Why Your Followers’ Deferred Dreams Matter

Young woman looking dreamily into the distance

Do you have a dream that you’ve had to wait on? It’s been in the core of your heart for years, but you haven’t been able to act on it just yet. Most adults have deferred dreams. We protect those dreams with hope fueled by vivid memories of the past when the dream was born, glimpses of what that dream might one day be, and by taking small steps toward that dream. I’m sure you have dreams like that. Your followers do, too.

Recently, I hosted a workshop with a small group of university faculty and a course development team. We had as a guest speaker the university president who spoke briefly about “deferred dreams.” He pointed out that mid-career adults often have deferred dreams. This university largely serves mid-career adults seeking to enhance their skills or “change lanes” to a new career. They are pursuing their deferred dreams. When adults are pursuing deferred dreams, the many responsibilities of life can easily get in the way of that pursuit.

Sick kids. Stressful job. Major car repairs. Damaged or broken marriage. Job loss. Financial challenges.

There are all kinds of threats to pursuing dreams. Dreams are fragile, so it doesn’t take a lot to derail the pursuit.

Leaders can support their followers by knowing what these deferred dreams are. You can support their pursuit of the deferred dream. Sometimes all that’s needed is caring. “John, how are your classes going at the U? Are you studying anything interesting right now?” Or “Tammy, how’s that hobby going? Have you made progress with your plans to monetize it yet?”

Sometimes what they need is an opportunity to connect their dream and their work. If you can personalize their work to draw out and exercise elements of deferred dreams, you will engage your followers to a degree that you just can’t otherwise plan or create. You’ll be making a distant dream tangible and bringing new relevance to the work they do for you.

Start making these connections simply by understanding what those dreams are. Don’t worry about creating specific strategies to connect dreams and work. That will come. Focus on developing awareness.

Find out about the passions they have deferred while waiting for a leader to fan the embers of their dream. Be that leader.

Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. He is also an experienced competency-based higher education professional. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.

Photo by JoelValve. Photo available at Unsplash under CC0 license. Image modified for size and space.

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