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The Unexpected Consequence of Following Your Dreams
Telling people to follow their dreams, live their big lives, and pursue their passions just feels good, you know?
This is not one of those posts.
However, if you don’t consider this and plan for it, you’ll likely quit before your dreams even have the chance to come true.
Following dreams comes with unavoidable loss.
No one prepares you for this and when it happens, it hits like a sucker punch.
There’s this mythical belief out there that when you are chasing a dream, you are leaving everything bad behind to make way for the good.
However, often times, not everything you’re leaving behind is bad. In moving on to better things, you have to leave behind important relationships, important work, and other aspects of yourself that you will miss.
When I started working with one woman, all she wanted was to be a stay at home mom for her twin girls. She’d worked two jobs before and during her pregnancy so she could save enough money to make that happen. On a whim, she’d created herself a planner to stay organized. Her friends and family started clamoring for their own and out of nowhere, she found herself in the planner/organizer business!
At first, she hired an assistant to help her run her unexpected business but she was constantly being pulled in too many directions. Her new business was offering her a new sense of self and purpose she hadn’t even gone looking for. It was also providing unexpected financial respite for her family. Her husband was able to stop working overtime thanks to the income she was now bringing in.
Suddenly, she was redefining what being a “good mom” really meant for her.
She made a difficult decision to also hire someone to help her with her girls and household chores so she could have more energy for her business.
I worked with another man who’d been chasing a career opportunity with his company for eight years. He put in his time, he did the work, and he nailed the job only to be asked to do it for a company branch 2000 miles away from his parents, his brother, his niece, and his friends.
A self-defined “family man” needed to move away from his family to have a shot at the dream he’d worked nearly a decade for.
I, myself, started my career in clinical social work. I had a deep passion for helping troubled adolescent girls and their families. I loved training and developing staff. I enjoyed creating clinical programming that met the needs of the troubled population I served but it was a life-sucking job.
I was on-call more than I wanted to be, worked longer hours than I wanted to work, and carried more stress than I wanted to have in my daily life. It was important work and it literally saved lives but it was costing me my own.
In order to build a life that felt more like my own and allowed me time for my personal passions and interests, I had to leave that work behind. Sure, I still help people but I’ll never make that kind of difference again.
In chasing our dreams, we sometimes have to break our own hearts.
I am building my dream life but yes, there absolutely is a cost to that and no one really prepares you for that part when they are encouraging you to shoot for the moon, follow your path, or “just do you.”
Don’t let the loss be a reason to quit.
So many times, this is where I see and hear clients wanting to quit on their dreams. It gets hard or uncomfortable and they take it as a sign that their dream “just isn’t meant to be.”
Nonsense. That’s their fear talking. They are suddenly uncomfortable so they want to duck and run, rather than face the discomfort and work through it. Losses are not a sign of anything other than they are leaving behind something that was important to them for something else that is also important.
Face the loss.
Look the grief and disappointment straight in the eye. Find the compromises that do exist that will make it easier and keep fighting for your dream and keep building your life.
It’s not going to feel better right away. Accept that. That’s why, after all, they call it grief.
Once you are on the other side of that grief and living a life that is more closely aligned with who you are and how you want to move through the world, that’s when everything starts to get better. That’s when you get to feel what “living the dream” feels like. Only then will you feel the purpose and reason behind those tough choices and obstacles.
Happiness does come with tough choices. Almost anything that is really worth it usually does.