Dreams in Cubicles
And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.
An astronaut. A doctor. An actor. A writer. An architect.
When you were a kid and that inevitable question came up—what do you want to be when you grow up?—how did you answer? With what flourishes did you describe these future, adult dreams of yours?
And did you notice, even then, the dismissal in their smiling nods?
That’s adorable. An architect! Just wait until you grow up and get into the real world.
Is it inevitable? This defeat—this turning of dreams into drudgery? This never-ending cycle of Mondays?
Of course not, you say. Just think of that 50-year-old woman, book contract in hand for her first novel. Or that lawyer-turned-social entrepreneur who traded a corner office for a dingy room across the tracks.
It’s possible to change course. And perhaps you are harboring an idea even now. A someday-dream for after the kids leave and the house is paid off.
But what about today? What about the job you’re in now? What are your dreams for tomorrow or this year?
We are happy to encourage dreaming in our children. We seed their imaginations. We tell them they can be anything they want to be. We take notice of their gifts and encourage the cultivation of their talents.
It’s harder to do that for ourselves, for our coworkers, for our employees. We see the reality of the daily work that needs doing, the politics surrounding our projects, the rise and fall of our checking accounts. Resignation to reality—it’s a bitter pill many of us swallow every day, believing simply that it is the course of things. That’s life.
At dinner recently, I was describing an upcoming job to a new friend. “What are your greatest hopes and your greatest fears for the project?” she asked me. I was startled. I didn’t have a quick answer.
I thought back on that conversation later. And I realized I had—without even realizing it—separated myself from the work. Her question reminded me that this is my work, it’s part of my dream. I have personal ownership and investment in it. I do have hopes and fears for this project.
When was the last time you asked yourself what hopes and fears you have for the work you’re doing right now? If you are a supervisor, when was the last time you allowed your employees to infuse their dreams into the work you’re doing?
It’s easy to think our dreams are for some day—to just put our heads down and do the work in front of us while we imagine a better life later.
But most of us know that’s not enough. That’s not really how we want to live right now. We are all longing for that dream job.
But maybe the dream job isn’t the point. Maybe the point is to bring our dreams to the job.
Dreams live in children. But perhaps, if we allowed them to, they could also live in cubicles.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What are your hopes and fears for a particular project you’re working on right now? What would it look like for you to ask your coworkers or employees that same question? How could their answers inform the project and/or the work each is personally doing on it?
PRAYER: God, pour out your Spirit on this work I’m doing and the team I’m doing it with. May your Spirit infuse us with imagination. May you stir even the oldest among us to dream dreams for this work. And may you give me ears to hear the visions you have inspired among the youngest. Amen.
Helping Employees Fulfill Their Dreams
The TV show Undercover Boss gives employers a unique opportunity to spend a few days in their employees' shoes. CEOs and Presidents of large and successful companies go undercover and do the work of people who work on the front line every day. Through this experience, the employer often gets the chance to hear the dreams of their employees firsthand. Hearing the hopes and dreams those employees have for their families, their futures, and themselves often becomes the catalyst for the employer to help make those dreams come true.
Not every employer gets a chance to spend a day in an employee's shoes, but each employer/employee relationship is worthy of faithful and compassionate stewardship. Every interaction is an opportunity to lead from the soul. In this series, Helping Employees Fulfill Their Dreams, we'll explore what it means to lead from the soul in our relationships with our employees, even if we never make it on a television reality show.