The Difference Between Dreams & Desire.


Words like dreams, goals, desires, passion, ambitions are bandied about regularly. They can become a white noise amongst the vocabulary of personal development and achievement,  interspersed with the latest buzz word or phrase.

When words are mixed together like this their meaning can become diluted or confused. The power that lies within their definition and use is lost.

Being particular about words is not about vernacular snobbery. In the case of dreams and desire, giving them a clear definition and distinction helps us to identify and develop them, know ourselves, and give clarity to our journey of discovery and fulfillment.

John Eldredge, in his book ‘Desire’, explains as follows:

‘Our days come to us as a riddle, and the answers aren’t handed out to us with our birth certificates. We must journey to find the life we prize. And the guide we have been given is the desire deep within, the desire we often overlook or mistake for something else or even choose to ignore’



a strongly desired goal or purpose :  something that fully satisfies a wish : a cherished aspiration, ambition, or ideal.


Dreams can be vague things that we amuse ourselves with: daydreaming. Do you have any of those? They’re an important distraction from everyday drudgery and also where our stronger dreams can emerge from. These stronger dreams will be the ones we take and dream with our eyes open.

What are your dreams

We hear about dream jobs, dream holidays, dream teams. Some dreams have a pie-in-the-sky reachability while others seem quite mundane in comparison. Dreams are personal things. If someone dreams of becoming a nurse rather than a master surgeon, or wants a family holiday together in Wales rather than Disneyland, it doesn’t lessen the value of their dreams.

One distinction between a dream and a desire is that a dream can be fulfilled. It can be grown, planned for, enjoyed, but the need to repeat the experience isn’t there in the same way. I may dream of visiting Italy, it doesn’t mean that I want to go and live there. I can visit Italy and feel fulfilled. I may even visit more than once because I enjoy the experience,  but not be compelled to go.




a conscious impulse toward something that promises enjoyment or satisfaction in its attainment; to long or hope for.

Synonyms of desire include: ache (for), covet, crave, die (for), hanker (for or after), hunger (for), long (for), lust (for or after),  pine (for), sigh (for), thirst (for), want, wish (for), yearn (for), yen (for), set one’s heart on.



The text following the definition goes on to say:

‘desire stresses the strength of feeling and often implies strong intention or aim; wish sometimes implies a general or transient longing especially for the unattainable; want specifically suggests a felt need or lack ; crave stresses the force of physical appetite or emotional need.’

Now that we have a clearer definition of the word, we can see that desire is indeed different from dreams.  Desire is deeper, more powerful, but often less defined.

Some of us have been brought up to believe desire is a dangerous thing or have given up on our desires as the disappointment of having them left unfulfilled felt too much for us.  But a river that deep doesn’t dry up, it just goes underground.

‘When the desire is too much to bear, we often bury it beneath frenzied thoughts and activities or escape it by dulling our immediate consciousness of living. It is possible to run away from the desire for years, even decades, at a time, but we cannot eradicate it entirely. It keeps touching us in little glimpses and hints in our dreams, our hopes, our unguarded moments’

Gerald  May, from his book ‘The Awakened Heart’.

What are your desires


The birthplaces of dreams and desires.


As human beings, we are wonderfully and complexly made. Knowing about the cradles of our dreams and desires can show us more about how they work intrinsically together and who we truly are.

Just as the human body is made up of different components, we are also more than meets the eye.

The different components of who were are do not function as separate entities but are designed to function in intrinsic unity.

Each part affects the others.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m suffering from the flu in my physical body I also feel pretty fed up and miserable (soul). My feeling miserable is not a response based on rationale and intelligence, it’s heartfelt!

Body Soul Spirit
Body Soul Spirit


Where dreams are born.


Our soul (heart and deep reasoning mind) is what sits between the physical world and our intimate selves (spirit). It is in the soul that dreams are born.

It is in our soul that the stirrings from deep within ourselves and the rational realities of the world, as we perceive it to be, meet.

Sometimes, those perceptions of reality cause a struggle for our emerging dreams. All the while those dreams are of the floating day-dreaming kind they cause no friction, only a little longing. They amuse the heart and distract the mind. But when we take hold of those dreams and dare to intentionally grow and expand them, it can offend our rational mind.

The mind of the body is rational, intellectual, and the mind of the soul is reasoning, where deeper things are weighed.

Our dreams are born in and inhabit our soul and mind. To grow and expand our dreams to fulfilment, we must engage both parts of ourselves: soul and body. Only a fool would be led around by their emotions (heart) without thinking things through (intelligence, rational & reasoning mind).


Identifying Desire.


Our desires can be more difficult to identify. Our desires come from deep within us, they are an integral part of who we are in the same way as our physical needs.

It is a strong statement to make. If I look at myself, I can see that my spirit needs  a connection with natural beauty in a way that my body needs food. Without food, I become physically weak, less resilient. The same happens to my spirit without breathing in the space and beauty of creation.

Deep calls unto deep. We can often see patterns in our dreams that can lead us to identify our desires. Our dreams are the expressions of our deeper desires and by following the patterns that we see in our dreams, we can identify our root desires.  Dreams can change and grow, desires can only be buried or let free to flow.

The story of your life

Jeff Goins, in his book ‘The Art Of Work’, gives us this sound advice. The book is about finding your vocation rather than just an occupation, it’s about being who you were meant to be.

What things consistently show up in your life?

What called to you as a child?

What regrets do you have?

What stirs you?


Dreams fulfill desires.


A visit to Italy may fulfill my dream. However, how long will it be before I’m back looking at travel brochures? I enjoyed it so much that I dream of going back. Before I can, an opportunity arrives for me to go to, say, Iceland. Do I turn it down, it certainly isn’t Italy? No, because my real desire, rising as dreams and giving momentum to them, is to travel.

Dreams can be rooted deeply, especially if nurtured over time, but are easier to let go of than desires, particularly if our desires are satisfied in another way. A dream job opportunity may be lost, but another presents itself. It isn’t the same job but it fulfills the desire for self-sufficiency/ creativity/ status/etc. We may think all is lost when the guy/girl of our dreams rejects us, yet how many of us have gone on to find a greater love with someone else?


A note about creativity.


To see the fulfilment of our dreams and desires, we need creativity. Again, as with the words dreams and desire, I’d like you to think about its full meaning.

Creativity is the dynamis of heart and mind coming together. It is so much more than the traditionally held definition limited to forms of artistic expression like music or painting. It is both emotional and intellectual expression, problem-solving, the act of bringing beauty or order into a situation, and it is aspiring to make things better, to improve what already is.

That is a better, but still incomplete, definition of creativity. That, we need, because wishing doesn’t make things happen. Creativity and action do.


Knowing and understanding ourselves is invaluable:

our strengths and weaknesses;

our motivations;

our dreams and desires.

By defining and understanding our dreams and desires we can create a more fulfilling life.