By Jeremy Godwin
Welcome to Let’s Talk About Mental Health, the weekly podcast full of simple ideas for better mental health by Jeremy Godwin. Each episode focuses on practical and simple ideas that you can use to improve and maintain your mental health and wellbeing every day, based on quality research.
This is Episode 76 and this week I’m talking about dreams. In this episode I’ll cover what dreams are, why they play an important role in our mental health and wellbeing, and how to turn your dreams into reality. So, let’s talk about mental health!
Listen to the podcast episode now in the Spotify player below (or using your preferred podcast service; see below for links) or continue reading for the article/transcript version.
Watch Episode 14 of Let’s Talk About Mental Health TV — in this latest episode I’m sharing five quick mindfulness practices you can do anywhere and anytime (and they’re all totally free!) for better mental health.
Watch it below or visit the channel on YouTube:
This podcast episode was originally released on 25 April, 2021.
Hello and welcome to Episode 76, and thanks so much for joining me! 2021 is The Year of Wellbeing here on the Let’s Talk About Mental Health podcast, and each week I’ll be exploring ways you can make a positive difference in your own life.
This week is all about dreams, and I’m talking about the ambition kind of dreams rather than the ones you have when you’re asleep about being a cruise director on the Love Boat but also a flying unicorn. For many of us our deepest ambitions and goals are intimate and highly personal, and they reveal a lot about who we truly are at our core. I’m a firm believer in doing the work every day to be the best version of yourself possible, and I see understanding and pursuing your dreams as a big part of that… so I’ll be exploring this in more detail in today’s episode.
Before I get into that, two quick updates which will take me just a minute or so. First, Episode 14 of Let’s Talk About Mental Health TV is out now on YouTube where I’m sharing five simple mindfulness practices you can do in just a few minutes, and they’re all completely free! I like free and simple because, well, why make things expensive and complicated if you don’t have to?! The episode is out now on the Let’s Talk About Mental Health TV channel over on YouTube and the content I post there is completely different to the stuff you hear on this podcast — head over to YouTube or watch it now at letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au/YouTube — you’ll find the links in the episode description for this program. And while you’re there, if you like what you see then please subscribe to the YouTube channel.
So my other update is that I have been a very busy beaver and I’m launching a second YouTube channel starting May 1 where I’ll be sharing no-nonsense advice for living on a wide range of topics, not just mental health. If you enjoy my direct and blunt style then I’m sure you’ll like these new videos — you can find out more at www.jeremygodwin.com.au and watch the promo there or find it on my other Instagram account @jeremygodwinofficial. I’ll be talking a little bit about why I decided to do this throughout today’s episode because it’s a current example of following your dreams.
So, with that said, on with this week’s episode about dreams…
In 1993 the British singer Gabrielle sang, “dreams can come true” and I believed her because she was wearing a rhinestoned eyepatch on the cover of the single, which meant she was either a flamboyant pirate or confident enough to be her true self and pursue her dreams in spite of choosing to cover her drooping eyelid (it’s the latter — she’s not a pirate, at least to the best of my knowledge). I’ll come back to the inspiring part of some of those lyrics shortly, but first I want to tell you why Gabrielle and her sparkly eyepatch got my attention as a teenager.
Something I haven’t shared before is that when I was a child I developed a condition known as hiatus hernia which affects your oesophagus and stomach, so I was constantly unwell and I ended up having surgery for it when I was seven that left me in hospital for three months. And then I also had a condition with my neck where the muscles were weak on one side, so my head was on a lean, and so for several years I had to wear the most uncomfortable rigid neck brace ever produced in the history of humanity. So here I was as a kid wandering around with a massive scar across my stomach (which of course I still have now — my belly smiles back up at me every day) AND a neck brace, which really put a massive dent in my self-confidence (something that only became worse even after the brace came off because I was a lot more shy and awkward than I had been, and that became worse as I was bullied in high school for being ‘creative’ and ‘different’ — but, anyway…).
