Sweet Dreams

“You’ve got to be careful believing what you think.”

That’s the statement Andy Andrews made from the stage that began the long, slow gut punch that had me uncomfortable in my seat for over an hour.

I felt exposed, and it only got worse as he continued with his next statement: “Open your mind to possibilities that most people never allow themselves to imagine. IMAGINATION is the first step.” (emphasis mine)

That’s when I knew I was toast. I’m a perfectionist (recovering), a one on the enneagram. My heart gets so tired, so fast, from not being able to reconcile what could be and what is – in me, around me, you name it. I tear up typing that. But my whole career has been investing in that reconciliation as a pharmacist and now a manager of medication processes.

Rewinding a couple of decades, hope has been a fearful thing for me. Somewhere in my journey, I began to believe it was dangerous. I spent most of my energy avoiding the disappointment of experiencing failure. I’d checked that box plenty. I’d lost class elections, popularity contests, and desired friendships time and time again. I decided to take specific action to avoid the pain of failing or looking foolish – or both. And worse, I truly believed it was avoidable. So that was my pursuit.

Fast forward 15 years, and here I am, sitting in a convention center with other entrepreneurs all around me, hearing loud and clear that my DREAMING function is broken. Or has atrophied to unrecognizable at best. It killed me, because my life, capabilities, and limitations don’t just impact me. Now they’re the prototype for what my children will view and mimic. I want to model dreaming for them. And I want to do it well.

Now I want to pause with a quick sidebar because to “dream” can go a lot of ways. Most of the contexts I see it used in are around self advancement or making a million dollars. My observation is that our society is all over the spectrum regarding self-advancement.

My grandparents’ generation, still rattled to the core from the Depression, were taught to not consider self. Keep your head down. Work hard. Stick it out in your marriage. Conserve and build your legacy through your children. The Boomers’ generation began to flirt a little with entrepreneurship and the beginnings of self-help. By the time I hit my twenties, self help was marrying entrepreneurship to birthe self promotion. Leave it to us millenials, we didn’t stop there. We just went full bore self worship. And twenty year olds are now making millions just living their life in view of a camera. All about perception and spectatorship, all the time.

And I would be selling Andy Andrews exponentially short if I implied in the least that his talk leaned toward self promotion in any way. It did not. He encouraged us to open ourselves up to the possibility of all the things in the universe that are true, even if we don’t know them yet.

One of the things I’ve allowed myself to ponder in recent months is, what if God is using all things: my struggles (parenting, my day job, etc.) and my wins (parenting, my day job, my side gig) to grow me into some of the visions He’s given me for my life? He’s definitely using all of these to sand the many edges off my leadership style. He’s also using all of these to teach me how to care for people. How to coach. How to shepherd. How to teach. And how not to.

What I’m seeing lived out is that failure is certain. But so is learning from it. And IT HASN’T KILLED ME. It’s so cliche I don’t want to say it, so I won’t, but what do we learn MOST from?

At the end of the day, do you know what I can say 100% through tears that I know to be true? My worth is secure. My life has the same value regardless of the outcome of any of these. God has declared it so and proven it through the death and Resurrection of Jesus. It hurts a little to think of where I’d be if I could have locked into that truth and ridden that faith earlier, but it adds no value to spin on that. Because now my dream muscle is growing. What’s at stake has changed it all.

At no point is my identity on the line whether my dreams crash and burn or get me to the moon.

When my self-assessment is aligned with who God says that I am, I can risk on anything. If I’m leaning into Him along the way, at best I will exceed all I could ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20-21), at worst I’ll grow in a new understanding of God’s character. And in both situations, I’ll see and have the opportunity to believe that what He says about me is true, apart from any outcome.