In her “life kinda sucks” voice she told me that was now a line food preparer in a popular restaurant. This is a small group of people who work in a restaurant kitchen putting food on plates. Then, when the dishwasher didn’t show up, she volunteered to take over that duty. After a couple of days the manager told her she liked her energy and was considering cross-training her for cashier and waitress. I was surprised at her lackluster attitude. So I tossed her a story.
“So let’s say you worked as a kickass waitress and cashier for a couple of years. Then you served this nice, well dressed man three times in about ten days. He approached you on a break and he asked you if he could visit after you got off. You told him you weren’t interested in dating anyone. He told you he wanted to talk to you about a job, not a date. After work he told you he was the owner of the restaurant chain you were working at. He had come in because he had heard you were a versatile hardworker, and wanted to see if you were interested in having your own restaurant. It would require months of paid training, but he had been looking for a hard working self starter, and you were the best he had seen. Now, after a number of years at a mediocre wage, you have been “discovered”. It’s your payback for hard work.”
She went silent and began to softly cry. I explained the difference between dreams and goals. And although dreams do not have a high probability of coming true, without a dream, the probability is zero. In this manner we can motivate ourselves to work hard, have high expectations and work towards something greater than only paying the bills every moment of our lives.
This same principle applies to young people. When I ask teenagers to “trip” (i.e., imagine) about their post high school future, many have no thought as to what they would love to be, or do, or even see. Teachers, parents, and adult friends can help teens envision different futures. Imagine a mutually loving, kind and forever marriage and friendship: a far cry than what they have seen. Consider different ways of raising their own children: again, perhaps far greater than the manner in which they were raised. Dreaming of a greater existence is not only therapeutic, but essential.
Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Additionally one may continue: The unimagined life mindlessly repeats the past.
John S. Sommer
Licensed Clinical Social Worker