But dreams, expectations and conditions for satisfaction are tricky and should not be thought permanent. Better to think of them as tools. They must be monitored and where warranted, changed, lest our dreams be reduced to a form of escapism. It is important that we acquire the flexibility of mind to reorganize our expectations and conditions for satisfaction periodically, say in each decade of our lives. For example, the fire and enthusiasm we can bring to the party when we’re in our teens and twenties may be elevated and expressed in a different way when we’re older because of the competence, responsibility, relevance and stability we are now able to bring. So let’s take a closer look at America’s aspirational idealism, its “anyone can achieve anything if you just put your mind to it” culture.
First, according to Alexis de Tocqueville†, our personally inspired dreams typically aren’t substantive and often leave contribution (caring for others) out of the picture. In his book titled, Democracy in America, he said that America’s emphasis on personal success is at the expense of the quality of the moral and social fabric of this nation. He worried about our future.
Second, we’re urged never to let go of our youthful dreams. We are driven to go for it because somehow we’ll achieve it. But such a set-up, which may be motivational in our youth, often leads to disappointment in our maturity even if we achieve our goals! At the mercy of a desire for endless personal gain, and with a low threshold for criticism that doesn’t affirm our sense that we’ll achieve the highs we wanted to feel, then anxiety and anger begin to pervade our experience.