In the movie Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio plays a professional thief named Dominick Cobb who infiltrates dreams and steals information. There’s a scene in a Parisian restaurant where he’s chatting with Ariadne, an architecture student he’s recruiting to help him.
Cobb says, “Dreams, they feel real while we’re in them, right? It’s only when we wake up we realize something was actually strange.”
He adds: “You never really remember the beginning of a dream, do you? You always wind up right in the middle of what’s going on.”
Ariadne, unimpressed, responds, “I guess, yeah.”
Leo responds: “So, how did we end up here?”
Ariadne says, “Well, we just came from the, uh, . . .”
At that bone-chilling moment, Ariadne realizes that she’s dreaming. Her coffee cup starts shaking, and the entire city block begins to fall apart.
Our lives work much the same way as our dreams. It’s hard to remember why we started doing things or how we got to where we are.
Think about it.
How did you end up with the type of coffee you drink in the morning or the route you take to work?
When did you adopt the beliefs you hold dear, the opinions that are so tightly wound with your identity?
It’s hard to remember.
We have little idea how we ended up here—we just know we’re here—so we keep going. Events begin to rhyme. Days begin to repeat. We regurgitate the same overworn sound bites, stick to the same job, talk to the same people, watch the same shows, and play the same comfortable roles.
We stop looking and acting deliberately. We become blinded by experience. We rely on “good enough” answers based on past experiences even if the answers are aggressively unoriginal. People call this “wisdom.”
We’re often told to pull ourselves together. But there’s far more value in pulling ourselves apart. This involves a spiritual renovation of sorts, where you remove all the familiar items from the shelf—like a mental Marie Kondo—and put back only the essential ones that will continue to serve you well.
You can start small. Find one assumption in your life and question it. This could be a habit, a routine, a process—something you’ve been doing because you’ve “always done it this way.” How did this assumption come about? Is it there for a good reason? Can you replace it with something better?
Reality is what you make of it. You don’t have to live life the way you were told. You get to create your very own universe, instead of passively waiting for life to happen to you.
Waking up from the slumber of your own past can be jarring.
But it’s well worth the effort.