Don’t be self-conscious about dreaming, or about people thinking you’re too idealistic, or not serious enough.  Don’t allow your self-talk to be judgemental.  Look at the world with wide-eyed enthusiasm, believe you are more powerful than the problems that confront you, and dream big.

I love these words, spoken by Richard Branson.  They really spark something in me!  So often in live we feel we have to settle down, conform, do what’s expected of us.  We can look around at problems and situations and feel overwhelmed, like tiny little ants under the boots of massive problems.  But I have a secret to tell you… you are a powerful person.  You, yes, you, reading this blog.  You are incredibly powerful!  You have it within you to change things.  To change yourself, and to make a difference in this world.  You have ideas.  You can see challenges and you will have thoughts like ‘well, if I was in charge, I’d do this…’  or ‘If it was up to me I’d make it so that such and such never had to happen’.

One day, a few years ago, I sat with a 15 year old girl on the floor of a hospital room.  She was crying and very angry.  She was frustrated with mental health services, with her family, with doctors, with life… and frustrated with herself.  She wanted to run away and never come back.  As I sat with her and she raged tears on my shoulder I thought to myself about how rubbish the situation was.  About how I wished it wasn’t so hard for her.  About how I wished things could be different.  I spoke softly to her and told her that I understood.  That I felt it too.  I agreed that things were pretty sucky at that precise moment, but I asked her to make a choice.  I said to her that it was up to her – she had the power to choose.  I asked her to choose to trust the adults.  To choose to try.  To listen, to give it a chance.  To choose to do something that enabled her to feel more supported, rather than running away to be in isolation.  When the other adults came into the room, she told them through gritted teeth that she’d work with them.  She didn’t run, and took all her strength, all her power in that moment but it was worth it.  Because she stayed, she got help.  Because she chose to reach out, things started to change.

And things didn’t only change for her.  That experience of sitting on the floor confronted by all the hopelessness and difficulty of the situation gave me an idea.  I thought to myself ‘If it was up to me, I’d make it so no young person has to go through something like this alone.’  Then I realised that it was up to me – if I chose.  This idea, born in a place of hopelessness became a dream about hope.  It became the vision for Emerge.

Now, night by night, volunteers give up their evenings to sit in A&E and in hospital wards with young people who are strangers to them, but they do it because they know it makes a difference.  They caught my dream, and are making it a reality.

You have dreams inside of you waiting to become a reality.  Don’t write them off.  Take the things that make you sad, or mad, or the things that are just blindingly obvious to you that need to get done, and start dreaming about what you can do.  Share your ideas, your dreams and others will catch on.  Surround yourself with people who champion your dreams, who see the power and potential you have in you.  In time, with hard work and support, your dreams can become a reality.

As Mr Branson says, ‘At Virgin, we know better than most the value of dreaming.  Had we not dreamed, we would never have got to where we are today.  The odds have been stacked against us along the way, but we have put faith in our hopes and desires.  And by not limiting ourselves to what we know or have been told to be true, we have been able to turn one dream into another.’

Even if the odds feel stacked against you, keep dreaming my friends…!