Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s I have a dream speech is arguably one of the most familiar of our generation. According to historians, it was not even the speech he prepared to deliver that day. But, the day was long and the journey longer. The hangers on knew that, in the end, all that mattered was keeping the dream alive. They needed to hear that again – the reassurance to keep going, to persevere.

So, Dr. King began to describe what his dream would look like once it was realized. His conviction fueled and ended his life. People may look at accomplishing a dream as success. We set a goal or intention and achieve it successfully. But I believe there is a difference between success and significance. Although Dr. King did not achieve success of his dream in his lifetime, his life was one of significance. He was part of a bigger story; a thread in the dream’s tapestry. He stood for something. He stood for justice saying “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.

Our dreams shape who we are and who we become. It is in the becoming that we have the opportunity to live a life of significance. If my dream is to be a healer (e.g. doctor, social worker, teacher), my success comes in being significant to those around me. My dream involves being of service. It cannot be achieved without significant positive influence to those I serve.

When we define our life based on who we want to become and want kind of influence we want to have on the world, the dream becomes bigger than just us. Success is not so much a destination, but a journey.

I heard a speaker one time talk about a obtaining a degree in this way: if you come to school for a degree, you may or may not be educated; but if you come to school to be educated, you will get a degree. He sees the degree as a by-product of an education. The degree is not the thing to be achieved in and of itself. It is the journey to the degree that is the key. (Becoming a Learner – Matthew L. Sanders).

The journey itself can change our definition of success.

We are a culture that is taught to achieve and accumulate things – degrees, jobs, a partner, experiences, success.  But every victory involves struggle. Struggle often involves loss. The journey is not always linear. It is not always straightforward. Like a butterfly, we can gain strength in the struggle to break free of what is meant to contain us.

What is your dream? If you have never contemplated that question? I encourage you to consider it. Think from the end. What do you hope people will say about you at the end of your life? I believe our biggest fear in life is not death itself, but dying without having truly lived. If that is true, how do we fully live as the person we are meant to be? I believe that if we strive for a success, we may or may not achieve significance; however, if we strive for a life of significance, we will achieve success.


 “Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul, the blueprints of your ultimate achievements.” Napoleon Hill

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