Why am I telling you all this? Well, it’s because when I saw Gabrielle singing away and living her best life it inspired me. I know there’s nothing to be ashamed of for needing to wear an eye patch or a neck brace, but as a kid those things can really dent your self esteem. Elsewhere in the song, Dreams, Gabrielle (who co-wrote it) sang these lyrics:
“You know you gotta have hope; you know you gotta be strong”Gabrielle, Dreams (1993)
Dreams are, to me at least, wonderful little hopes for the future that help to give us strength; sometimes we share them with others, and other times we keep them safely to ourselves. I’ve come to learn over the years that even if your dreams terrify you it is absolutely worth it to pursue them, for yourself more than for anyone or anything else. Even if you do make an attempt to turn your dreams into reality and it doesn’t turn out as you had hoped, or if it flops completely, it does not matter — at least you tried. Because dreams left unrealised can become regrets, and as I said in Episode 22 I don’t do regrets. So this week I’m going to be giving you lots of reasons why you should be dropping everything immediately (if not sooner) and turning your attention to making your dreams come true, no matter how big or small they may be. First though, let’s talk through some definitions…
What are dreams?
Dreams can be described as cherished aspirations, ambitions, or ideals (and thanks to the Oxford Dictionary for that definition).
I like dreams. I think there’s a purity and a uniqueness to the hopes and aspirations that we each harbour deep down within us, and for many of us there are dreams that stem all the way back to childhood as well as ones that have formed along the way throughout our adulthood. Some dreams change or evolve along the way — I’ve said in previous episodes that as a kid I wanted to be a pop star, then puberty happened and made my voice sound like a giraffe in a blender so I had to let go of that dream (now bear in mind kids… I’ve been around for a lot longer than auto-tune, so it wasn’t an option). Sometimes we have to find new dreams or come at things from a different angle, and sometimes our priorities change entirely such as when we have a lifestyle change or become a parent or whatever.
And when we talk about dreams you don’t necessarily need to pursue lofty goals like President of Earth or Most Intelligent Person in the Galaxy. Your dreams can be mundane to others, but it doesn’t matter what they think — it’s about what you want! My partner’s greatest goal in life is to be able to retire early and work on the garden. That’s not for me but I am fully supportive. Whatever brings you joy is worthy of your dreams. Which leads me to…
Why do dreams play an important role in our mental health and wellbeing?
Well, honestly, I think dreams make life worth living! There’s a real balance between getting caught up in our dreams to the detriment of enjoying the now (and I think that, at this point, I’ve talked about a thousand times about the living-in-the-now piece so consider this 1,001!), but having hopes and aspirations for the future (no matter how big or how small) really can serve to keep us feeling motivated and excited here in the present.
I think that when we let our dreams slip away and just become ‘what-ifs?’ rather than actually pursuing them, we’re doing ourselves an injustice in the long term. Your dreams are part of you and the ones you keep hidden deep down inside are actually clues to help you find different possible ways to be the best version of yourself that you can be… which is, in my opinion, the entire point of this thing we call ‘life’. That doesn’t mean you have to achieve them or you won’t be complete if you don’t; instead, what it means is that they are guides to help you identify the things that get you excited so that you can explore lots of possible options — I do not believe that we only have one possible purpose in this life (just as I don’t believe there is only one perfect person in the world for us, ironic since I’ve been with the one person for longer than some of you have been alive) but instead we have infinite possible purposes and it’s up to each of us to find the ones that feel most compatible to us and the most enjoyable and satisfying.
Let me explain what I mean by talking about my own examples I shared: first, the pop star thing. Just because I couldn’t sing that doesn’t mean that the essence of that dream — i.e. Performing — wasn’t something that I could still explore. So throughout the years I did a bit of amateur theatre and always jumped at the opportunity to be the MC at work functions and things like that, which eventually helped me to understand different ways of channelling that dream; I discovered that being a training facilitator as a career for a few years was really enjoyable and gave me that aspect of being ‘on’ and presenting in front of people, which then led me to discover how much I enjoy public speaking, which then eventually led me to do this podcast and my YouTube stuff. Do you see my point? If I had just given up on the initial dream completely and not explored it more, I might never have ended up doing the things I do now that I absolutely love doing, like this program. So just because you may head down a totally different path to the one you thought you were going to, that doesn’t mean that the essence of the dream you had isn’t worthy and it is definitely still achievable.
Which ties into my second example about the YouTube stuff and this new channel I’m launching on May 1 where I’m going to be talking about lots of different topics other than mental health; doing this podcast and, more recently, the Let’s Talk About Mental Health TV channel on YouTube made me realise just how much fun I have doing this stuff and at the same time it feels really fulfilling; there are some challenging aspects of it and putting yourself out there will always attract criticism (and it’s a lot of hard work that can take ages to build an audience, so that can set off a whole bunch of self-doubts and insecurities) but you know what? I’m not doing this for other people, I’m doing this for me because I love speaking about stuff and the reality is that if I never try then I’ll never know.
