Live the Life You Have Imagined: why we don’t succeed in following our dreams

Picture in your mind your craziest, most ambitious, you-could-never-do-that dream.  Think about the one thing that you have always wanted to do; the thing that people have said is too crazy to even try.  Now picture the life you would have in that dream, where waking up everyday would be no less than surreal.

With this in mind, think about where you’re at right now.  What are you currently doing with your life?  Where is your current path heading?  Where do you see yourself being at in the next five to ten years?  How does this path align with your dream?

These are some of the things that I say to and ask myself everyday: Where am I going and where do I want to go?  More often than not, I find that the answer to the question “Where am I going” is far different than the answer to the question “Where do I want to go”.  If I dream of being a writer, but I wake up late in the day and spend no time reading or writing, then where I am going is anywhere but the direction I want to be going.  If I say I have a goal of gaining more subscribers on youtube, but I don’t do the research needed to produce a new video for the week, then again, where I am going is anywhere but where I want to be.  What is keeping me from moving forward in the direction of my dreams?

A lot of the articles that you read about following your dreams will tell you that in order to live the life of your dreams, you just need to start.  However, we will almost always fail when we simply follow this “just do it” mindset.  It’s the same reason that almost all of us fail at keeping our New Year’s Resolutions.  What a mindset like this does is oversimplify the expected outcome; things seem easier than they actually are.  This is known as the “False Hope Syndrome”.  When we believe that our dreams are easily accomplished, we set goals that are actually unachievable in our current situation.  We then do our best to work hard, but do not achieve our unrealistic goals.  What we achieved was very good, but typically falls way below what we desired.  Because the actual outcome was different than the desired outcome, we feel like a failure and then quit.  As one study put it, “Expectations often exceed what is feasible and lead people to reject more modest, achievable goals. The best is the enemy of the good.”

I think that in order to really achieve our dreams, we have to first understand the reality of what we are getting ourselves into.  We have to be able to contain our overly optimistic minds and look at what it took for others to be successful in the area of our dreams.  Understanding these realities will help us to set feasible goals, based on the achievements of others, that we can reach and continue to build on until we have arrived at the life we dreamed of.  In other words, being grounded in the real is the only way we can achieve the surreal.   To be successful in our dreams, it requires more than to simply follow them.  We must go with the confidence and knowledge necessary, down a path that is likely a great risk, to meet our dreams face to face and defeat our fears.

Rather than simply beating ourselves up for feeling like a failure, and therefore not even bothering with our dreams, we should reevaluate our goals.  More than likely we will find that the goals we had set far exceeded our abilities to reach them, leaving us burnt out.  We should ask ourselves “where do I want to be and what are the realistic steps I can take to get there?”  Once you have re-grounded yourself and laid out a feasible plan of attack, only then can you, as Henry David Thoreau writes, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you have imagined.”

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