When a dream doesn’t become reality


Everyone has a dream: writing a book, traveling around the world or quitting your job and doing something completely different. Often, the dream doesn’t become your reality, even if you nurture it. Journalist Mariska Jansen asks: Is this such a bad thing?

According to Mark Rowlands, philosopher and author of The Philosopher and the Wolf: Lessons from the Wild on Love, Death, and Happiness, humans are focused on reaching our goals, and yet life is not ultimately about realizing our dreams. “If you think having a meaningful goal is the most important thing in your life, then your life loses its meaning when you reach your goal,” he writes.

The efforts we make to achieve our dream are also not where we find the meaning of our lives, he believes. Rowlands explains, with help from the myth of Sisyphus, who was cursed by the gods to push a boulder to the top of a mountain over and over again: “Life on the top of that mountain gazing at a goal he has already achieved is as meaningless as a life spent pushing a huge boulder up the mountain, just to see it roll down again.”

According to Rowlands, life isn’t about achieving the dreams we want and it isn’t about the road to our dreams, either. It’s about the moments that fill our lives. “We reach through the moment to fulfill our desires.” These treasured moments contain everything that really has value. These are the treasured moments when you are open to the love of others, when you’re raising your children or just going for a stroll. At the end of the day, it is tough when our wishes don’t (fully) come true. We can struggle tremendously with this, but regrets for missed opportunities can also offer us a certain perspective.

“Realizing that we cannot fully control our own destiny humbles us and helps us to relativize and to accept that things sometimes go differently than we had wished them to.” As the years come and go, we lose our illusions and we become wiser, even if we pay the price with a little sadness. At the same time, we gain the wisdom that having unfulfilled dreams isn’t necessarily something bad. Some dreams are at their most beautiful when left as dreams. So let’s not only cherish our dreams, but also our illusions. Our house of dreams is often a more welcoming place than the harsh world of our reality.

  • The complete story ‘Living the dream’ can be found in Issue 11.

Text Mariska Jansen Photography ©Justyn Warner/Unsplash