January 20, 2016

3 Reasons to Squelch the Dream Naysayers.


I’ve commonly been criticized for being a day-dreamer—

Having my head in the clouds, being off with the pixies, rainbows and unicorns.

Let’s just say my vision of reality is at times different to others.

I often feel unjustly criticized when it comes to my “dreaminess,” because I’m also a very practical person. So while I might have big ideas about start-ups and writing best-sellers and all other manner of far-fetched projects, I am actually quite balanced in my approach.

But dream big, and you’ll more often than not find yourself surrounded by dream naysayers. People who will provide quite unsolicited advice about your next big project or idea. It usually sounds a bit like this:

“Nope. That will never work. Never!”

“That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. What makes you think you could pull that off?”

“Have you heard the statistic that three out of four people become depressed as a result of starting (insert name of project)?”

or my personal favorite,

“You should do a content audit first, maybe even a risk assessment.”


It makes my eyes water just thinking about it—and not with tears of sadness, but with tears of pain!

There you are, with your next awesome, fantastic, whimsical, enlightening, blessed idea (which you’re very invested in at that moment) and down comes the guillotine, snapping your fragile idea in two faster than Marie Antoinette lost her head.

This is my manifesto to the negative Nancy’s out there, the dream-naysayers and the idea-murderers. I’d like to take this moment and point to them all aggressively, and yell:

“Stop it!”

As a child I was particularly interested in dinosaurs and ancient history. I wanted to be a palaeontologist or an archaeologist. A rather unhelpful person in my family told me that all the dinosaur remains had been uncovered, as well as all the ancient cities, so I simply couldn’t be an archaeologist or palaeontologist. They were moribund professions.

Very helpful indeed.

It’ll be no surprise to you that, as an impressionable child, I set aside my dreams of being the next Indiana Jones and naively believed my dream naysaying relative. I still watch dinosaur documentaries whimsically.

Have you ever wondered why dream naysayers get involved? Why they feel the inexplicable urge to thrust their negative opinion into the mix and then turn the blender on?

Recently I’ve had time to consider this, and can point towards three solid reasons grounded in research.

We’re programmed to see the negative first:

Over thousands of years of evolution, our capacity to quickly suss-out something suspicious, or too far-fetched has grown. Negative-bias was built into our minds to deal with danger. Early humans who had a bright idea about trying a new watering whole, tended to be eaten by lions.

Our build up, our internal code is basically telling us to be wary all the time, to see the negative even when there are no negatives to be processed.

Many of us are afflicted by tall poppy syndrome:

Common in Australia, the UK and New Zealand, the word describes a social phenomenon, where people of genuine merit are attacked or cut down or criticized simply because they’re being elevated above their peers.

In China or Japan, this roughly translates into, “The nail that stands out gets hammered down.”

If you have a big, unique idea or dream, it makes sense that those around you might want to cut your poppy down. After all, why hadn’t they come up with the idea? What if you’re on the brink of becoming a huge success? What does that say about them?

Some might just be really unhappy people:

A recent study conducted by Joseph Forgas of the University of New South Wales found that people who are dispositionally happy (and have a tendency to lean towards the positive) are less skeptical than others, and tend to be less critical. While unhappy people tend to be more analytical and details oriented and more likely to see and enunciate risks.

So, in short the dream naysayers are out there, and it might just be evolutionary, it might be tall-poppy that spurs them on, or even just general unhappiness. But make no mistake, they are amongst us, usually seated right next to us, ready to pooh-pooh your next idea, and destroy your most ultimate poignant thought.

But we can’t let them do that.

The thing about the naysayers is, they want to keep everyone back, and they want us to not lead amazing lives, have immense careers, or change the world. They want everything to remain the same. Just like it is, at this very moment. But we are all in constant flux and change, nothing is forever. Ideas and freethinking are the very cornerstones the world is built on.

I often see fellow dreamers and idealists as superheroes. We’re the one’s that can see the world as it really is, a place where anything can happen, a place filled with endless possibilities.

We’re not wearing rose-colored glasses, you’re just wearing clear ones.

When the naysayers are in my face about yet another idea they think will never make it, I like to unravel my superhero cape (cleverly hidden from plain-sight) and sashay it about vehemently. It usually has the desired effect.

To my fellow dreamers, and modern day super heroes: every idea is possible.

Just because some people live in darkness doesn’t mean other can’t live in light (and maybe a rainbow too…and some sparkles).


Relephant read:

Becoming an Effective Dreamer.


Author: Lisa Portolan 

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

Images: JD Hancock/ Flickr &  Imgur 


Reply to Guy cancel

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Guy Jan 20, 2016 3:28pm

Love it Lisa !! Spot on. I put it down to the dream-slayers being uncomfortable with the possibility that there is something more, something exciting, something invigorating out there that you might just do which will leave them behind. It's about them not wanting to be left behind but at the same time not wanting to get out of their comfort zone to try something new. They resent you for following your dreams and turning them into a reality, while they are stuck in their safe 'same-old'. Much love to you for ignoring them and going for it anyway. Let us seek out and encourage that little spark of different that lies dormant in so many people just waiting to be switched on. You are an inspiration and I take my hat off to you.

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Lisa Portolan

Lisa Portolan is a writer from Sydney, Australia. She has three books published and frequently blogs or writes articles for a series of publications and websites. She is currently undertaking her PhD at the University of Technology, Sydney, on happiness and the advertising industry. Lisa is also a yoga and meditation instructor, and a frequent green juice sipper. Take note, she does not like cardigans. Follow her on her website.