Life is just a dream – not really, but the idea can be useful

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Life is nothing but a dream. I’m just kidding. Life is not just a dream. It feels pretty real to me. Nature, sun, rain, pain, food, sex, keyboard, kissing, blood, it all feels very real to me.

Not only my body, also my mind, my consciousness, relationships with people that I love, they all feel very real, even though I can’t touch my mind and I can’t see the relationship bonds.

Don’t get bored, this blog post is not about arguing why life isn’t just a dream or why that could be true. You can find many philosophical debates about that online, from solipsism to discussions over whether Matrix could be real, and responses to Elon Musk saying that life is only a simulation and that we live in a video game.

In this blog post, I’ll talk about how perceiving life as a dream can be a good mental trick you can use to stay more (1) flexible and (2) creative. We will start with the creativity, but first what kind of a problem are we even trying to solve with this mental exercise.

The main problem is that because life feels very real, you take yourself and the world around you very seriously, including your limiting beliefs, assumptions, convictions and values that you’re emotionally heavily invested in.

To free yourself from the emotional pains, to open your mind and to play with different ideas, versions of yourself and potential future realities, it sometimes helps to see life as nothing but a dream.

Your brain works 24/7 and dreams only for several hours every night. Why not keep the dream function working also when you’re awake?

Life is just a dream

If life is just a dream you can more easily create

Everything that surrounds you and wasn’t created by Mother Nature was created by man. You have the power to do the same, to contribute, to create, to innovate and to solve problems. But before anything was created by any human, it was first born as an idea or a thought in someone’s head.

Someone imagined a solution in their head and then made it come true. Someone had a dream of a completely new thing, of a completely new reality. Every idea is born twice, first in your or someone else’s head, with help of dreaming and visualization, and then it materializes through hard work.

Dreaming of things that you can create and then creating them is one of the reasons why you’re on this planet. You’re here to create, grow, enjoy life and connect. You’re here to create a better future and leave a better place behind. You’re here to dream, not only when you sleep, but also when you’re awake.

Everything was made up by people that were no smarter than you. Steve Jobs

You have the ability to dream and imagine how the future will look like. Then through actions, you also have the power to make it come true (at least to some extent). Dreaming is of course not enough. Only when you break your big dreams down into small action steps, how they can become reality, you create a vision that has a potential to materialize.

Visions are dreams combined with action plans. Only individuals with an incredibly strong vision and determination to make the vision reality changed the world. The vision has to be so strong that it’s above all the problems you encounter on your way. All problems must become irrelevant when you think of your big vision.

Say to yourself: life is just a dream, a dream where I can create almost everything I want. First imagine life as a dream, distance yourself from the hard limits of reality and then imagine things like:

  • How your future could look likein all the different alterative scenarios
  • What kind of products you can create and all the cool ideas you have
  • What kind of domestic and international relationships you can forge
  • What are the potential scenarios for how the future will look like in 20, 50 and 100 years and how you can contribute to it
  • What the different versions of you being at your best are
  • Dream of different life settings you would like to experience

Imagine all these things, daydream without any limitations. Then slowly make your dreams and ideas meet the limitations of physical reality. Still keep your mind completely open, but try to extract practical innovations from your dream in the shape of products, your actual future, art masterpieces or anything cool that could be created in reality.

And then make an action plan how you will bring your dreams to life.

Perceiving life as nothing but a dream gives you a tremendous ability to brainstorm new ideas and be creative. You can play much better with products not yet created, alternative versions of your future, new types of art, and so on.

If life is just a dream you can easily change yourself and the way you think

You see the world through your subjective lenses. You have a mental frame, a set of schemas, defined by your beliefs, values, way of thinking and many other factors, by which you interpret what’s happening around you, you make decisions based on it, and so on.

Subjective lenses or the frame are the unique code that runs in your brain. You’re only aware of a small part of it, most of it is subconscious.

This frame is an integral part of you. It’s not the truth, it’s not objective reality, it’s how you interpret reality in combination with limiting senses. The frame is how you think, how you see the world, what you value, what is important to you.

Changing your beliefs and values together with frames means changing yourself. The more heavily invested you are in your current frame, the harder it is to change it. It’s not easy to operate for years or even decades on a certain set of beliefs and values, and then just change them.

Nevertheless, sooner or later you encounter a situation when you see that your frame is not giving you the results you want. You’re following one thing because you perceive it as thinking, saying and doing the right thing, but the feedback you’re getting from the environment is not as shiny.

You might quietly realize that you are operating based on false beliefs, that you were misguided, that you inherited a corrupt piece of mental code. Your way of thinking needs to be reprogramed.

When you find yourself in such a situation, you have a few options:

  • You can immediately change your frame when you realize that you’re wrong, like Steve Jobs had no problem doing. He didn’t mind being wrong and changed his view of the world in a matter of seconds. I guess he had an extremely flexible mind. The same way Elon has no problem imagining and believing a drastic thing like the one that we are nothing but a video game simulation.
  • You can persist in your frame, lying to yourself that you’re doing the right thing, that you won’t betray yourself and you have to insist on not changing yourself, even if your life is getting more and more shitty. Next to that, you have to live with constant internal conflict and emotional pain.
  • You might have a desire to change, but the pain is just too huge to do that. You can’t just let go all the emotional investment in your (false) beliefs and values, it’s who you are, it’s a big part of your past, what you always defended, how you were raised. In such a case, you have a big internal conflict, two competing commitments, you want to stay true to yourself and change yourself.

