Why you've given up on your dreams.
As I approach the ripe old age of 30, I can't help but notice some patterns forming in the people around me. If our twenties was the time to figure out what we what from life, it seems to me like our thirties is the time to give up on what we want from life. Yeesh, heavy stuff. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that you have to pick something in your twenties and stick to it no matter what. But there's a difference between your dreams evolving and changing as you grow, and legit giving up on your dreams completely.
I think most people fit into one of three categories:
1. The Dreamer: You've never really been able to figure out what your dream is.
2. The Road Blocker: You have dreams. Until you hit a road block and either change direction or give up entirely.
3. The Doer: you have a dream, you give it your all to achieve it.
I reckon we all experience a combination of these at different points of our lives, but recognising which one connects with you most right now can be a useful tool. If you're The Dreamer, you kinda wish you had a dream to go after, but you don't really know where or how to apply yourself. We all probably felt this way as teenagers and young adults, being pressured into deciding what to do with our lives. It's useful to keep in mind that just because you choose something and go after it, doesn't mean you can't change or course-correct your flight path as you grow. Would you rather look back and think: why did I wait so long to go after something? Or; I gave it my all in that direction, but it's time to change paths now. A lot of us can be paralysed by the notion that we could pick the wrong path/dream and put all this effort into something that it turns out is inherently wrong in some way.
There is no wrong. Even if you pick a dream that turns out to be the opposite of what you want, that is a valuable learning experience, and will ultimately help you get where you want to be. At some stage of our development someone has told us not to make mistakes, but honestly we just need to make better mistakes and learn as much as we can from them.
If you're The Road Blocker: There is nothing more demoralising than making a mistake. It's THE WORST. I, personally, really hate making mistakes and try to avoid them as much as humanly possible. But, I have some pretty solid strategies that click into play when I do make a mistake, to help get me where I need to be. For example, I'm preparing for a Kickstarter project at the moment, and almost every - single - thing I've done in preparation for it, has not turned out well. I got a test print, and it did not turn out well. I got stickers printed, they did not turn out well. But guess what? That's why these were tests. That's why I did them before the Kickstarter launched. There is no grand master guidebook to life that we all need to follow in order to make no mistakes. And gosh, do you think those mistakes stung when I made them? Heck yes. I've wasted not only time but also money. Ouch. But, I'm trying to tell myself it's only a waste if you don't learn from them - and move on quickly.
So, I could sit here crying in a puddle of unusable merchandise, or I can put on my big girl panties and get on with it.
I sulked for about an hour and then sighed, picked myself up and came up with a solid plan to correct the situation and even better my situation based on what I now know went awry. Mistakes are demoralising. They really are. But that's just a frame of mind we've been put into after seeing red Xs marked all over a maths test we tried really hard on. If we put in a lot of effort and still fail, it teaches us that we may as well not try in the first place. But success isn't just about putting in the initial effort, it's about getting really good at making mistakes and learning from them. Honestly I think this is why so many young people pretend not to care about school, or seem not to try. It's because at first they did try and were punished for trying and failing. Rather than being taught how to move on and learn from their mistakes, they were put in a frame of mind where trying resulted in failing. What a poop.
Now, if roadblocks have stopped you from going for your dreams, it's important to figure that out. Sometimes we actually don't even realise that we've given up on our dreams, because life just gets in the way and distracts us. Have you given up on your dreams? Are you kidding yourself that what you're moving towards is what you actually want? Did you have a dream and decide it was too hard? Did you let a roadblock decide that the dream wasn't actually what you wanted? Perhaps you've been trying to figure out what you want for the last 10 years? Maybe you're just ticking things off the list of social expectations rather than having an actual conversation with yourself about what you want?
This is not a one-time conversation or line of questioning. I probably have this conversation with myself at least once a month. If you don't check-in regularly, life will pass you by and suddenly you wake up and you're 45 years old with 3 kids you don't really know, a husband you don't listen to and a job that you resent. And you're still trying to figure out what your dreams were and why you never went for them. That's not to say that your dreams don't involve a family and a job. And I think that everyone's ideal life involves a combination of fulfilling elements, work, family, friends, pets, children, hobbies, holidays, travel, stability, variety. There's so many wonderful aspects of life, we don't want to put all our eggs in one basket either. If you just pick a dream and ignore everything else, your sense of success and fulfilment might become very hollow without loved ones to share it with.
Having a fundamental understanding of yours needs/dreams is crucial. Let's say your dream is to have children. And let's say you focus on getting a girlfriend, then getting married, finding a stable job, buying a house - all leading up to your dream of having children. You've worked so hard, all you want is to build a family. And then, you can't have children. It just doesn't happen. Your dream evaporates, you feel like it's all your fault. But what went wrong? You've tried so hard, you've done everything right. Now it's gone. You alienate your wife, you grieve for the life you wanted that you'll never have... Brutal. This happens all the time, no matter what your dreams are.
Just because you put the work in, does not mean you will achieve your dreams.
There will always be hurdles. Your dream is so rigid that when a force outside your control destroys it, you are inconsolable. Now, how could we look at this situation with a perspective that serves us better? If you think your dream is to have children, let's dig a little deeper and see if we can't see what the dream actually is. Because children might actually be the means to an end. Not the end itself. Perhaps, you had a terrible relationship with your parents, and having children is your way of correcting the wrong inflicted upon you? Or perhaps you want children because of an intense fear of being alone? Perhaps your dream is really to be accepted unconditionally and loved, and children is the way you thought you would get that.
If you have a clear end, the means can be flexible.
If your dream/end is actually love and acceptance, then there are multiple means to facilitate that. Whereas if you pin all your focus on an end such as having children, when forces outside your control prevent that, you're crushed. If your end is focused on getting love and acceptance, then not having children won't destroy you as much. You'll course-correct, and realise that you have a loving wife and need to put more energy into nurturing existing relationships to fulfil your dream. Maybe resolving the issues with your parents is what you need to focus on.
Perhaps you wanted to be a successful actor. A movie star. You train hard, you learn, you hone your craft. You go to auditions, you keep at it for years. And years. You score a few background rolls. But it never really takes off. All you want is to be the leading lady in a Hollywood Blockbuster. You've done everything right, what went wrong? Just like our last scenario, sometimes you need to dig a little deeper into a dream to figure out what end you're after. Perhaps, being a Hollywood movie star meant that you could entertain millions and share joy with them. Entertaining others to you is how you get love and feel accepted. If, perhaps, you focus on simply entertaining others to bring joy to yourself and them, you can course-correct your dreams. You start a You-Tube channel and give that everything you've got. You work really hard, and develop a genuine connection with your audience. It brings you a lot of joy to entertain your fans, and they in turn reward you.
Dig deep. My dream is to be a successful artist, but why? What am I looking to gain? What needs will this fulfil on a fundamental level? What different paths can I take to achieve this? Which interests me the most? What sacrifices am I prepared to make? Which process will I enjoy the most? What will I regret not doing on my death bed?
Really, it's cultivating a passion/skillset that fulfils you in the service of others (thanks, Tom Bilyeu). Also, I think, a dream is something that's never really completed. For instance, if your dream is to win a gold medal, and you do that, what next? I think it's useful to have a big dream (meet your potential) and have smaller goals to fulfil that (win a gold medal). That way, you can always come up with new goals dotted along your journey that all keep you moving towards your dream.
Thanks so much for reading this blog post, I hope you took something away from it Please get in touch by emailing me to continue the conversation, I'd love to know your thoughts on the subject. Or please share this blog post on socials and tag me to help bring others into the conversation.