The Pleasure And Pain Of Dream Catching

I have a dream. You have a dream. Yes, we all have dreams that sometimes keep us up at night out of excitement and that get us out of bed in the morning. And yet sometimes those very same dreams seem so far and so out of reach that we want to hide under the covers and can’t find an ounce of energy to put towards them. Some of them are little mini dreams and some of them are big shiny ones.

I want to talk about those. The ones that require patience, persistence and that take a lifetime to realize. The dreams that movies are made about and that give rise to those magical moments that affirm our own path when we see someone else finally “make it”.

Often times when the path to our dreams feels like it’s going uphill and not getting any easier, we tend to conclude that because it isn’t easy, we’re barking up the wrong tree. And though there may be a very small number of instances where that’s true, it’s the exception, not the rule.

That being said, there’s no question that bringing the big shiny dreams to life takes A LOT of effort, it means consistently showing up and taking action in the face of challenges, obstacles and even failures. All that falling down and getting up again requires some heavy lifting mentally, emotionally and spiritually. And physically for that matter, because to have the necessary energy to make our dreams a reality requires a high level of attention to our bodies as well.

So to say that “if it’s this difficult to realize my dream, it’s not meant to be” is straight up false logic.

BUT… what often happens is that somewhere along the path of doing what we love and moving in the direction of our majestic vision, the very thing that once brought us joy, that was once the source of our bliss, starts to feel like work. And that’s not how it’s meant to be. So we end up with masses of people who love singing but who aren’t singing, who aspire to write but who aren’t writing, fitness nuts who aren’t working out, painters who don’t paint, and on and on it goes.

Why is this happening?

Well, there’s a few reasons. Perfectionism: definitely a prime suspect. Procrastination: also a culprit. But those two P’s in a pod are a subject for another investigation. What we’re talking about here is WHY the very thing we love doing, that we are born to do, that we dream of doing ends up feeling like work and becomes so heavy-laden that we end up not even doing it.

This conflict between our inner desire and outer experience can be simply understood and best explained in relation to PLEASURE and PAIN. As human beings, we are wired to move TOWARDS experiences, situations, and people that will bring us PLEASURE and AWAY from experiences, situations and people that will cause us PAIN.

Tony Robbins teaches that we can use this wiring to leverage past and future experiences of pleasure and pain to create breakthroughs and lasting changes. A simple example is smoking. If a smoker becomes present enough to the amount of pain they will experience if they continue indulging in their addiction or the amount of pleasure they will experience when they are FREE of it, they can generate the necessary motivation to pull the plug on their smoking and step into a new lifestyle.

I completely agree with this model of what it takes to change and break through old patterns and limiting beliefs.

When it comes to dream catching and especially creative expression, there is one refinement I would add: if the primary motivation for taking action is the avoidance of pain, it will not be sustainable and will significantly diminish the enjoyment of the experience of bringing that dream or creation to life. This is because most of the time, the pain we’re avoiding is the pain of some limiting belief coming true, which then causes that belief and the need to “fix it” to be present in our every action and at every step of our journey. i.e. Major buzz kill. Some common examples are the the pain of being a failure; the pain of not being worthy of love, or the pain of realizing that we’re not good enough.

Question for you: what do you think would be more a powerful, sustainable and joy-inducing motivating mindset? a) If I resolve to play my guitar, sing and write every day because I’m desperately determined to avoid the pain of not being enough, OR b) if I make the same resolution to experience the fruits of my creative efforts, to be fully expressed creatively and to inspire others?

Hmmm…No-brainer right?

Seen in this light, it’s immediately apparent why moving away from pain as a motivator is not ideal fuel for our creative fire or for the pursuit of our dreams and why it’s not sustainable. Especially given the underlying assumptions that a lot of our pain-avoidance carries (e.g. I’m not good enough, I can’t, It’s too late). It’s no wonder it feels like work when we approach our dreams and creative outlets from this mindset!

What dream have you been approaching with the avoidance of pain as your primary motivator? Can you come up with some pleasure-oriented motivating factors to fuel your action instead?

Share your insights in the comments below so we can all benefit from each other’s perspectives!

Much love,


Published by The Daily Love (April 7th, 2013)