Which leads me to my other reason why pursuing your dreams matters for your mental health — without hope, without something to aspire to, our souls can wither. Don’t let your soul wither. I’m sure many of you will have met at least one person in your life who has given up on hope entirely and often it results in bitterness. You don’t have to become bitter; pursue your dreams. You don’t have to be standing on the stage at Carnegie Hall to be successful or to manifest your dreams; all you have to do is take those things that make you feel excited and purposeful and turn them into reality in a way that feels meaningful and satisfying. How do you do that? Well, let’s get into the how-to part of this week’s episode…
How to turn your dreams into reality
So I’m going to start with a few broad points to cover off on some general advice then I’ll go through six specific steps to going from dream to reality.
Let’s start with the general points to consider, beginning with:
- Dreams that are about more than just yourself tend be more meaningful and fulfilling — I know, ‘yawn’! But the fact of the matter is that when you focus on superficial aspirations like money, status and possessions, the satisfaction you get from those will be fleeting and before you know it you’ll be looking for the next dream that you think will make you happy. Speaking of…
- Understand the difference between internal and external validation — when your dreams and your happiness rely on things that are outside of your control (such as what other people do or don’t do) then you’re never going to be satisfied because you have a need that can never be completely fulfilled. If I just did this show for the audience numbers I would be forever chasing my own tail and I’d never be satisfied because it’s all stuff I cannot control; once I do these episodes and I put them out into the universe, it’s out of my control what happens next. I could do a few promos here and there (and yes I’ve done that) but I can’t control how many people will listen to it — it’s completely out of my control. So, instead, I choose to focus on the work and being happy with what I put out into the world, and if and when the numbers follow then I can celebrate that as an outcome rather than being the goal I’m striving towards. Does that make sense? In other words it’s about focusing on what is within your control first and foremost. Whatever you do, do it for you!
- What other people think has nothing to do with you — depending on what you want to pursue you may find negativity, especially if you’re putting yourself out there publicly. Some people can be toxic (which I explored last week in Episode 75) and as I said then, none of that has anything to do with you and everything to do with who they are and where they’re at in life. Let that shit go and don’t let it deter you from doing what feels right to you.
- Don’t stress if the people you thought would support you don’t — do want to know how to learn this lesson really quickly (well, not that quickly)? Launch a book or a podcast… you will discover very quickly that the response from most people in your life will be underwhelming to say the least. It’s actually fairly common, from the research that I’ve done. Don’t take it personally; other people are focused on whatever they’re focused on and they just don’t have the same level of excitement for what you’re doing that you do. Don’t take it personally and definitely don’t let it hold you back from pursuing the things you want to!
- Don’t judge yourself (or others!) — you might feel silly for having a particular dream or aspiration; don’t. When you judge yourself you’re holding yourself back. If it’s harmless then do what you want to do and live your best life! And while you’re practicing non-judgement towards yourself, be kind and non-judgemental towards others; don’t judge them for their dreams either. As with everything, if it does no harm then let people do what they do.
- ‘Pursue’ or ‘follow’ your dreams rather than ‘chasing’ them — you may have noticed throughout this episode that I have not used the term ‘chase your dreams’ and there’s a good reason for that; the word ‘chase’ reeks of desperation. Don’t let desperate energy creep in because it’s negative; instead remember that the journey is just as important as the destination (if not more so) and so make the most of it as you follow your dreams wherever they take you.
So now I’m going to dive into some specific steps on how to turn dreams into reality, and this is very much a tactical approach to getting shit done. So, first…
- Think about your ‘why’ — dreams are nice but if there’s something you want to achieve, make sure you understand why first (and be completely honest with yourself). Why do you want to achieve a specific outcome? What will be different if/when you achieve it? How will it improve your life in an authentic and meaningful way? Are you doing it for you or for attention from others? I mean look, there’s nothing wrong with having some external validation (I mean, if nobody was listening to this podcast then I’d just be pumping words out into the aether each week for no reason!) but if your sole purpose for wanting to do something is to gain validation from others then it’s going to be hard to maintain that. I talked about this stuff back in Episode 74 when I looked at redefining success and I encourage you to really think about the ‘why’ behind your dreams that you want to achieve before you run head-first towards them. I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I’m starting the second YouTube channel and I can say for sure that I thought long and hard about why I would even consider doing that, and for me it’s not about views but about having the opportunity to talk more about things I’m passionate about. I think knowing that and being honest with yourself makes an enormous difference in terms of then framing how you approach things — I’m doing this for me, and that means I’m just having fun with it and doing all the stupid things I enjoy (so yes, expect more Spice Girls references). Anyway, once you know your ‘why’ the next step is to…
- Identify the specific outcome(s) you want — turn those broad dreams and ideas into specific goals you want to achieve. So when you’re thinking about this stuff, think about what it is that you can do rather than putting the responsibility on external factors.