If you find yourself in the scenario with big internal conflict and resistance to changing your frame, but you want to do something about it anyway, seeing life as a dream might help you a lot. It’s nothing but a mental trick to have a more flexible mind and to more easily reframe your reality and consequently change your beliefs and values.

Virtual reality

It’s impossible to change reality but it’s easy to change the context

Let’s say that life is just like a dream, limited by material laws. It’s impossible to change reality and the basic laws of physics, but it’s easy to change the context, the emphasis, the focus, the frame of what you see and what you don’t.

It’s much easier to reframe anything, if you’re thinking of life as a dream, especially when you are emotionally heavily invested in your current frame. It helps you be more flexible in your thinking and mindset. It helps you distance yourself from yourself a little bit. Because you are only dreaming, nothing is real.

First of all, it wasn’t your choice to be programmed as you are. It’s a matter of genes you inherited, how you were raised and influenced by secondary socialization, and so on. You didn’t choose what will be your reality, life chose it for you.

The mental code you got – you didn’t choose it, you just got it – that also includes many cognitive distortions, things you’re afraid of, self-doubt and other crap that prevents you from being happy and making intelligent decisions.

The question is – why to be faithful to the reality you were put in, if you’re suffering?But if life is just a dream where you can do whatever you want, why not simply decide to live by different rules, why not to go after a better dreams.

Why not just change what you value, what’s important to you, what you focus on in your dreams, and what kind of a life you create for yourself. It’s nothing but a dream, so you can easily do it. It’s no big deal.

How and what you think is limited only by you. You can decide to live by different rules and value in seconds.

Practical examples

If life is just a dream, imagine a world where you don’t judge yourself but only love yourself. Imagine a world where you don’t judge others but care only about deeply connecting with people.

Imagine a world where you have many creative (business) ideas you put to use. Imagine a world where you can’t get heartbroken. Dream that it’s impossible for you to get heartbroken, because you love yourself so much.

Dream of a world where rejection doesn’t affect you at all. Dream of a world where all of your talents are fully developed. Imagine a world where you do what you love, are good at it and make enough money. Dream of being super motivated. Imagine a person who is the complete opposite when you think of your weaknesses.

What is stopping you from going after these things? You are most often the only one stopping yourself. What if in some cases, the only thing preventing you from living a dream life is being faithful to something that doesn’t work? And you even haven’t chosen that for yourself.

All you need is the courage to disinvest yourself from your beliefs and start being committed to a new frame. If life is just a dream, you can do that immediately.

The mental exercise of distancing yourself from yourself and your environment by seeing life as a dream enables you to change yourself and how you perceive things much easier and faster. With perceiving life as a dream, your frame becomes more fuild.

But when you start sliding back into reality, it again feels so hard to change the frame. So when the old frame starts stifling you, zoom out from the reality into your dreams, imagine a new reality of how you perceive things and who you are and then zoom back into reality. Doing that a few times might help you weaken the negative emotional charge. That’s it.

But then comes the time to wake up

Seeing life as a dream is just a tool, nothing else. And as with any tool, you can use it the right way or you can use it the wrong way and even hurt yourself. You can hit a nail with a hammer or you can hit your finger if you miss the nail. Thus there are several ways of how seeing life as a dream can be misused.

The tool should be used when you need to be creative, open you mind, stay more flexible, reframe things, change yourself to the better version or deal with your limiting beliefs that cause you emotional pain. On the other hand, examples of misusing this tool would be the following:

  • Using daydreaming to escape from reality or as a way to lie to yourself.
  • Brainstorming awesome ideas and products and then doing nothing.
  • Dreaming of violent, negative or evil scenarios. Don’t feed your mind with such things.

Life is just a dream, nothing else, so make sure you’re dreaming nice, beautiful, diverse dreams that are also turning into reality. If you don’t like the concept of dreams, imagine life as a simulation where you can freely focus on the things that you wish without any emotional garbage.

And if even that isn’t enough, imagine you’ve just woken up from the Matrix where it’s time for you to take full responsibility for your life and the code you’re running in your brain. If the code is not working and giving you the results you want, it’s your job to update it once you are an adult.

Imagining life as a dream is only one way to update the code more easily, because it enables you to distance yourself from the reality and yourself. You stop taking everything so serious. For Elon Musk it’s just a computer simulation, so no wonder he can focus on creating rockets. It’s no big deal.

And if you find the idea useless, you can luckily choose among many other tools that are at your disposal to play with your mindset. Happy and successful dreaming.

About the author

Consulting and management coaching

Blaž Kos has managed venture capital investments over the past 12 years and participated in the development of the start-up ecosystem in the region. Today, he advises companies on growth strategies, process optimization, the introduction of lean agile methods and the digitalization of business. In addition to the Slovenian blog, he also writes an English blog, which was selected among the 50 best bloggers in the world in the category of personal and business growth.
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