Dreaming vs Doing

What is your dream in life? How much time per day—or even per week—do you spend working to make that dream a reality? And how much time you do spend dreaming about making it a reality?

If you’ve read some of my recent blog posts, you might know that I am mildly obsessed with the hip-hop musical Hamilton. My favourite song in Hamilton is Wait For It, although it wasn’t always my favourite. One day at school this year as the soundtrack played in the background of a particularly stressful moment, I realized that the lyrics of the song were telling me exactly what I needed to hear. Aaron Burr sings, “I am the one thing in life I can control. I am inimitable. I am an original. I’m not falling behind or running late. I’m not standing still. I am lying in wait.”

In that moment, Wait For It reminded me that while I felt like I wasn’t progressing, I was simply working hard in the present to experience success in the future. But the song also had a simpler impact on me; it gave me hope, reminding me to wait for the things that I wanted to happen to actually come to fruition. Of course, unless you’re incredibly lucky, this isn’t the way life works. Most of the time, dreams don’t just come true. We have to work to make them happen.

When I saw Hamilton in Chicago, I got chills during the performance of Wait For It. And then I had an epiphany of sorts. In the play, there’s a scene near the end of the first act which isn’t in the soundtrack. After learning of the death of a close friend, an impassioned Hamilton exclaims, “I have so much work to do.” In the following song, Non-Stop, we learn that Hamilton has been working, well, non-stop.

He’s been practicing law; he proposed “a new form of government” at the Constitutional Convention; and he has been writing like he’s “running out of time.” Hamilton’s non-stop writing comes to a capstone when he partners with James Madison and John Jay to write the Federalist Papers. Burr emphatically informs us that Hamilton wrote 51 of the papers (I had to read one for a politics class this year; I don’t think I could read 51, let alone write that many).

My epiphany was this: that I could “wait for it” all I wanted, but all that waiting would be for nil if I wasn’t actively working to make my dreams come true. I had to work, like Hamilton, non-stop. This brings me back to the questions with which I began this post: What’s your dream in life? And do you spend more time dreaming about making it happen, or actually working to make it happen?

Obviously, going to school, having a job or other commitments makes it difficult to spend all of your time working on your dreams. But if you spend an entire week dreaming about how great it will be when you finally design that website and spend zero hours planning or executing your dream… well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s not a great ratio of dreaming to doing.

In all honesty, I am writing this as much to give advice to myself as I am to you, my reader. I love to dream about things happening—and what I’m trying to focus on this summer is putting in the effort and hard work to bring those dreams out of my head and make them into realities. For all the time I spend dreaming, I must spend more time doing—more time writing, more time editing, more time designing and reading and learning and creating. 

I still love Wait For It because I am naturally a dreamer; I love looking to the future with hope. But I know that what is better than waiting for a dream to come true, is to make that dream happen. One of my favourite quotes is by John Updike: “Dreams come true. Without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them.” I wholeheartedly believe this. But if I could, I would add to the quote: “Dreams come true—if we work hard to make them a reality.”


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58 thoughts on “Dreaming vs Doing

  1. Awesome post! I’m quite a dreamer too and trying to get my writing dream alive with my blog. It’s all a work in progress though. – I’ll have to check out that Hamilton song now. My favorite song is “My Shot”. I love to watch it in ASL.

  2. A very thought provoking post, thank you. It’s true that we all dream but dreams will only usually come true if we take some form of action. I have a friend who uses the expression “living the dream” and I have told him that you’re better off living the reality!

  3. Thanks so much for this! As an INFJ, I get so carried away dreaming about my future and dreams and success … while lying in bed. This gives me a bit of a new perspective

  4. Excellent post. It’s unfortunate that when no one tells you, you have to work at your dreams in order to make them a reality, much wasted time can pass. You are fortunate that you have awoken to this fact at a young age.
    I wish you all the best with your dreams.

  5. What a timely word of advice. I’ve been spending all my time writing for my blog and none writing the book I want to publish. Thanks for the kick in the seat of the pants. It’s time to make some changes. 🙂

  6. I think I needed to see this! I’m doing a lot of dreaming and not doing at the moment.
    Haven’t seen Hamilton, but every time I saw/browsed anything related to Heathers, Hamilton came up as a recommendation.

  7. I am a dreamer coated with a huge layer of procrastination. And because I believe in my dreams so much I do not just sleep 8 hours a day but 10 to 12 because I believe in keeping my dreams and fantasies awake like that 🙂

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