One of my biggest and most recurring dreams when I was a kid of about 9 or 10 years old was to be Strawberry Fields and marry Peter Framptons’ character Billy Shears in Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Movie. No, really. I dreamed about this constantly. I was obsessed. I was young enough to think that this was an actual possibility. That I could be a fictional character in a really bad movie based on a Beatles album! I was definitely floating up there with “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” I was reminded of this the other day when “Strawberry Fields” popped up on my playlist and it started me thinking about dreams and why we give up on the ones we should keep and cling to the ones we should let go. Because there are some we need to let go. Let go of our dreams?! She just said what? I know! We don’t usually get this kind of advice. Just take a look at a small sampling of “dream” quotes:

“If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” -Zig Ziglar

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” – Elenor Roosevelt

“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

“Don’t stop believing” -Journey

You get the picture.

People don’t ever tell you to let go of your dream except maybe Simon Cowell on American Idol. He downright told people, “you need to forget this dream, you have no musical talent whatsoever.” But then, the would-be Kelly Clarkson who cannot carry a note, leaves the audition room without her coveted yellow slip and her friends and family tell her through their tears, “Don’t listen to him! Don’t give up on your dream!”

We are a nation of dream cheerleaders.

Carolyn Myss said, “People suffer when they pursue a life or chase a dream that doesn’t belong to them” and this is true of those American Idol contestants who are being laughed out of the audition room when they truly believe that they have the gift of the Velvet Fog. The reality is, that dream of being the next Kelly Clarkson does not belong to them. Their talents and abilities are not aligned with their dream. So the question is, how do we know? How do we know which dreams are reachable and which ones are not? Which dreams, as the line in the Lightening Seeds song says, should we be keeping and which ones should we sell or let go?

Most of the time, what we are searching for in our dreams lies beneath the pretty paper and ribbon the dream is wrapped in. It is a feeling we believe the dream will bring us. Many times it is validation, feeling loved, or worthy. We confuse the value of the gift by the wrapping it comes in. I think this is true of the most prevalent dream of the young of being famous. I don’t know of many children who don’t at one point dream of being famous. I myself wanted to be a famous shoe designer. What we believe about fame when we are young is that if I am a famous singer, actor, athlete, entrepreneur or just famous for no reason whatsoever (which seems to be the case more often than not these days) then that tells me I am important, I am worthy, I am someone in this world. We mistakenly believe that this validation and sense of worthiness comes from somewhere outside of ourselves. That it comes in the wrapping paper. We also mistakenly believe that the prettier or more ornate the wrapping paper (ie. fame, wealth, status), the better or more valuable the gift (me). Unfortunately, we don’t always outgrow this perspective of our youth.

Being seen, validated and wanting to shine is a common human need and one we all deserve. I believe we are all meant to shine. This is why as children we dressed up like superheros and princesses- we knew we were meant to shine. What we need to learn is that our need to shine can be satisfied without being the next “American Idol” or first round draft pick. We weren’t all born with those talents and most of us will need to find other ways to satisfy our need to be validated or worthy because for most of us, when we open our mouths to sing, our dog starts to howl.

This is equally true if your dream is not as grand. Maybe your dream is to attend your parents’ alma mater or an Ivy League school, live in a certain neighborhood, town, city, or marry the love of your life who just happens to be happily married to someone else (or is a fictional character in a really silly movie). No other will do. It has to be that school, that town, that person. The seeming reasons will be many and varied but the underlying one is always the same. It is because you believe that it and only it will make you happy.

We put our lives into such small boxes. We cram them full of what we want, exactly how we want it and leave little room for the universe to manifest the feeling we crave behind the dream in any other way than the one we are fixed on. We close ourselves off to any other possibility and this in turn, too often, closes us off to the happiness and validation we seek. We literally are sabatoging our own happiness.

It reminds me of that story of the drowning man who asks God to save him and so a boat comes by and he doesn’t climb aboard, a raft comes next, same thing, then a helicopter. The man tells each one he is waiting for God to save him. He, of course, drowns and when he gets to heaven, asks God, “Why didn’t you save me?” To which God replies, “I sent you a lifeboat, a raft and a helicopter! What more did you want me to do???”

The point is, let there be room for different roads. As Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Let go of your death grip on the steering wheel. Getting fixated on this one thing and this one thing only that you believe will make you happy, complete, feel loved, feel successful, feel secure – [fill in the blank] – leads us down the road to stress, pain, and anxiety. There is no one person, one school, one career, one road to those feelings. In fact, none of those things will bring you the feeling you crave in any lasting way because…….that feeling comes from inside you. (Come on, you knew this one!)

There is a meditation I like to do when I have a dream I want to manifest in my life by Deepak Chopra. It involves first feeling gratitude for all the good things in my life – this is important, for abundance is the fruit of gratitude. Then holding an image of the thing I want to manifest, I listen to what my heart is telling me – what is the feeling I want that I think this particular thing or dream will bring me. And when I find it – then that is what I hold a picture of in my meditation. That feeling is what I concentrate on.

Lately, I’ve been meditating on manifesting keeping the beach house my children and I inherited. But what I realized during meditation is that what I really want is being able to have my friends and family around me. Having a place to gather and entertain, have fun and spend time with them. Beach house sounds perfect, right? But the key to this meditation is that after we hold the image of the feeling and in my case, the feeling of gathering with friends and family at our beach house, then you let it go. You let the attachment to the form go, not the feeling. You detach. As Deepak says, “The Law of Detachment says that in order to acquire anything in the physical universe, you have to relinquish your attachment to it. This doesn’t mean you give up your intention to create your desire, you give up your attachment to the result.” In other words, let the attachment to the form go, not the feeling you believe it will give you. You surrender to the unknown and trust that the universe knows how to fill your underlying need but that maybe the means to it will be different than the one you dreamed of. This takes faith and flexibility. Faith that all the good things we want for ourselves – love, success, joy are things the universe wants for us too and the flexibility to let go of your rigid idea that there is only one way to your dream. Holding the steering wheel with such intensity creates feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Being flexible allows for a space for the million other ways the universe can fulfill your dream which may or may not include a beach house or marrying Peter Frampton.

The truth is there are no dreams you should sell but what you have to learn is exactly what part of your dream you should be keeping and what part you should let go of and surrender to the universe. What we are looking for in our dreams is the feeling underneath that which we think the dream will bring us. We are all meant to have our dreams come true but it is the feeling beneath the wrapping paper that we are meant to have. The paper may be pretty but in the end, it is just covering up the gift.