- Create a high-level action plan — ask yourself what the main steps are that you need to take to turn your dream into a reality, then break your goal down into 3-5 major milestones that you’ll need to achieve (this helps you to begin building a road-map to work on). It doesn’t have to be perfect as it’s something you’ll refine along the way, and the higher-level the high-level plan is, the better — because it’s actually about the broad steps you will need to take.
- Now, break the plan down into smaller chunks — so now that you have an idea of those major milestones you’ll need to achieve, break each of those milestones down into bite-size chunks that are much smaller and more manageable; the goal here is to have a set of things that you can achieve in mere days or weeks. Why? Momentum. When you can see progress happening you will feel more successful, and progress is much easier to see when it’s in small increments.
- Next, do the work! — once you have a plan it’s now up to you to do what needs to be done. The work is very rarely glamorous and most things take time, effort and perseverance and overnight success is very, very rare… but this is where that ‘smaller chunks’ thing helps because then it doesn’t feel like you’re slogging away with no result. Show up consistently and focus on quality rather than quantity.
- And then… review and refine constantly — and I mean constantly. You can plan all you like, but life has a way of throwing curveballs at us (for example, a pandemic!). The thing is that you can make all the plans you like but there is always a possibility that what you came up with just doesn’t work out or circumstances change; that’s OK. Failure is an opportunity to learn and come at things from a different angle, so review your plans regularly and modify or refine them as you go.
And finally, if you’re struggling with feelings of sadness or regret around dreams that have slipped away, I encourage you to work with a professional who can help you to explore your feelings and consider your options. In the words of the great sage Kylie Minogue, it’s never too late — we’ve still got time.
And, on the other hand, if you are doing the work to go and pursue the things you dream about doing and are finding it challenging, get help if you need it. Again, as I always say, you don’t need to go through these things alone; even if you are getting that momentum happening, work with a coach or mentor, undertake training, connect with likeminded people, find resources that help you. Get the support that’s going to help you to keep going.
Summary and Close-Out
Because when it comes to dreams and mental health, what it all boils down to is this: Your dreams are little clues from your soul about who you want to be and what you want out of life, and it’s up to you to decide what you do with them. You don’t have to run a country or sell a bajillion albums to find fulfilment; in fact, I’d say those are two examples of ways not to find fulfilment in life because they’re things that are heavily reliant of factors outside of your control. Consider what makes you feel engaged and motivated and look at ways you can turn that into outcomes that feel meaningful, purposeful and rewarding. You have those dreams for a reason; it’s up to you to decide what happens next.
The choice is yours, as it is with all things related to your wellbeing… so, what choice will YOU make today?
Each week I like to finish up by sharing a quote about the week’s topic, and I encourage you to take a few moments to really reflect on it and consider what it means to you. This week’s quote is by Eleanor Roosevelt, and it is:
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”Eleanor Roosevelt
Next week I’ll be talking about setbacks. As much as we’d like to think life works in a perfectly straight line and that things are always improving little by little each day, the reality is that from time to time we’re thrown for a loop thanks to a setback or difficulty. From things that happen to lots of people (like the pandemic) and which throw us all into disarray, through to things that happen to each of us individually like losing someone or having to deal with sudden and unexpected change, setbacks can definitely make life seem more challenging and difficult, especially if we’re already dealing with challenges in terms of our mental health and wellbeing. So how do you deal with setbacks? Well, next week I’ll be talking about what setbacks are, why dealing with them in a healthy way matters, and how to manage setbacks for the sake of your wellbeing.
I hope you’ll join me for that episode, which will be released on Sunday 2nd May. And join me for Let’s Talk About Mental Health TV on YouTube, with new episodes released every Wednesday. And also join me on May 1 for my all-new YouTube show No-Nonsense Advice for Living, which you can watch on YouTube or at www.jeremygodwin.com.au.
Head over to letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au for links and past episodes (including audio and full transcripts) and, while you’re there, join the mailing list to have exclusive updates and to receive the full transcript for every in episode in your inbox each week. You can find the website links in the description of this episode on whatever podcast service you’re using.
Thank you very much for joining me today — look after yourself and make a conscious effort to share positivity and kindness in the world, because you get back what you put out. Take care and talk to you next time.
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