What happens to a dream deferred?
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore —
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over —
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Many of us have dreams of serving the world, leaving a legacy of impact and leaving our mark. Or we want to have an experience of a lifetime, but life comes and goes, and the dream goes unfulfilled. It often seems so far off at times.
We all start with the idea — fabulous, grand and meaningful. But then, we put it aside. Life steps in and changes plans but the dreams, as Langston Hughes shares in his poem Harlem, and Lorraine Hansberry captures in her play A Raisin in the Sun, the dream goes deferred.
First I want to start by saying, dream deferment is a complicated situation, based on many factors.
1) circumstances in your environment
2) your own fears and internal resistance
3) criticism, judgement or opinions of others
4) interruptions from others
5) excuses, justifications, rationalizations
All of these items have one thing in common. Resistance, with a capital ‘R’.
Stephen Pressfield, The War of Art shares powerful words:
“Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.
Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore, the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.”
These paths all lead to 2 choices, one that you heed the call despite, or in spite of the resistance. Or you ignore the call yet again and allow the resistance to distract you from the call.
What happens to you when you defer a dream?
Depression, PTSD, loss of hope to name a few. When you’re forced to give up on your passion or give it up under duress, it can cause physical changes to your brain. Your neurotransmitters change, the signals within the brain and to the rest of the body change. It can cause a listlessness, a lack of direction. You can feel a sense of loss or grief.
Perhaps you lose your way, not knowing why you are here and forgetting who you really are. It’s the makings of a crisis of meaning. One manifestation is the so-called dark night of the soul.
Even living in poverty or constant struggle effects the brain and its structures. These have long term implications on your epigenome and can have lingering effects from previous generations.
In short, it makes it harder to succeed in the future.
The science behind your choices
This choice point is paralleled in the brain’s own neural pathways.
As you’re probably aware, the subconscious runs the general programs. When you’re using your conscious brain to think, plan, visualize or contemplate, the subconscious runs the rest of the show. It runs us on autopilot. That autopilot is in the ‘on’ position, about 95 percent of the time.
If your neural networks have been practicing following your calling, facing resistance and being comfortable about being uncomfortable while you are focusing, that’s what will continue to happen when your subconscious runs the show. The opposite is also true.
Neurons that fire together, wire together. The more the specific pathway is used, the more it grows.
Your brain’s circuitry, is modelled on how the universe operates at it’s core. What we focus on, grows larger. What you regularly give your attention to, increases the affinity to that pathway and your brain, body and focus becomes more efficient and interested.
Alternatively, when you continually give up on your calling, complain, make excuses and choose the stance of victimhood, the corresponding network of neurons slowly faces attrition. When that pathway is no longer used, it is culled to make room for more of the complaints and actively looks for more reasons to complain or give up.
Bottom line: you become what you habitually do. And the more you do it, the more you’ll get good at it.
But Let’s be honest, It’s not always easy
Langston Hughes and many other pointed out the injustice of certain groups as they try to get ahead. In a Raisin in the Sun, the African-American family faces tough choices and systemic issues that make success more difficult. Make no mistake, historically, however far we have come, those hurdles still effect a larger percentage of society, than we admit to. This is in large part of this is the narrative of progress and the extent of the military-industrial complex/corporatocracy that rules the majority of the world. Minorities and those not conforming to the mainstream ways, are marginalized and their ideas and contributions do not benefit from the same advantages and weight as those who are in the so-called ‘mainstream.’
Psychologically, emotionally, and physically these structures cause damage to these marginalized individuals. It takes more courage and fortitude for these individuals to step out of their comfort zones authentically and more effort to overcome these systemic biases.
If you’re in this category of standing out because of your color, creed, orientation, gender, ability, belief, wealth, or education, then realize these structures might make following your calling more difficult. However, you can succeed. Overcoming these and other obstacles are part of your unique journey.
My own thoughts are: ‘if I was born this way, then I can succeed this way.’
Stop blaming and start taking responsibility
Instead of letting your dream be differed, I would love for you instead for you to take a moment and make these dreams a reality. Here’s some practical things to get you moving in the direction of your dreams.
