The Tyranny of Inherited Dreams And What to do About Them
We’re all dreamers. Every single one of us. We have hopes, and wishes for ourselves, our loved ones and the future....
We’re all dreamers. Every single one of us. We have hopes, and wishes for ourselves, our loved ones and the future. Ask any person what they’d like to own or be and you’ll hear whispers of desire, stories of how things should be or could have been.
As a professional dream planner I know a thing or two about dreams. I dive deep with my clients every day to help them figure out what they really want, and how to get it. Together we define a new path for their dream career or business.
Women come to me when they’re at a crossroad in their lives. They’ve been feeling that something’s off – sometimes for a really long time – and can’t ignore it any more.
They’re stuck in unfulfilling careers.
They’re tired of the endless and exhausting cycle of overwork and perfection.
They’re torn between their personal ambitions and the needs of others.
They yearn to grasp why – while doing everything right – they still aren’t happy.
They wonder what happened to them, and how they got where they are.
They’re weary of the guilt and shame for wanting what they want.
They’re tired of their self-doubt and lack of self-confidence.
They’re afraid of never being who they know they’re supposed to be.
They lack a sense of meaning, purpose, and direction in their life.
When I started working with these women I noticed something else about them.
They have many talents and passions.
Not afraid to get their hands dirty.
Insatiable for knowledge.
And quick learners.
With all these amazing qualities, why is it so hard for them to figure out what they really want?
It’s the tyranny of inherited dreams.
Inherited dreams are the dreams we pursue but that we didn’t choose for ourselves. They’re a product of the world we’re born into. A mix of social expectations, false beliefs about ourselves and the world, pressure to conform and unwritten rules we believe we have to live by, passed down to us in childhood.
More often than not, we’re not aware those dreams aren’t really our own. But whether we know it or not, we all have them. I know I had them (and still have them sometimes).
- I wanted to be successful. Dressed in the nicest clothes, wearing expensive watches, carrying luxury bags, traveling the world, making tons of money. As a result I worked relentlessly, for years, trying to build the career I thought I needed to achieve that dream.
- I wanted to be beautiful. Thin, youthful, tanned, smiling, hair and nails perfectly done, always put together. As a result I was on a diet by the age of 15, exercised excessively for the bigger part of my life, and in the end was never satisfied with my body or how I looked.
- I wanted to be liked. Catering to everyone’s needs, always aiming for perfection, as pleasing as I could be. As a result I was a push-over, had no clear boundaries, attracted the wrong partners, stayed in toxic relationships for years, had draining friendships, didn’t take care of myself, and was never really me.
Wanting to be successful, beautiful or liked is all part of the bigger needs we have as humans: to be loved, to be fulfilled, to have purpose.
Love, fulfillment, purpose are not inherited dreams. I believe they are the soulful connection we entertain with the world, and each other. They are our life breath. Without them we can never be truly happy.
What I mean by inherited dreams are the things we think we want in order to be loved, fulfilled, purposeful.
The culture we live in has made us belief that we can only achieve those things by being a certain way. Moreover, society also tells us that to be a certain way we need to have a specific and narrow set of things and qualities.
- Success means money, status, power and all the “perks” that go with it. The clothes, the travels, the sandy beaches, the private jets. It also means being ready to do “everything it takes”, the glorification of busy, and the relentless pursuit of productivity.
- Beauty means youth, thinness, whiteness. It also means being ready to starve yourself, to exercise beyond injury, to accept the dangers of surgery, and to reject and see as less than anything that doesn’t meet the beauty standard.
- Likeability means politeness, not speaking too loud, being a good girl, and saying “yes”. It also means accepting others crossing your boundaries, putting yourself last on your list, bottling up your emotions, and not being your true self.
The issue with inherited dreams is that we don’t know they’re someone else’s. We’re so used to seeing others chase them that we believe we want to chase them too. No wonder we are, they’re everywhere. We read about them online or in magazines, we see them in movies, our friends have them…
I believe it is our right, as well as our responsibility, to look within ourselves. To examine, question and identify what we stand for so that we can live fulfilling, happy, courageous lives and pursue our own dreams.
The thing about inherited dreams is that they’re a construct. Just like all the rules that exist in the world, we – as a society – created them. Historical events, beliefs about the world, value systems upheld and shared by those in power all contributed to the inherited dreams we have today. But it wasn’t always this way, and it doesn’t need to be.
There’s something else buried deep beneath our inherited dreams.
Our truest, most authentic dreams. Our secret dreams.
Just like inherited dreams, I believe we all have secret dreams. The problem is that most of us have lost the map to find them in the pile of maps that lead us to other people’s dreams, a.k.a. nowhere.
To me, finding your way back to your secret dreams means dreaming bigger.
Dreaming bigger is a process of unraveling, imagination, and creation. It’s not about having bigger or better versions of our inherited dreams. It’s about dismantling them. About admitting our most authentic, truest dreams to ourselves.
Today I define success in terms of sustainability, self-care, and overall well-being both in my life and in my business. I define beauty through art, wonder, and curiosity. Inviting all that is unknown to me in, fighting for equality and justice. I define likeability by how much of my true self I’m able to bring into my relationships, through authenticity and respect for myself and others.
Does this mean I make no money any more or that I stopped shopping for clothes? Not at all. What it means is that I now have a business that feels right to me, soulful productivity systems that don’t exhaust me, marketing practices that are aligned with my values. I also still have a closet full of clothes. But I need less of them, and of all the other things I pursued because of the dreams I inherited about them.
My invitation to you is to question your dreams.
Ask yourself what really matters to you. Wonder about what you’d do if you knew you were loved unconditionally. Define what purpose means to you. Figure out what you really want. Question the rules you live by.
In other words: I want you to stop inheriting dreams and start living yours.
So yes, you have permission to dream bigger, dream differently and dream YOU.