Are you sitting down?
That dream job you have in your head may be an escapist fantasy.
It may not be constructive. You may not be happier if you achieve it. And it may be getting in the way of you discovering your real dream.
This can be a really confronting and hard question to consider.
How do you tell if your dream is the real thing or an escapist fantasy?
An escapist fantasy is based on fear and avoidance. We use it to run away from thinking about difficult things. It is a security blanket we can hide ourselves in.
It has just enough real details for our escapist purposes. It is usually simplistically exciting and wonderful. But will lack the nitty-gritty details that can potentially realise it. A fantasy is necessarily vague and will resist any efforts to make it concrete. There is resistance because if we make it concrete, we will have to face reality.
This escapist quality nourishes our fears and limits. It keeps us safe but also stuck.
Indulging in an escapist fantasy also forces us to compare it (as the perfect ideal) with our current situation. It can reinforce our dissatisfaction with our current situation. It drains our motivation and adds to our feeling trapped by our circumstances. So much so that we just run away again back into the fantasy.
Needless to say this is not conducive to our long term wellbeing. By providing emotional succor without challenging us to take any constructive actions, our escapist fantasy stops us from growing into our full selves.
A real constructive dream is based on hopeful anticipation. The underlying driver is towards growth and actualisation.
When we think about such a dream, we are excited by its potential. Unlike a fantasy, you can tease out a real dream and make it progressively more and more concrete. It has more nuance and richness lacking in a fantasy.
And yes there will be an element of fear. Growth is change. And change is understandably scary. But the dream inspires us to keep ongoing. The desire to achieve it moves us to learn, seek out resources, face down obstacles, and get over our own fears and limits.
A real dream helps us reframe our current circumstance as a stepping stone. We may still not like where we are now, but with a real dream in mind, we have a direction to move through and onwards. There is no real need for us to be stuck.
This forward momentum is what makes the dream constructive. In many ways, whether we actually achieve the dream or not is not the point. The fact that it drives us to act is.
Image: Meaning via Shutterstock.