A few ideas to get you started:
1) Start an account to fund your dream, aka a freedom fund.
Take a part of your income and funnel it towards your dream. It doesn’t have to be much. For those of you not used to doing this, start with setting aside as little as 1% or .5%. That means for £1 or 50p for every £100 you bring in. For many of us, we do not notice it. You can put it in a separate account or simply hold it in an envelope or jar. My advice: Keep it simple and consistent. Increase your commitment by guarding against spending and increasing the percentage saved.
2) Start saying ‘yes’ to your calling.
Make a list of activities that can take you in the direction of your calling. Each task should be simple and take about 10 minutes. Start each day by selecting one item to finish. This item is the most important task to complete for you. Each day you do this, is a way of saying ‘yes’ to your calling and wires your brain to see more possibilities and become more efficient at the task as you move forward. Celebrate your win and reset the bar tomorrow back at 1 item. My advice: do it within 5 seconds of your inspiration to bypass the resistance. And do it regularly until it becomes a habit. It’s just as important as brushing your teeth.
3) Eat to support your DNA, brain and wellbeing
Everyday your body is conducting necessary repairs, replacing old worn out cells and tissue and copying your DNA. You become what you eat, digest and assimilate, quite literally. Not only will fresh foods give you more energy than the processed counterparts, it’s tasty and more appealing. It’s like building a structure with low quality materials, you’ll also get a low-quality output and product. My advice: start crowding out the foods that are less than ideal with whole, fresh foods.
4) Say ‘No’ to resistance, clutter and distraction.
Just as it important to hardwire your brain to naturally say yes to your calling by overcoming the resistance, it is equally important to cull the habits, focus, thoughts, beliefs, relationships and things that take us in the opposite direction of your calling. My advice: take an inventory of your life and let go of the things that no longer serve you and your calling.
5) Get used to fear.
It’s impossible to make decisions and take action in the direction of your dreams when you are constantly in fear. Your brain and body can only focus on one item, protection from fears or perceived threats, or growth. Each time you focus on growth, you face the fear but shift your focus from fear to possibility. Perception is key. Change and growth require you to see fear in a new light, they are a part of the journey not a cause for alarm. My advice: Learn to listen to your fear, but take regular inspired action in spite of it.
6) ‘Assume the feeling of a wish fulfilled’
This is a powerful quote from Neville Goddard. Start by finding out what it would feel like, in your body, if the wish were to be fulfilled. Would it feel different than your negative thoughts — surely! Feel it from the thoughts, the sensations and the emotions in your body. Memorize that feeling by focusing on it every day, as often as possible. In doing so, you not only activate your creative capacities, you unrehearse the old pattern and you build new neural networks in your brain. My advice: every morning before you start your day and the last five minutes before you fall asleep. Watch what happens and take note on what ideas, coincidences and synchronicities show up.
7) Watch your thoughts, beliefs and perceptions.
Gay Hendricks talks about this in his phenomenal book, The Big Leap. We all have at least a few upper limits in our lives. The key is to realize that often these thoughts & impulses that come up are not real, but rehearsed states. The body wants it’s chemical hit for the day and it goads us into feeling our usual way to keep us safe. When we step outside of that, expect resistance in it’s myriad of forms. And Michael Neill shares in his book, Effortless Success, that a thought is like the weather. It flits by but we don’t need to take it seriously. We have many thoughts, but a fair number are repetitive and come from our unchecked subconscious. My advice: Instead, notice your own patterns and find resources and a support system to help you through.
My final thoughts:
Don’t lose heart. You are the creator of your reality. You have the ultimate power. It’s your story that needs to emerge and you have a hand in the outcome.
Don’t let your dreams get deferred. Don’t wait for regrets to haunt you.
Over to You:
Do you have a dream deferred?
What will you do to allow yourself to dream, prioritize and act on that dream?
Why is that dream important to you?
Is some part of that dream already in your life or available to you?
What do you have to let go of to make room for you dream?
What have you been doing, thinking, believing, that keeps you from realizing your dream?