What is the difference between an idealist and a dreamer? Sustained action. The dictionary makes little distinction between the two, but for me, an idealist is someone who envisions greater things and then works to make it happen. Dreamers may have the same ideas, but they are either unable or unwilling to take the necessarily steps to turn their dream into reality. Idealists impact the world; dreamers escape it.
To fully appreciate this distinction, we must see what idealists and dreamers share in common. They have common characteristics because they are cut from the same cloth; unfortunately, a number of these characteristics can be quite inhibiting when it comes to sustained action. Idealists and dreamers are like finely tuned instruments designed to pick up the faintest of signals from that higher realm where ideals live. As a result, they are often very sensitive and unable to take rejections and criticism without despair. They also may lack important people and financial skills because they are so absorbed in their works or thoughts. Single-mindedness bordering on obsession may be a virtue when pursuing a goal, but it can quickly turn into a vice for those fortunate enough to succeed. Since they never had plans beyond their original goals, many end up aimlessly expending themselves in frivolity.
How do successful idealists rise above such shortcomings? Look at men and women like Oprah Winfrey and Bono. When you study enough examples, you will find that the most successful idealists are not only masters of their crafts but masters of themselves as well. They not only have the vision but also the will to overcome all obstacles. If they find they lack a certain skill, they learn it. If they need to win over certain people in order to move forward, they do it. They never quit until they have achieved their goal. And if they achieve their original goal, they are disciplined enough to set new ones.
Ask yourself, are you are an idealist or a dreamer? This is a life-defining question, so be realistic and honest with yourself. If you are a dreamer, perhaps the best course of action for you is to get a regular job and dream in your spare time. This way you can dream all you want without the heavy burden of making it real.
How can you tell that you are really a dreamer and not an unsuspecting idealist? The answer is simple, really. If you are an idealist, a regular job can feel like a prison cell, and no amount of dreaming can overcome this feeling. You may not know what your ideals are, but you know that this is not the life you want. And if you know what your ideals are, you will never be happy unless you have at least tried to make them reality. Such is the burden of idealism. There are no guarantees for an idealist. It is a climb up a mountain as high as Everest, but if you should reach the top and leave your mark, the world will be forever changed.
Take Action – If you decided to take the plunge as an idealist, be prepared for a challenging journey ahead. Here are some articles that might help you on your way.