The other day, I was watching a television show with my wife and a commercial came on. It showed some little girls playing with their dolls, and I noticed my wife, who typically dislikes commercials, was smiling. When I asked her about it, I was surprised at her response. She wasn’t thinking about the times our girls played with their dolls; she was thinking about the times she played with her dolls. The games she played involved a lot of pretending, a lot of sweet role-playing, and a lot of happy outcomes.
When I was a young father, I was invited to “play dolls” with our girls. I had to be taught exactly what that meant. I learned that playing with dolls meant play-acting and innocently exploring so much of what life had to offer. Sometimes it meant getting married, or being with friends, or going on a date, or so much more. However, one thing was consistent; whatever plot line was being explored, you got to control the narrative.
The interesting thing I learned is that controlling the narrative meant the outcome was always what you wanted to have happen. It was never finished with the outcome you were afraid might happen. This form of pretending is fairly consistent. You never pretended to be left at the altar, or betrayed by your friends, or failed to achieve your dreams. The good girl, or the good guy, always won in the end. It was effortless, fun, and strangely satisfying.
This form of pretending is in no way limited to dolls, or girls; it’s whatever you want to pretend. When I was young, I didn’t pretend with dolls… although I did go through a two-month GI Joe phase. My imagination was aimed at sports, and I would pretend I was a professional athlete playing in the NBA. I controlled the narrative, and I was a point guard for the Washington Bullets. To help drive this fantasy, I had a hat rim wedged into the top of my bedroom door, and shot at it for hours a day with sox I made into a ball. Nerf hadn’t invented a hoop yet, and when they did, I applied a full court press on my parents begging them to buy me one. Whether I was playing with a hat rim or a Nerf hoop, one of my favorite narratives involved me taking the final shot to win the world championship for the Bullets, or NCAA Championship for the Maryland Terps. Coincidently, I never missed that final shot.
Of course, none of this is surprising or coincidental. It was a healthy part of growing up. But when was it we stopped pretending? More importantly, why did we stop pretending? It seems we gave up on controlling the narrative of our dreams because we were told that growing up meant not pretending. I would like to argue that the only one we hurt was ourselves when we stopped creating and believing in our own dreams. I think there’s a lot of pretending we can do that won’t hurt a soul, and might actually be good for us. What’s wrong with controlling the narrative of these dreams, and imagining what we want to have happen versus what we fear might happen? Let’s look at a few scenarios:
- You can imagine a highly a successful interview you are about to go on. Remember, you get to control the narrative, and in the spirit of our youth, there’s absolutely no way that dream would be anything but seeing yourself succeed in that interview.
- You can imagine being a valuable member of a team, and being successful in your job. It’s your narrative, so you get to map out what would be required to achieve that level of success. You can imagine that you do reach that level of success.
I can’t promise you that by controlling the narrative of your dreams, and imagining successful outcomes to those dreams, you will be guaranteed success. What I can promise is that this kind of thinking will absolutely increase your chances of gaining the success you desire. That’s because allowing yourself to imagine positive outcomes will reduce tension and help you to project a positive, confident image. Last time I checked, those particular traits were extremely attractive to others.
So, dust off those dolls, those games, and those aspirations, because we’re never too old to dream. We did it effortlessly as children; let’s do it again. However, when you do it now, feel free to add some real-life events. Ask yourself this: “What can I do to make this dream a reality?” Lest you think I don’t practice what I preach, I still have two nerf hoops that I shoot at on a daily basis, and I never miss the final shot.