Dreams Live in Cubicles


An astronaut. A doctor. An actor. A writer. An architect.

When you were a kid and that inevitable question came up—what do you want to be when you grow up?—how did you answer? With what flourishes did you describe these future, adult dreams of yours?

And did you notice, even then, the dismissal in their smiling nods?

That’s adorable. An architect! Just wait until you grow up and get into the real world.

Is it inevitable? This defeat—this turning of dreams into drudgery? This never-ending cycle of Mondays?

Of course not, you say. Just think of that 50-year-old woman, book contract in hand for her first novel. Or that lawyer-turned-social entrepreneur who traded a corner office for a dingy room across the tracks.

It’s possible to change course. And perhaps you are harboring an idea even now. A someday-dream for after the kids leave and the house is paid off.

But what about today? What about the job you’re in now? What are your dreams for tomorrow or this year?

We are happy to encourage dreaming in our children. We seed their imaginations. We tell them they can be anything they want to be. We take notice of their gifts and encourage the cultivation of their talents.

It’s harder to do that for ourselves, for our coworkers, for our employees. We see the reality of the daily work that needs doing, the politics surrounding our projects, the rise and fall of our checking accounts. Resignation to reality—it’s a bitter pill many of us swallow every day, believing simply that it is the course of things. That’s life.

At dinner recently, I was describing an upcoming job to a new friend. “What are your greatest hopes and your greatest fears for the project?” she asked me. I was startled. I didn’t have a quick answer.

I thought back on that conversation later. And I realized I had—without even realizing it—separated myself from the work. Her question reminded me that this is my work, it’s part of my dream. I have personal ownership and investment in it. I do have hopes and fears for this project.

When was the last time you asked yourself what hopes and fears you have for the work you’re doing right now? If you are a supervisor, when was the last time you allowed your employees to infuse their dreams into the work you’re doing?

It’s easy to think our dreams are for some day—to just put our heads down and do the work in front of us while we imagine a better life later.

But most of us know that’s not enough. That’s not really how we want to live right now. We are all longing for that dream job.

But maybe the dream job isn’t the point. Maybe the point is to bring our dreams to the job.

Dreams live in children. But perhaps, if we allowed them to, they could also live in cubicles.

This article was originally published at The High Calling. Reposted with permission.

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