Now I have got that out of the way, let’s get down to business…
First off, let me say, I believe it is very common for people to ask themselves this sort of question. You may be asking; “should I follow my dreams?”, “should I go after my dreams?”, “should I get a normal job or chase my dreams?” All of these are valid questions. All off them are very likely to come up at some point in your life, especially when you haven’t yet started pursuing what it is you want to pursue. And that’s okay.
Although this post is likely going to appeal to creatives types such as actors and dancers, people wanting to go out on their own and start a business, or others looking to do non-traditional careers, let me say from the outset that this post is not intended to invalidate anyone that wants a more traditional career, wants to be a stay-at-home parent, or, frankly, anything else at all.
This advice is applicable to anyone with any dream, no matter the size and scope of that dream. My frame-of-reference is that of a creative – my dream is to be a Film Director, and that is what I work on every day. But you should absolutely take this advice and apply it to your situation and your goals.
A Better Question to Ask
I think it’s always useful to reframe things in a more positive way. Reframing a question to a more positive one can help our brains to find better answers, and better answers help us move towards good solutions.
The question of “should I go after my dreams?” is negatively-biased in how its phrased. It allows too much room for a negative answer to be given. And, given that the human brain has a tendency to go towards the negative as a means of self-preservation, the first thought that might come in to our head is “no”.
Instead, why don’t we ask ourselves “why would I not follow my dreams?!” And notice that exclamation mark after the question mark! Why? Because it points to the ridiculousness of this question even coming up. Or, for a more advanced question, how about, “how can I go after my dreams right now?” This instantly makes our brain look for a solution, as we have already determined within the question that we will be going after our dreams.
Isn’t it depressing that we even ask ourselves if we should go after our dreams? If we should go after something that we love, that gives us passion and drives us? Why would we ever NOT want to go after that?
Let me as you this: what is the point of life if we don’t follow our dreams? What is the point of life if we don’t do everything with it that we want to do? Do we really think the point of life is to not do what we want with it? Heck no! So why do we ask ourselves such a depressing question?
Where This Question Comes From
This question, simply, comes from a place of fear. Most likely, it is going to be a fear over failure: failure meaning we are no good at the thing we desperately want to do, or perhaps failure in regards to not making money from what we want to make money doing.
These are perfectly valid feelings. Most people going out doing something “different” have them. On a personal note, I cannot tell you how often I have these fears… Actually, that’s not true. I absolutely can tell you how often I have these fears, and that is MULTIPLE TIMES PER DAY. Just ask my wife. My endlessly-patient wife, who I express these fears to multiple times on a daily basis and then wonder how she does not kill me in my sleep (note to self: sleep with one eye open at all times).
These fears a very real. It’s scary thinking about dying destitute and broke, it’s scary thinking that you may absolutely suck at this thing you desperately want to, it’s scary thinking that everyone is going to laugh at you when you put yourself out in to the world. But, here’s the thing – we cannot let those fears of failure paralyze us, because that is the only real failure – not trying at all is the only reason that you can ever really call yourself a failure.
What are you going to do, otherwise? Not try? THAT IS FAILURE.
“That’s true, but it’s still scary!” I hear you say. Well…
How to Get over the Fear of Failure
The thing with fear is we only have two options: run from the fear, or face it head-on.
Running From Fear
If we run from the fear, we never address it, and it will always plague us that we didn’t deal with it. We will forever live in a state of “what if?” – “What if I had gone after my dreams?” “What if my life could have been different?” Running from fear means that we will never be the person we could have been had we addressed the fear. And that is a real loss. We will forever be left with the thoughts and feelings of “I should have done XYZ”. I.e., regret. And, considering regret on a small level is painful enough, can you imagine the regret about not doing something as important as going after your dreams?
Think about regrets you may have had over, essentially, small things in comparison: a missed opportunity in your career, not asking someone out you really liked, or not trying that fun activity whilst all your friends did and then missing out. Well, take those comparatively small regrets, and then amplify them over a LIFETIME. How would you feel if you regretted not doing what you wanted to do with your life? Because that won’t be a regret from something that only lasts a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years. It will be a regret that compounds day after day after day, and you WILL feel the further you get on in your life.
I know I have huge regrets about not going after my dreams as early as I could have. I knew what I wanted to do with my life well before I started actually going after those dreams. I feel massive amounts of regret about that wasted time. And, with that regret, I feel massive amounts of pain. The good thing is, I can now use that painful regret to fuel me to work harder than I might have without that regret.
But PLEASE do not let yourself have more regret than you might already have. It is MUCH more painful that simply facing the fear.
Facing Fear Head-On
If we face the fear, if we do the very thing we need to do in order to achieve our dreams, we start fulfilling our potential and then we will start becoming the person that we know we can be. And won’t that feel good? The thing with this is, it gets easier the more you do it: the more you face fear, the more you will be able to face fear in the future. And the more you face fear, the more results you will get, and the more likely you will be to achieve the very thing you want to achieve
And, most importantly, the more you face your fears and do the very things you are scared of, the better you will feel about yourself. And the better you feel about yourself, the more positive effort you will put in and the better results you will get. All these things work together.
