A couple of weeks ago, in the middle of a conversation, I remembered the words that are attributed to Sir Francis Drake, his prayer right before he set out to be the second man to circumnavigate the world in 1577. I don’t know whether they were actually spoken by him or not, but I hold those words very dear because they are quite powerful, and exactly what I need to remember at this stage of life. I won’t write down the entire prayer, but here is a section of it:
“Disturb us, O Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little, when we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore.”
What makes these words even more powerful is that we know Drake actually managed to travel all around the world on his ship in the sixteenth century—it’s hard to accomplish that even today. My point here, though, is not to encourage you to jump on a ship to circumnavigate the world—although that would be pretty cool, and I would send you off with my best wishes. All I want for you (and me) is to have that courage to set a goal, to pursue a dream so high that even the thought of it is enough to make us tremble. Sadly, our generation seems to have lost that kind of passion in the midst of economic crisis, political instability, and the pressure of making enough money and conforming to what our so-called modern life expects from us.
Perhaps you did have a dream once, but, little by little, you were talked out of it. If that’s the case, I’m here to rekindle that fire and would be honored to do so. No matter what the reason was, my suggestion is as simple as this: Do not give up on your dream. I acknowledge the fact that sometimes we are forced to pause our plans for a while. That’s what I had to do during my three-year-long disease; I couldn’t have cared less about dreams during that chaotic time of my life. Yet still, as soon as I started to get better, I once more desperately clung to my dream, because I didn’t have any other anchor to hold on to. Therefore, I made up my mind and followed the path that might eventually lead me to achieve my dream of becoming a writer. I do know that I have a long, a very long, way to go, and every now and then I might need to take a detour, I might seem to move away from my goal. Even so, I will fix my eyes on my dream and keep on going as far as possible, because if I were to lose my purpose, it would be as if I were broken. Dostoyevsky puts it this way, “The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.”
Once I started writing this article, another dreamer that came to my mind was Ang Lee, the famous director and screenwriter of many amazing films. He is one of those people who didn’t give up even though all bets were against him. He stayed unemployed for six years when he was a father of two; the family depended on his wife’s salary and from time to time found themselves living at the subsistence level, but whenever he wanted to give it all up, his wife stopped him and reminded him of his dreams. He persistently stayed at that seeming place of defeat and struggled, yet eventually made it through and became one of the most respected filmmakers of our time.
A word of warning might be necessary here, though. There is a fine line between ambition and enthusiasm, and while the latter will help you get where you want to go, the former often consumes you inside and hinders your inner growth. It doesn’t matter whether there are many other people competing with you to achieve that goal. As the saying goes, compete with yourself, not with others.
In short, what I’m leading up to is telling you to find the one dream that stirs a passion in you, no matter how ridiculous it sounds. Then the next step is to wholeheartedly pursue that dream, to the point of giving it the highest priority whenever you have to make a decision. And if you’re worried about how much time it will take to get where you are going, I have news for you! Time will pass anyway—so why not use it to reach the top of that mountain? I’m still lingering at the foot, but I’m sure the view will be amazing once I’ve made the climb!