Sober Dreaming

Written by Scott Schimmel

When I was a child in elementary school my parents were brought in year after year to address behavior problems. The same words––behavior problem––were a common thread on my report cards, and my parents would often hear it at parent-teacher conferences:

“Scott’s a good kid, and a good student, but he’s too easily distracted.”

“Scott spends too much time daydreaming.”

“Scott needs to focus more in class.”

It was true, I had no excuse or rebuttal. I spent most of my class time somewhere else, dreaming about being the hero on my Little League team, winning the girl, or leading imaginary troops to battle. My daydreams were consuming, complex, and a lot more interesting than what was happening in school.

But somewhere along the path towards adulthood I stopped daydreaming. I don’t remember exactly when it happened. Perhaps middle school—that somewhat awkward time when all of a sudden I had a lot more kids around, a lot more social pressure, and a bigger academic workload. Or maybe it was high school, when the pressure of getting prepared for college overwhelmed the free space in my mind. I don’t remember exactly when, but I know my daydreaming I stopped.

I stopped dreaming about where my life was headed. I stopped fantasizing about what I could do, or who I could become. I put my head down and focused on the task at hand. And the older I got, the more disconnected I became with my imagination and creativity.

I know I’m not alone. Sir Ken Robinson has talked and written much about the lack of creativity and imagination in older aged school children. Creativity, imagination, daydreaming and play are accepted and encouraged in little kids, but squeezed out of us the older we become.

But dreams are powerful. They shape our lives, the choices we make and the values we keep. Dreams can inspire the grittiest resilience or the toughest endurance. When we dream, we have the power to be awakened to new possibilities, to overcome the biggest obstacles, and to step into new realities that didn’t previously exist.


The problem I see, though, is that many people have ridiculous dreams for their lives. As we work with young adults in diverse contexts, it’s unfortunately too common to hear students articulate plans and dreams for their lives that are tremendously farfetched. You know what I’m talking about––the kid who is barely five feet tall and mildly uncoordinated who brags about playing in the NBA someday. Or the student who declares she’s going to be a doctor, even though she’s struggling to pull C’s in her science classes and gets nauseous at the sight of blood. Or the student who talks about being rich someday, yet shows very little grit or work ethic. It’s a really awkward situation to be in. I want to encourage young adults, to support them, and see them be successful. But... come on!

In YouSchool we want students to dream. We want them to have a compelling, inspiring vision for their future lives. We want young adults to see today as a step towards their successful futures, and to be so clearly motivated that it changes their habits and principles.

For students to come alive today, they have to dream for tomorrow. But, they have to dream within reality. At YouSchool, we walk students through a process to discover who they really are, what they’re actually capable of, and help them gain clarity about what’s truly possible if they pour their heart and soul into a life plan. A realistic, sober dream will do more for young people then a vague sense of what they want to be when they grow up. It will resonate with others when they share it, enlisting real people to get behind, and support them. 

A sober dream isn’t a wish or a fantasy. It’s an articulate vision of a future that’s inspiring and compelling. What’s your sober dream for your life?