Using emotional insight
for personal development and professional success

The dreams that restrict us – the gap between what is, and what we want to be

I have had a number of conversations recently with people who seem unhappy with an aspect of their life, but never seem to get around to doing anything about it. These are people frustrated at their current place of work, or dissatisfied with a personal hobby or activity, or even constantly upset in a relationship. What I noticed a number of these people had in common was a tendency to spend time hoping things were otherwise, and through doing so excusing things as they are.

These are people unhappy in their job talking about how their job would be fine if just x and y were different. Or in a relationship talking about if their partner were just different in these few ways. Or that they keep indulging in a frustrating or unfulfilling activity over and over because if it just altered in these certain ways it would be what they wanted it to be.

By carrying an image of what we hope the world would be, and by mentally interacting with that image, we aren't dealing with the world as it is, but instead with a fantasy that isn't there. But by repeatedly indulging the hope that things will change, by focussing on the potential that we can see but that isn't being realised, we deny ourselves the impetus to actually start changing.

When this situation has come up in conversation I've found it useful to ask the question "If this situation/person never changes, is always going to remain exactly as it is, what would you do?" It's remarkable how often this question provokes the desire and motivation to change. I've heard immediate answers like "I'd get a new job" or "I'd quit and spend my time doing something else". Yet these options hadn't seemed reasonable before. The presence of the fantasy – that things will suddenly turn around, evolve, get better – is remarkably disempowering.

Time spent in a fantasy that life has a purpose for us, that our luck is about to change, that the circumstances that surround us will shift of their own accord, is time not spent engaging with reality, learning about our current situation, making judgements based on truth, noticing opportunities for forward movement. Participating in the reality of things, rather than absenting ourselves into a comfortable mental space, is what makes us powerful, skillful and correctly directed.

Fantasies have to die in order to create the best possible reality. Only by seeing reality as it really is can be see the building blocks that are going to allow us to construct what we desire. Only by experiencing our dissatisfaction with the way things are will we find motivation to implement change.

Things do shift, grow and get better by themselves. But more often than not they don't. So I think it's a valuable question to ask – if this is how things are going to stay, if right now is a genuine representation of the state of your life, what would you cease putting up with and start to change?

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