The holiday season is the perfect time of the year to make space in our busy lives to stop and reflect about life and the things for which we’re grateful, as friends and families get together to express their gratitude towards each other.
Cicero – a Roman philosopher who lived from 106 to 43 b. C. – named gratitude the mother of all virtues, and to this day, this positive emotion is still widely studied in the field of positive psychology for its remarkable positive impact in the cultivation of the good life. Robert Emmons – psychologist, professor and researcher at U.C. Davis – also highlights the qualities of gratitude, which include a heightened capacity to focus on the present moment and a diminution of negative emotions like envy. But beyond listing the benefits of gratitude, which you can find in Emmons’ article: “Why Gratitude Is Good,” I want to share a new perspective on gratitude.
This morning, I was thinking about life and the things for which I’m grateful, and I noticed that I gave thanks for the dreams that I have not yet realized. This caught me by surprise. I realized that, in general, we are grateful for the goals we’ve accomplished, the learning experiences, the travelled journey. But feeling grateful for the dreams that have not yet come true?
You see, over the years, I’ve strived towards realizing my dreams – and have accomplished some of them – but those that I have yet to reach are the ones that fill me with enthusiasm when I wake up in the morning, and which remind me to do my best every day. Whenever I see a sign that one of those dreams might be close to coming true, I find myself filled with hope and a renewed sense of faith. Some of my dreams have been waiting ten years to become a reality, others have waited two years, and others only since yesterday.
I do not mean that my dreams have been sitting waiting for a miracle. On the contrary, I visit them once in a while and open the door to the real world, to see if they find their place. Sometimes they surprise me as the present moment offers them the possibility to manifest themselves, while other times I realize that the moment for my dreams is yet to come. So, I continue to wait, patiently and impatiently. Yet I never forget about them.
Dreams yet to come true can live inside of us like a magnet, pulling us toward the future while generating hope. A few months ago, at a conference, Martin Seligman – considered the father of positive psychology – talked about the importance of human agency, the capacity individuals have to act independently and to choose freely and consciously. In his lecture, he mentioned the importance of language in predicting progress, and he talked about the role that human agency, optimism and future thinking play in human progress.
Dreams are in and of themselves thoughts about possible futures. If they are positive, dreams contain doses of optimism, needing just one more ingredient to become a reality: our human agency, our clear intention to act and make those dreams come true. Could we then say that dreams predict or even direct our progress? I don’t know the answer, but the question certainly makes sense to me. As Henry David Thoreau says, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours”.
I take pride in being a hardworking woman who devotes herself to making her dreams come true, and I feel grateful for the journey I have travelled. But today is different. Today I’m grateful for the dreams that have not yet materialized, the dreams filling me with vital force, igniting my optimism and future-mindedness, acting as engines of hope in which my capabilities can be used in service of concrete action.
As the New Year approaches, I wish that you also recognize the power of your dreams. I wish that you check on your dreams—every once in a while—and open the door for them to see if their time has come. I wish that you see what you need to do to make them come true. I wish that you allow yourself to be moved by all of your dreams – including those you’ve had only since yesterday. May those dreams fill you with inspiration and optimism and provide you with guidance to propel you toward the purposeful life you are dreaming of living.
Happy holidays… and happy dreaming