“Man has a dream, and that’s the start. He follows his dream with mind and heart. And when it becomes a reality, it’s a dream come true for you and me” – Richard Sherman and Robert Sherman, “Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow”
Dreamers can drive you crazy sometimes with their perky dispositions, their endless energy, and their glass half-full attitude. If you have someone in your life—a friend, a family member, or a spouse—who always seems to have their head in the clouds, convincing them to put pragmatism before pink, fluffy positivity can seem as possible as moving a mountain with telekinesis. The truth is that some of the world’s most celebrated individuals—from inventors like Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell to leaders of change like Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi—were dreamers and they devoted their lives to achieving those dreams, whether inventing electric light or establishing world peace. Despite their quirks, dreamers make our world a brighter, more convenient, and much more entertaining place. Here are fifteen things to keep in mind if your loved one is a dreamer.
1. They have endless imagination
If you’ve ever been to Walt Disney World, you’ve probably ridden the Carousel of Progress, which first debuted at the New York World’s Fare in 1964. Celebrating some of the greatest inventions of the late 19th and 20th centuries like electric light, the phonograph, in-door plumbing, and television; the ride takes us on a journey through the 20th century with an American family, watching as technology transforms their lives. In addition to showcasing the work of inventors like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, the Carousel of Progress encapsulates Walt Disney’s belief in the immortality of the American Dream. Beyond being a fantasy land where animals talk and you can get your picture taken with a gigantic mouse, Disney World is a celebration of imagination. A simple sketch of a talking mouse and an idea in a man’s brain turned into a global enterprise that has brought joy to millions all over the world. Encourage imagination in your loved ones, especially your children—Their crayon drawings might give us the world’s next Mickey Mouse.
2. They don’t do well with deadlines
Dreamers are very often creative visionaries—painters, sculptors, or poets. They move when the muses motivate them, not according to a fixed schedule. It took Michelangelo four years to paint the now-famous frescos in the Sistine Chapel, and when Pope Julius (who’d commissioned the work) asked when Michelangelo would finish, the artist replied, “When I can.” The wait was well worth it of course, because the frescos have held up reasonably well over the centuries. Maybe Michelangelo found painting in a cramped position on a scaffold extremely uncomfortable? Maybe he just liked pushing the Pope’s buttons. Whatever the reason, remember that bringing a dream to fruition takes time. If your friend’s business is taking a while to get off the ground, or your cousin seems like he’s never going to finish his Ph.D., think of the Sistine Chapel.
3. They’re not the most economical people on the planet
Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer (1632 to 1675) was another dreamer who didn’t do well with deadlines, much to the irritation of his family. Extremely meticulous and detail-oriented, Vermeer produced only two or three paintings a year, which made supporting his wife and eleven children a bit of a challenge. Vermeer died in debt in 1675 at the age of 43 but remains a celebrated artist, famous for works like “The Girl with a Pearl Earring,” which inspired a historical novel by Tracy Chevalier and a film starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth. You might do well to remind the dreamer in your life that dreams alone won’t pay the bills, but dreamers usually aren’t in it for the money.
4. They sometimes have tunnel vision
Returning to Michelangelo, he first rejected the Sistine Chapel commission, insisting that he was a sculptor and not a painter. Had he not eventually accepted the job we might never have had the pleasure of viewing his beautifully-painted frescos, and the Sistine Chapel’s attraction might have been less prominent. Sometimes dreamers become so focused on a single project or talent that they don’t realize how much further they can cultivate their skills. Maybe your brother is struggling to land that dream writing job, but also happens to be a wiz in the kitchen. Your insistence that he should consider working in the culinary arts probably goes in one ear and out the other, but don’t give up. When he eventually listens, he might be the next Gordon Ramsey.
5. They’re relentlessly positive
Thomas Edison is famously credited for having once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” That was the kind of ruthless endurance and belief in finding a solution that gave us the electric lightbulb. Remember when you were a kid learning to ride a bicycle? Whenever you lost your balance, fell, and scraped your knees, you got back on the bike and tried again until you could race up and down the sidewalks without even holding onto the handlebars. This is the dreamer’s approach to everything. As exhausting as this energetic go-getter attitude might seem it gets the job done—and dreamers believe whole-heartedly in what they’re setting out to achieve. Even when it seems like they’re going to fail encourage them, because when you mock a dreamer’s dreams you mock the dreamer.
6. They can be a bit absent-minded
Maybe the dreamer in your life is constantly misplacing her keys or her cellphone? Maybe they’re always late or forget your birthday. They can’t help it! When dreamers are looking up, building castles in the air and losing their head in the clouds, they sometimes forget to pay attention to what’s going on in the “real world.” If you’re the pragmatic one in the relationship, it’s okay now and then to grab hold of their ankles and pull them down to earth whenever they’re flying too high.
