To be a realist or a dreamer

To be a realist or a dreamer

Many of us view realism to be a scientific and rational choice. Yet, there are times in our lives when we will question whether realism is helping us to experience life and all it offers or limiting our experiences.

A scientist of international repute had a trusted driver. One day the driver let the scientist in on a personal desire “I wish I could be a teacher”. The scientist looked on approvingly and said, “If that is what you want to be, go ahead with it. Do not give your life up to your current situation.” The driver lay great store by the wisdom of his boss and went ahead to complete his studies and is now in the process of setting up a school for children from impoverished backgrounds. The family situation of poverty, numerous siblings, squabbling parents and lack of support had taken him through the seamier sides of life until he found himself at a center for teenagers in trouble. He had gone ahead to learn driving and felt he was lucky to be working with the scientist. However, when he reflected on his past, he realized that he had been singularly fortunate to have come in contact with an academically inclined and supportive person like his boss. Many of the youngsters with whom he had roamed the streets with were dead or sunk in habit traps that made life miserable. They might have had a chance with useful guidance. He wanted to provide the guidance.

This is what people who win against all odds require – the belief that a dream is possible. When we are in a long term situation of difficulty, we start to accept the present as the reality that we have to live with. In such a case, the capacity to dream is impaired and the individual ceases to try to get out of the negativity of the present situation. Few have the power to dream, lesser still have the ability to live the dream. Belief in the dream requires reinforcement and it is wise to receive this from the right quarters.


Dreams are the source of hope for better. Dreams bring us to a superior realm far from wretchedness and despair. Dreams are the idea base when we presume to have reached rock bottom. The value of dreams lies in its ability to show us a path, a solution or a hint at a mental roadblock. Dreams motivate us to find a way out of hell.

Dreams must be shared with care and respect by the dreamer and the listener. If shared with the wrong sort, they can lose their intrinsic ability to light up our lives and are regarded as worthless. If the driver had spoken to a frustrated peer circle in the hope of receiving encouragement and instead been at the receiving end of negative comments about the possibility, no lasting benefit would have accrued.

What would have happened if the driver’s statement about wanting to be a teacher had been thwarted by the scientist? For one, since the driver had a high opinion of the scientist’s opinion, the dream would have been demolished or would have lain forgotten. The driver would have considered the dream to be foolish and continued with the reality of the present. Worse, the driver might have decided that dreams that gave him a vision beyond the present were not worthy of consideration.

Dreamers may prefer to share their thoughts with only a few who they can trust with their secrets.

There is interplay between our hope for our lives and the actions we take. In the situation of the driver, it was not possible to follow the dream without keeping a steady job as a driver. The work hours were erratic but allowed ample time for reading in between rides. The driver had to be realistic and continue working even as he followed a full-fledged study course with little external help. The motivation that made this possible was the dream of what could be achieved.


There is a place for realism as there is for dreaming. Realism is the force that allows one to envision the future and plan actions in the present. Realism allows an understanding of whether a dream is possible or not. Realism allows us to weigh whether the present situation calls for change while considering our emotional needs.

A young man completed his business degree from a reputed college and decided to try to live the dream of starting a rock group. He scouted the industry and analyzed his scope for entry and growth. He realized that he should have started out on this career much earlier. If he followed the dream, his plans for marriage would have to be postponed and he could not be certain about the return on his investments. The few who started late had tried forays of some sort in the field at a young age and had some acceptance in the industry, yet they were struggling. He decided to keep his rock star dreams aside and returned to corporate life and satisfied his need to have a steady family life. He meets his music group for holidays and weekends to make music so that he does not lose touch with his talent.

Here was a case of a dream being chased and dropped because of a perceived low possibility of success. The man took an approach that allowed him to enjoy family life and the benefits of a job that was in line with his education after weighing the pros and cons of pursuing his dream. There are many who would opt for leaving all other aspects of life in pursuit of their goals. This man considered his personal priorities and choices before giving up the pursuit of musical success.

Yet, there are people who believe that it is better to follow their dreams without allowing realism to come in their way. Some forge ahead to stardom while others lie forgotten.


A young adult may dream of success and have no clue what to do to reach there while another spends the time preparing a plan that considers options. The options include personal preferences, current realities (financial situation, educational merit) and future vision. Life throws every individual into a variety of events. When we look at these two cases, we might assess the second person as more capable of handling this variety. Life may not follow these formulae. It is possible for the first person to find a suitable path after initially getting tossed about by circumstances while the second lives a life of seeming success but intrinsically low on value.

It is not possible to conclude on the better path rather it is important to choose a path that suits the individual. The suitability of a path becomes apparent only after we have traversed it some part of the way and enjoy the wisdom of hindsight.


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