Today we are asking the question: why are strangers more supportive than family when it comes to our dreams? But before we do that, just a couple of quick announcements, the first of which is that I just had a guest post featured on Melody Fletcher’s Deliberate Receiving blog yesterday – the absolutely amazing Melody Fletcher, if you haven’t checked out her site yet, I highly recommend it – and my article was all about the nature of time and how to create more of it in our lives, and those of you who are Dr. Who fans will appreciate some of my Whovian references in that one. You can check out my article, it’s called “So You Wanna Be a Time Lord”, on deliberateblog.com.
The second announcement is that this will be the last podcast episode of 2014 – I’m going to be taking a few days for the holidays next week, so there will not be a podcast next Friday. I’ll be back in January, with brand-new theme music I might add.
So. Back to today’s topic. Why are strangers more supportive than family when it comes to our biggest dreams? And I touched a bit on this topic in both my post about dealing with difficult family members and the one about negative reactions to personal growth. But today I wanted to take a specific look at the phenomenon of strangers being more supportive of our dreams than our family members.
The coconut farm experiment
For example, let’s just do a little thought experiment here, and imagine what would happen if you told your family that you wanted to quit your job, move to Fiji, and set up a cooperative, fair-trade coconut farm and yoga retreat. Unless you happen to have an unusually supportive family, they’d probably look at you like you’d gone coco-nuts, and tell you you’re being completely ridiculous and that you can’t possibly move to Fiji. They’d come up with every possible reason why it could never happen, and they’d insist that you stop being so flighty and be reasonable. And then they’d probably say something along the lines of: “doesn’t Aunt Marjory know a man at the Acme Widget Corporation downtown who might be able to get you a nice, respectable job in the mail room?” And all of a sudden, your big dream is shot down and labelled “IMPOSSIBLE”, before you’ve even gotten started.
If, however, you decided to strike up a conversation with a couple of complete strangers at a coffee shop, for instance, and you told them your Fiji coconut dream, it would most likely spark their imaginations. They’d be far more likely to start brainstorming ways of making it happen. Maybe one of them has a brother who has a buddy whose sister spent a year in Fiji and still has a few contacts there who could scout out a great location for a yoga retreat. And maybe the other one works for a health food store that needs a new source for organic coconut oil products and could put you in touch with their corporate buyer. And the really hot guy at the other table who was listening in on your conversation turns around and says that he actually runs a yoga studio in town, but he’s been dreaming of running a tropical yoga retreat for years, and would you maybe like to swap ideas over dinner? And all of a sudden, your big dream doesn’t look so impossible anymore.
Now, I said this was a thought experiment, but I’m going to give a challenge. Go out there and actually give this experiment a try… think of something completely outrageous (you could even use this coconut farm example if you want), and tell some stranger in a coffee shop or a bar or a library that this is your big dream, but you’re not sure the best way get started, or that you don’t have any contacts in this field or part of the world, or whatever. And just see what happens.
Just give it a try and see how many ideas a complete stranger generates to try and make that outrageous dream a reality. (Now, please note that I make no guarantees that you’re going to get a dinner date out of this experiment, but you never know… 😉 )
Why are strangers more supportive than family?
So, why is this? Why does this happen? And what gives? Why would complete strangers who have no idea who you are be so much more likely to help you find ways to make even your craziest dreams a reality? And why would your family – the people whom, you’d think, should be the ones most likely to be in your corner, be so quick to shoot your dreams down?
In large part, it comes down to the fact that they had dreams of their own that they gave up on. And so their efforts to prevent you from reaching your own dreams come from fear and pain; the fear that you’ll get hurt, and the pain of seeing someone else doing or achieving something when they had to give their own dreams up, and when they no longer believe those dreams are even remotely possible anymore.
They’re trying to protect you
So let’s take a closer look at these reasons. And the first one we said was that your family may be afraid for you, and they may be trying to protect you. And this is particularly true in situations where your parents are particularly negative with regards to your dreams. Because remember that they all started out with hopes and dreams, once, just like you did. But many of them started families just at the very point that they left their own parent’s homes to start venturing forth on their own and start living their own lives. So their dreams were dashed early on as they had to cope with the realities of having children and mortgages and big responsibilities.
And it cost them dearly; everybody feels a horrible pain when they give up on their dreams. And perhaps, in seeing you reaching for your dreams, your parents are actually afraid for you; afraid that you’re going to feel that same pain, too. So, a lot of this dream-bashing, comes from your family’s fear for you; they love you and don’t want to see you get hurt.
Misery loves company
The other thing that happens when people give up on their own dreams and stop believing in the possibility of them ever coming true is that there’s a bitterness and a jadedness that goes along with that. When you give up on what your heart wants most, and then try to convince yourself that you’re better off without it anyway, it changes you. In fundamental ways.
We’re all born with that bit of magic in us, that unique gift that each and every one of has – the one that we came here to share with the world — and when we deny that gift, smother it, or otherwise fail to bring it into the light of day, we suffer for it. And people in that kind of pain will instinctively lash out at anyone who hasn’t let their own dream die because it hurts too much to see that bit of magic in someone else when you think that yours is gone for good.
It’s never too late (but they just don’t get that)
Except that it’s never completely gone. Dreams don’t die. They can’t — they’re too much a part of us. It’s just a matter of listening to that little whisper within once again. It’s never too late to create your dream. Just keep moving towards it in whatever way you can. Do what you can, with what you have, from where you are. And keep yourself aligned with that vision while you work towards it. And it will always be enough. But if you can’t see that, if you don’t believe that it’s possible for you anymore, then seeing someone else who still has that hope and that drive to create their own dream, is just too painful.
And that’s where a lot of the dream-bashing from our families comes from. And just to note here – I’ve been talking about parents, but, because your siblings have been brought up in much the same environment that you have, they would have picked up these same sort of attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs from your parents, so if you’re in a situation where your brothers or sisters are giving you a hard time, then this really all comes from the same place. It’s all the same source.
What to do about it
So what do you do about it? How do you deal with the family bashing your biggest dreams? My usual recommendation is that you just don’t talk about it with them. If discussion of all the things that you’re trying to build in your life just creates family tension and stress for you, then don’t go there – save your dream-building discussion for friends, or your networking group. And if you don’t have that support system, then you need to build that kind tribe for yourself.
If you get sucked into one of those horrible dream-killing conversations, learn to build a buffer around yourself… if you can’t excuse yourself from the discussion, just politely nod and smile while the other person talks at you, thank them for their input, tell them they’ve given you much to think about, and then walk away and put the entire conversation out of your mind. And go and do your thing anyway. Your life is YOUR life and yours alone. And you are the only one who gets to call the shots.
The other thing to remember is that people will bash your dreams until they start to happen for you. At which point they may just magically turn into your biggest supporters. And they’ll start wondering how you did it.
Something I keep telling people is that big dreams inspire everyone they touch. So don’t worry too much if your family doesn’t support you. Find your support in other places, and keep building your dreams. Eventually your family will come around, and maybe they’ll be so inspired by what you’ve done with your dreams that they’ll start finding ways to make their own dreams happen. And then they’ll all be happier people for it.
photo credit: pixabay.com cc (modified by me)