A few months ago I had several dreams about moving into a new house. In the most powerful of those dreams, I was moving into a sleek apartment. The building was tall, with big windows that opened onto a view of an open grass field and then a lake or a bay. It reminded me of my dorm at Western Washington University in Bellingham, but contemporary and upscale.

I awoke from each of these dreams puzzled. Why was I dreaming about moving? I love my house. Buying it was just about the smartest thing I ever did. During COVID I thought for sure I would miss travelling, but I haven’t. Because I love where I live.

Then last night, I had the dream that was the kicker. I dreamed about wanting to move and not knowing what to do with all my furniture and stuff that was in storage.

OK. Anyone who knows me knows I own almost no material possessions. I bought my first piece of furniture only after I bought my house–a bean bag. I slept directly on the floor most of my life. Then I finally upgraded to sleeping on a mattress. About two years ago I shocked myself–I actually bought a bed.

The way most people interpret dreams, they would have tried to find some metaphor. They would say, “Oh, all that stuff in storage represents emotional baggage.” Or something. No, that’s not how I interpret dreams.

My mother has lived in the same house for 40 years. My very first memory is of walking into that home. I figured she would live in that house forever. Maybe she thought the same thing.

Well she’s not going to live in that house forever. A couple of weeks ago she told me she wanted to move to Bellingham, where my sister lives. She is selling the old house, getting rid of tons of stuff, and starting a new life. She wants to live in an apartment with a walk-in shower and no steps, in a building with an elevator. Preferably the apartment would have a view.

Recently I saw the photos of the apartment building my mother will be moving into. I was shocked, but I shouldn’t have been.

Of course the building looked just like the building I had dreamed about.

See, there’s no metaphor. Those dreams weren’t really my dreams. They were my mother’s dreams. I was just sort of receiving them.

Everyone tells you to “live your own life.” And I agree. But I’m also here to tell you that living your own life is nowhere near as simple as most people make it out to be. Even your dreams aren’t always your own, let alone your desires and goals. You will take on the goals, dreams and desires of those closest to you, and often without even realizing it.

I wish I could tell you a magic formula for figuring out what your real desires are by just thinking or introspecting. But I don’t have one. In my own life, what has worked is to keep pursuing anything where improvement flows well, and to let go when I’m trying to force everything.

In other words, if you lose once, maybe it’s just luck. If you lose a few times, maybe you need to learn new skills or improve the ones you have. But if you keep losing over and over again, maybe the issue is that you don’t want to win. Your ego wants to win, because it always wants to win–even if winning will make you worse off than losing! But you are not your ego.

Every time I lost consistently it’s because I didn’t want to win. This was true in every aspect of life. But I often couldn’t admit that to myself. I blamed bad luck, other people, or told myself I just needed more time, skills or connections.

In reality, I just didn’t want it. I wasn’t dreaming my own dreams. I was chasing someone else’s.