7. They’re a bit eccentric
Is your little dreamer a bit like “The Big Bang Theory’s” Sheldon Cooper? Does he insist on sitting in the same spot, having his hot beverages heated to precisely the correct temperature, or following a strict meal and bathroom schedule? It sounds OCD (and it totally is), but the truth is that dreamers who are often creative geniuses do this for a reason. When they can fall back on routine it frees their minds up to focus on whatever personal project they’re completing, whether it’s a book, a scientific experiment, or a self-driving car. Just humor them and accept that it’s their way of creating balance to ground them when their head space gets too chaotic.
8. They’re goal-oriented
While we’ve talked about the fact that dreamers always seem to have their head in the clouds, this is because they’re always looking up and ahead. Dreamers know what they want in life because they’re great at visualizing. If they want to be a corporate giant on Wall Street, they picture it in their minds. If they want to live in a mansion, they’ve already decorated it in their minds. Observing the way the dreamers in your life plan their futures can teach you a lot about the value of setting goals in a self-motivated life.
9. They know how to make sacrifices
Maybe things can be a bit rough financially sometimes, especially when a dream is just trying its wings. Building from the ground up is never easy, but dreamers have faith that today’s sacrifices will pay off tomorrow, or perhaps the next day. Their rosy-eyed optimism keeps them fueled while they’re living in a studio apartment, surviving on Ramen Noodles and peanut butter and scrounging between the couch cushions for quarters to do their laundry with (I’m looking at you, anyone who’s ever been in grad school). That’s what living the dream really looks like, man. When you get frustrated with a dreamer because they can’t pay the bills, or they haven’t had the money to visit in 3 years, remember that they’re doing the best they can.
10. They’re healthier
As we’ve talked about, dreamers are optimists, and studies have shown that optimists are not only psychologically happier, but physically healthier, recovering more quickly from illnesses and surgery. So don’t gripe about your dreamer’s cheery disposition; put on a happy face and smile with them. You just might add a few years to your life.
11. They can be unrealistic
Of course, the caveat in all of this is that sometimes dreamers get carried away. They sometimes think that once they start climbing the ladder of success, that it’s just a straight-to-the-top trajectory, but the truth is there’s no such thing as a completely happy ending. Remember what happened to Icarus when he flew too close to the sun? The downside to flying high on the wings of hope is that when things don’t work out, the higher you’ve flown, the harder you fall. This is when you need to step in, help them up, and remind a dreamer that nothing worth having comes without risk or pain.
12. They know they can be a burden sometimes
While dreamers know how to make sacrifices for themselves, they also recognize that others—parents, friends, spouses—make sacrifices for them as well, very often involving money. When they cling tenaciously to a dream that seems destined not to come true, applying for job after job, making move after move with no success, they’re not clueless. They’re frustrated and afraid they won’t make it work. They know how much love, support, and financial investment you’ve put into helping them, and they fear letting you down almost as much as, if not more than they fear letting themselves down. From their perspective, the best way they can pay you back is to prove to you that they can do it.
13. They let you stand on their shoulders
Sir Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Whenever I come across this quotation I think of my immigrant grandparents. My grandparents and great grandparents came to America from Italy not for themselves, but for their children and their children’s children. Both my brother and I, as well as our parents, are fortunate enough to have earned graduate degrees. When my brother and I graduated our father reminded us never to forget our roots. The dreams we’re living today would be impossible without the hands of the bricklayers, tailors, and seamstresses in our family who molded and stitched together a path for future generations.
14. They’re always on the move
According to Neal Samudre, one of the best things about being in a relationship with a dreamer is that they take you on a life-long adventure. Dreamers aren’t content to sit still and let life pass them by. They’re always looking for the next big adventure, whether a white-water rafting vacation or a cross-country move to a city where you won’t know a soul but each other. Without them, you might never have challenged yourself to experience these things, and as scary as it is, the upshot is that you never have to do it alone. The dreamer is in the driver’s seat too in these situations, so you can just enjoy the ride.
15. They’ll always believe in you
A dreamer will be your biggest fan and loudest cheerleader because they know the simple joy of shaping their dreams and the thrill of seeing them come to fruition. They want you to share in that joy and experience that same self-satisfaction, so they’re the perfect ones to have in your corner when you decide to chase your own dreams. If you’ve been there for a dreamer, sometimes the best way you can let them thank you is to let them return the favor.
Featured photo credit: Sky and Clouds via pixabay.com