then, the mind can take the dream and bring it to reality by making plans.

Skipping that vital first step of dreaming leaves us living lives that we are told to want, or believe are “reasonable” to want, rather than those that truly light us up, that our soul most needs, those that will be of the most benefit to ourselves and the world.

One of the greatest dreamers ever

Martin Luther King Jr. allowed himself to dream big
O. Fernandez, New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer [Public domain]

When Martin Luther King, Jr. said “I have a dream,” he was not being airy fairy or pie in the sky, even though his dream is a bold, beautiful one that we have a long way to go yet to fully realize on Earth.

If you haven’t listened to his speech in a while, you can watch it here. It brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it.

Thanks to his willingness to dream big and boldly share his dream, the Civil Rights Act was passed less than a year after his famous speech, and 44 years later, we elected an African-American president of the United States.

If King didn’t dare to dream, he could not have envisioned the sweeping changes he inspired.

Dare to dream

So, please don’t denigrate dreams or feel you are foolish to let yourself dream big.

Please don’t shy away from dreaming just because you have been disappointed before or had to make hard choices in order to get by.

Above all, please follow your heart, not just your mind. The mind’s reach is far too limited.

Yes, you have been hurt in your attempts to dream before. We all have. We all have reached for things we longed for and failed or been laughed at or had our hearts broken. That too is part of the path of dreams. Because it is a path of growth, of becoming all of who we are.

woman dancing her dreams

Be a warrior of the heart. Be bold. Be courageous. And dare to dream again.

Dare to dream big and follow those dreams. Dare to dream for all of us, for a more loving world.

That is one of my big dreams:  A world in which all of life is honored and cared for, in which we live together in harmony, and in which each of us shines in the fullness of who we are and is celebrated for that.

What’s your dream?

If you don’t know, you may need some help uncovering it and unwinding past patterns, limiting beliefs and fears. I can help with that.

To your bold heart dreams,


P.S. For more on this topic, you might want to read: Why It’s Important to Follow Your Dreams. For those who are still concerned that dreams don’t lead to results, read my post on The Danger of Wishful Thinking

P.P.S. For deep, focused support in discovering and living your own heart’s dreams, you might want to explore Creative Life Coaching & Mentoring with me. I offer a free Discovery Session, so you can check it out.