There’s a short story I read in the first grade called “William’s Wish” that has somehow stuck in my head throughout the years. The story is about young boy who has a wish (a rather simple one) and tries all the various methods of getting his wish to come true. Since I only read this story once (and that was in 1981), I don’t remember the exact details of the story, but he did things such as wish on a star and followed a few other superstitions until his wish finally came true. Now the reason this story stuck in my head is that had he just told his parents his wish, it would have come true a lot sooner.

Like William, you probably have a wish or a dream. Maybe it’s to start a business, move somewhere exotic, fit into that certain swimsuit by summer or make a career change. In the story, William doesn’t share the details of his wish with anyone – his family and friends know he has a wish and help him try find ways to make it come true, but no one knows what he’s wishing for. William doesn’t share his wish because he’s afraid it won’t come true if he tells someone else. Many of us keep our wishes secret, but for other reasons. Sometimes we’re afraid of being ridiculed over our dreams or getting met with other forms of criticism. If you’ve ever shared a dream with someone only to hear that “it’s impossible” or get a laundry list of reasons while you’ll fail if you continue to pursue your dreams, you know what a rotten feeling it is.

The problem is that it isn’t always clear who to share your dreams with and when – there’s always some small bit of risk involved. Sometimes you think someone will be supportive and they end up ripping your dream to shreds. Other times, you get asked a lot of detailed questions that you don’t have answers for and then begin to doubt yourself. But the good thing is that these experiences get you to think more about your dream, and you get to decide whether or not they’ll discourage you.

So let’s get back to William. William’s wish was to have a cookout with his family and eat outdoors. If my memory serves me correct, several days (or possibly weeks) go by in the story but had William simply asked his parents when he decided on his wish, they would have probably had a little barbeque that evening and he would have had his wish. As a reader of the story, it’s obvious to us that he could have saved himself all the trouble of learning about things to wish on, but we can also see William’s perspective — it was programmed in his head that if you share your wish, it won’t come true. Had William taken a step back and seen what we saw, he would have reached his goal sooner.

Again, this is a simple children’s story so the characters and the people William interacts with only includes his family and classmates. As adults with our complex lives, there’s a lot more folks that we regularly come into contact with such as coworkers, clients, neighbors, associates and acquaintances. So just like William’s parents always had that power to help him get what he was looking for, it’s possible that there might be someone in your life right now that can help you get what you want. But you’ll never know until you ask.

Again, there’s that risk that someone might say something that might discourage you but I think it’s a bigger risk to sit there and wish upon a star until your dream falls into your lap. You might have a coworker whose spouse grew up in city you want to relocate to. The person you make small talk with at the train station each morning might work for the company you want to work for. Your next door neighbor might have a relative in an industry that want to start up a new business in. You’ll never know until you say something.

If you’re really concerned about letting people know what your dream is (perhaps you want to avoid letting your coworkers know you’re trying to find a new job) you can ask questions instead of stating that you have a goal. Here’s some examples (and feel free to play along and guess the goal):

  • I heard that a lot of people are moving to Denver. Have you ever been out there?
  • I overheard someone this morning saying that XYZ Corp is doing really well. What do you know about them?
  • I saw an ad for the Pomegranate Acai Wonder Diet this morning. Do you think it really works?
  • I’ve always been interested in filmmaking. I wonder what it’s like as a career.
  • I just saw an article about a guy my age running marathon. I wonder what it took him to get into shape.
  • I’m always amazed at these people that quit their jobs one day and start a successful the next. How do you think they do it?

We’re taught to never beat around the bush and just get to the point. But this is an ideal instance to go against conventional wisdom. So as you think about your dreams, goals and aspirations, think about the people already in your life today that can help you reach them right now.

Should You Share Your Dreams and Aspirations?
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3 thoughts on “Should You Share Your Dreams and Aspirations?

  • March 6, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    James, I loved your article and it speaks to all the reasons that people don’t share their dreams–or the fact that people think they have to accomplish their dreams themselves.

    It is important to distinguish between dreams that are best kept confidential because they are business ideas or job-related ones that you wouldn’t want your employer to know about, and the ones that could easily be shared.

    Sometimes it is finding an environment, or community where you can share all your dreams and be supported in fulfilling them.

    I run the Dream Factory Community that is designed to support women entrepreneurs in clarifying, organizing around, and fulfilling their dreams.

    When you get ready to share–make sure you have people who can listen and support you. The nay-sayers can get you everytime.

    When I was younger, I would go to my father with my ideas and usually left crying. He just wasn’t the one to hear me and support my dreams. He was too linear and critical for those beginning stages. He was perfect for when there was form and substance and I needed next steps.

    So remember—who, what, where and when have everything to do with your dreams coming true.

    Happy dreaming,


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