Frankly, it FEELS GOOD to face fear. And feeling good is a state we want to be in. Why does everything have to be so hard? Well, it doesn’t! We just need to step out and face our fears.
Have you ever had a time where you needed to do something scary? Maybe jumping off a waterfall, going to a foreign country for the first time, trying a new food, asking someone out, applying for a job, or simply raising your hand to ask a question in a class? Well, didn’t you feel IMMEDIATELY better when you did it? And didn’t you feel better for a time after? And didn’t it then becoming easier to do that same scary thing again? And, further, didn’t it become easier to do something else scary, too? That is EXACTLY what we are talking about doing here. Let’s apply those smaller things to this bigger situation – start facing fears and start feeling better about doing that on a regular basis, and soon… profit.
Talking of Profit… What About Money?
One of the biggest hurdles with going after your dreams is figuring out your money situation. It is almost certainly the thing most brought up as a challenge in this situation. I know, for me, it is certainly my biggest fear over going after my dreams. I am perpetually scared that I am going to be broke, have no money to live, and generally die in a pit of misery and helplessness. This is why my wife hates going food shopping with me – because she knows I am freaking out at the price of an apple, calculating in my head how much it costs now vs 3 months ago, what the price might be in 6 months, and how many apples I could afford if I only made £5 a week for the rest of my life! My poor, endlessly patient wife…
Here’s the thing with money – YOU CANNOT BE A SLAVE TO IT. You cannot take money to the grave. Money is tool. Money is useful to do the things you want to do and have the things you need to have, but if you obsess about it more than that, it becomes dangerous.
This absolutely deserves a whole other post, but what it comes down to is figuring out how much money you REALLY need, figuring out how to make that amount, and then STOP obsessing about it. Use that wasted obsessive energy worrying about future money situations, and put it in to making your dreams happen.
Figuring Out What You NEED
I think it’s important to get real with yourself. How much do you REALLY need? How much do you need to pay your rent/mortgage? How much do you need for food? Can you move somewhere cheaper? Can you eat cheaper? Do you really need the expensive branded version of things, or can you get the store’s-own brand? Do you need to live in a 3 bedroom house or could you move to a 2-bedroom house? Can you love off of rice and beans and broccoli instead of going out to eat 3 times per week? Do you need that expensive phone plan for tonnes of data, or could you use WiFi more? How much do you want to save on top of your expenses? Etc etc.
The difficulty here is that we get used to our current standard of living. But you have to get real about what you could cut back to and still be happy with (which is key – because if you are not happy then you will probably suffer mentally and then not go after your dreams, which is the whole point).
Some of these things you can try out and see with – such as eating cheaper, not spending money on alcohol, etc. Try it for a month, see if that money saving is worth it to you, and move forwards from there. Do this in all areas of your life, and you will soon see how much money you really need to live on.
Making that Amount and then Moving Forwards
Once you figure out what money you need to live on, come up with a plan of how you are going to make that money. It could be that you use a “regular” job, freelancing… whatever. They key is not doing more than is needed. Once you have figured out how to make what you need to, stop adding more hours to that to make more, as that will take away from the time you could put towards going after your dreams. You must remember that that is the goal, so you need to maximise the time you give yourself to put in to it.
Essentially, you need to figure out the practicalities of living so that they are organised in such a way that allows you the most time to do that thing that makes you feel alive.
The Point of it All
The Real Profit
When I said “profit” above, I was not necessarily talking about monetary profit. Although monetary profit is nice, I really don’t think that is what life is about. The real profit of facing your fears and going after your dreams and aims in life, is who you become.
I feel like we are put on Earth to fulfil our potential. It’s so important to define who you want to be – what kind of person you want to be, what values you want to have, what you want to stand for, what you represent. What do you want to achieve? What do you want to give the planet? What do you want other people to learn from you? What do you want people to think of when they think of you?
That is what we should be going after. That is the gain from facing our fears. That is what is on the table if you really go for it, if you go after your dreams.
Can you imagine a world in which you go after the things you want with everything you have? What will that feel like? Who will that mean you have become? Wouldn’t that feel amazing?
When all is said and done, the thing that makes us feel the best is feeling good about ourselves, and I think that feeling good about ourselves comes from truly being ourselves.
This is the ultimate victory – becoming the person we really want to be. That is why we must face our fears. That is why we must go after our dreams.
Because in pursuit of those dreams, we become who we are really meant to be.
If you feel like you do want to follow your dreams but fear that it is too late for you to go after your dreams, then check out this post.
If you’re looking for some more ideas on how you can start feeling like going after your dreams, maybe a New Year’s resolution essay would be a good idea for you, or maybe you need to go through the process of defining yourself so you can start going after what you want in life.
If you are looking for some quick advice on dealing with regret, I encourage you to check out these best quotes on regret.
If you’ve read this post and you still wonder what to do with your life, then that post will help you to figure out what to do.
Maybe you want some good old inspiration. If so, check out these true motivational and inspirational stories, which can help motivate and inspire you to go after what you want.
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