I felt deep sorrow from the client in counseling sessions. The layers of heavy life struggles suffocate a person’s soul in such a way that she forgets she ever had dreams for herself. She numbs the invasive emptiness and anxiety with medications, alcohol, social media, food, and excessive sleep. She is the lost Cinderella who never stops running away from the palace under the ringing bell. All she could remember is the fear but has no recollections of her desire to pursue happiness.

The moment we lose the ability to dream is the moment we stop living. Yet, there are so many logical reasons from the world that remind us, “Don’t be silly! That will never happen!”; “Who do you think you are?”; “Be realistic!” Also, our culture glamour particular career lifestyle makes a situation worse. These shiny illusions take our attention away from ourselves. We sometimes do not even know the dream that we are pursuing is ours, or it’s just a shiny object that distracts us from our real longing. When people successfully manifest the “shiny goal” in life only to realize that it was not their heart’s desire, they could also fall into deep despair and give up dreams altogether.  

Woman standing on street with joy

Recognize your dream

I believe each of us knows the dream in our heart if we are willing to be honest with ourselves and dig in. This dream is never a short-sighted gratification or impulsive power dominance. It usually is simple. The side effects of this simple dream often include sharing love with others or serving the world somehow. We may describe it as “Fun.” Psychologists describe it as the “Meaning in life.” Christians define it as a “calling from God.”

I was a 70s child who grew up in Taiwan when psychotherapy or counseling was not a career option. When my 5th-grade friends describe their dreams to be doctors, mechanists, business owners, my wish was to sit, listen, and talk to people. It was a wish deemed silly and unproductive for society at the time. I did not speak that dream again in the next decade. I continued enjoying what I naturally love to do, which was listening and supporting people emotionally. At the same time, lacking a sense of life direction put me through a long period of Dysthymia-like existence. My schoolwork was always mediocre at best. 

Sophomore year in college, I met a young professor who returned to Taiwan from the U.S. with his Counseling degree, which awoke the long-dormant dream in me. My dream that matches my gift and talent became crystal clear, and the challenges for pursuing it also appeared to be monumental. Going to the U.S. was necessary for receiving counseling training, while I could not speak English and had failed all my English courses in college.  

Photo of living room sofa

Ultimate Test 

Human nature tends to hold on to security and comfort. Once we genuinely recognize the dream in our hearts, we face the ultimate test of courage and faith. Just like when Jesus called Peter and Andrew by the seaside to follow him, the two brothers gave up their life and departed into the unknown with Jesus. Their action to follow the Call was pure courage and faith. 

Following the “Calling from God” does not mean we will not have obstacles. Often, it is the opposite. We have to ask ourselves, “What am I willing to give up for the dream? Do I want it bad enough to leap of faith?” When the answers to these questions are affirmative, we then need to ground ourselves in reality and take one step at a time on the path we choose to take; and let go of the concerns of outcomes. Trust that no matter how the result unfolds, we will be ok.  

In my case, I was a pampered young girl who lived with her parents during her College years. Language ability was a significant concern. I also had never learned how to cook for myself. My parents were willing to support my educational cost, but I would have to carefully manage the limited financial resources. I did not know anyone who lived in the U.S. or planned to go there like me. It was a solo journey to a foreign land with apparent personal deficiencies for sure. My loved ones and friends were fearful for me, while I focused on each small step of learning to build all the skills I lacked. 

Knowing how challenging the path would be, I had no choice but to devote my one hundred percent effort to the process and surrender the outcome to God. From being mediocre at best, I transformed and strived to be the best I could at each moment. Unexpected supports happened along the way when I was discouraged. The perfect timing of little miracles that lead me to the right place and meet the right people continue to affirm the path. Before I knew it, it has been 25 years on this incredible journey. My dream has evolved throughout the years from the desire to be trained as a counselor to strive to be the best counselor I can be. Now, I dream of working with the new generation of counselors and offer the healing that human hearts are longing for. 

Closeup of road

Stay on the path 

There are helpful tools that can turn into blocks on our journey if we are not careful. For example, we need to take small steps when the task is overwhelming. One good strategy is to set up a preliminary zone for our goals. Many professional academic degrees represent that zone. Receiving the degree is the validation that we have had enough knowledge to expand and grow further on our path. However, it is not unusual for people to attach themselves to the preliminary zone as they see it as all life can offer. It’s like living in an imaginary box; the person defines herself as the degree received, steps away from the path, and stops heeding to the Call from God.

When people trapped themselves in a box, they start to compare who’s box is better than whom. The fight over power and territories provide unlimited drama and lead to nowhere. In my journey of seeking a simple dream, “sit, listen, and talk to people,” I continue witnessing and am challenged by various distractions. Professional organizations profit from Individual counseling work (Licensed Professional Counselor), and organizations that profit from Relational counseling work (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) argue who is better than whom. I also witnessed people limit their growth and learning based on their initial credentials. Professional identity becomes an excuse to stop learning and growing. This attachment to the initial achievement and illusion of power is tragic. Unfortunately, it is in every career field. When our energy is moving toward preserving power and status, rest assured; we have strayed away from the Call that ignites our soul in the first place.   

Man standing, smiling with joy

Recognizing the dream in our heart and following the Call means accepting all the light and shadow that this path has to offer. There is no destination on this journey; the journey itself is the dream that makes this life worth living. You may have been on the path and are thriving. Congratulations! If you feel like you live in a Dysthymia-like existence or are overwhelmed by the tasks, you do not need to do it alone. God put professional counselors in this world to support people. Take advantage of this resource to manifest the dream that ignites your soul. 

Interested in psychology or counseling? UMHB’s undergraduate Psychology Program offers classes that are designed to provide students with information which will promote an attitude of increased objectivity concerning the behavior, feelings, and attitudes of other people as well as themselves. Additionally, our Master of Arts in Counseling program helps students develop the skills to become a licensed professional counselor or licensed marriage and family therapist. We invite to check out our website or stop by for a visit!