The Myth of Pursuing Your Dreams

Do you have what it takes? There's a fantasy floating around out there, one we all want to believe. It's the one where you discover what you were "meant to do" and suddenly butterflies and rainbows and unicorns. (Or, if you're a guy, explosions, ninjas and Jedi mind tricks?) It's the fairy tale we're sold that if you can just discover your passion, what you were meant to do, suddenly everything else will fall away, and you'll skip merrily along your path with the ease of a small child chasing an ice cream truck. "There it is," you shout happily . . . "I see it!" And your mother miraculously says, "Yes, dear, of course you can have the ludicrously overpriced Ice Cream sandwich that we can get at the grocery store for pennies on the dollar, and I will let you purchase it from the older gentleman in an airbrushed 1980's Chevy Van!" Because this fantasy is illogical like that.

This fantasy is also dangerous.

It doesn't matter what your dream is: starting a business, running a foundation, building a website, finding The One (a myth too, btw), we all get sucked into the belief that once we determine what it is, everything will just "fall into place" like it was "meant to be," and it will be exactly right because "you'll just know."

That makes it sound easy-peasy. But there's a part of you that feels uneasy, even though you want to believe what you've been told. If this were a horror movie, it would be the part where it seems logical for the woman to run up the stairs, but something in us wants to shout at the screen, "Run for the door, you idiot!"

Tweet: Because what's easy is not always right, and what's right is definitely not going to be easy.Because what's easy is not always right, and what's right is definitely not going to be easy.

Pursuing your dreams was never going to be easy. Easy would be following your same routine. Easy would be setting your dream aside because you don't have enough time, or believe you're not smart/talented/rich enough. Easy would be having an angel investor knock on your door and hand you cash and say, "Here, this is for your dream. Have fun!"

Life just doesn't happen that way. Dreams are not easy. First, they're scary.

Not serial killer scary, maybe, but definitely jumping out of a plane scary. You have to wade through the what ifs, and the What will people think? and the Do I have time? Do I have talent? thoughts that come with pursuing something new.

Then, once you realize something is scary but you're going to attempt it anyway, a whole new specter raises its head, one you were completely unprepared for.

It's the second realization, and it rudely smacks you in the face: Once you begin pursuing your dream, you may not be any good at it for a while.

This turns everything you knew about dream chasing upside down, and it may all land in the trash. Your writing will sound stilted, boring, and unimaginative. Your cartoon will look like a preschooler scribbled on lined paper on an off day. Your charity organization will be one of 67 other organizations with the same exact focus.

This is the make or break point. This is where you say to yourself one of two things:

1. See? I told you this was a waste of time. Pursuing dreams is for other people, the ones with natural talent and excess cash. Nice try, but seriously, who were we kidding?

2. Screw it. I've made it this far. Even if it sucks, I'm going to see this through, because I might fail, but if I do, I'll learn something valuable.

There's a difference in those two thoughts. I've had both, sometimes in the same hour of the same day! But the difference is that the first thought is your way of saying "I give up. This is too hard," and the second thought is your way of saying, "This is a lot harder than I expected but I'm not giving up my dream."

That's where the damaging fantasy has the potential to destroy your dreams. You thought it was going to be a certain way, and it just isn't. Maybe it's taking years and you thought it would take months. Maybe you thought you'd be flooded with ideas once you made the decision to follow your dream, and the Idea Well is drier than red clay in August. Maybe you thought you would have support and the only one supporting you is, well . . . you.

The truth is, this is your dream. If it's important, it won't go away, even if sometimes you wished it would. The myth that it would be easy is just that: a myth. But if you believe enough in your dreams, you'll pursue it even when it feels hard.

Giving up on it would be your choice.

Is that a choice you're willing to live with?