How to Know if a Dream is worth Chasing
Play a little game with me?
Pretend there's a door just in front of us, and we're standing looking out. On the side where we are standing is safety, security, a nice couch with a bag of potato chips... and known hardships. The other holds unknown struggles, discovery, blistered feet, and possibility. Our side holds predictability. Outside the door is an adventure.
Outside the door are my dreams, and your dreams.
Here's the gist of few of mine:
- supporting myself on a freelance writing income
- living in a small village in Europe for a year
- becoming a super model (kidding!)
- trekking Africa on a photojournalism project
- being consistently elegant vs. tripping on air in front of good-looking, polished people
DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN A DREAM AND SOMETHING WORTH FIGHTING FOR
You and I both know that dreaming is different from doing, but before either of us go flinging ourselves into the unknown we're going to need to know what is worth going after. To do that we have to distinguish between kinds of dreams.
First kind of dream: daydream for lazy summer afternoons
Second kind of dream: daydream worth fighting for and building into reality
Step one: would I go through hard things to make this happen?
It has to be something worth sacrificing for. For instance, let's just say I actually thought about becoming a model. Aside from breaking through the norms of the industry that demand a women to be super tall, I'd also have to drastically change my eating habits from a normal person to a chronic dieter to become super skinny. I could work hard and defy the norms, but I'd rather have a couple of burgers each week. In other words, I don't really want it.
Writing is the dream worth fighting for, for me. It's an area in which I have some natural talent, and the idea of being able to impact future generations after I'm gone is a powerful motivator. My values are fueled by altruism: my need to help other people, and writing is a place that intersects with my talent, purpose, and a means of living - BINGO. It's worth it.
By the way, I recommend dreaming big, make it worthy of life.
Step two: know why you're fighting for it
I've checked the realities of what it will take to pursue my writing dreams. It will mean learning business (not my strong suit) and learning how to live without a steady paycheck. It includes phone conversations (gah) and taking care of admin while trying to maintain a creative process. It won't be easy, and I like my current job. This is when to remember "why."
Yes, it would be much less effort to collect a regular paycheck ad infinitum, but that would mean wondering for the rest of my life what I threw away just to be safe.
If you have a dream worth fighting for, identify why you want it and put this up as a guiding star. Nothing else will keep you going when all you want to do is put your head down and leg it for the couch and potato chips.
Step three: adapt your mind to change
I really think this is for everyone, whether actively pursuing a big dream or not. I know it's huge for me. I can passionately talk (waving my arms wildly) about how much I despise and resist change. But it's a dead wrong way of thinking.
To achieve a goal the most important obstacle to overcome is the fear in our own minds.
Fear is partly the gauge I use to check validity of something. If it's scary to me (and not the kind of intuition that warns me away from something) it could be worth pursuing. No one is afraid to attack a bag of potato chips, but potato chips hold little value or reward.
Fear of what we don't know is big, but it is nothing compared to the ruin that will happen to our minds and lives if we don't grow and change. We have to embrace it. Sounds cliche, but to accomplish anything our minds have got to be convinced of the effectiveness of change. With this comes an extra courage to walk into success or failure. This is the last step.
Step four: preparing for success
There's a chance of failure with any venture, but with some prep and good timing the odds go way down. This is the last stop of dreamland and the first step of reality.
For me this means building a network of business contacts, getting a certain amount into savings so that I don't have to live on ramen noodles, and educating myself about running a business. I could just wing it, but that's a set up to fall flat because the preparations would not hold up to reality. There's a lot of talk about dream chasing, but it's worth it to slow down and assess what you need to make it happen in the real world - and not some click-bait blogger world.
This is the point I want to emphasize, because it's the hardest. If a dream can stand the test of the day-to-day unglamorous it could be a great one.
A vision is only as great as your determination to persevere through the low spots.
So here we are, at the door peering out. You know one of the dreams I'm going after. Is there something you feel you need to do? It could be anything, really, from mastering a language, to traveling, to mastering a dance technique, to achieving a weight loss goal. Ask yourself, "is this something I would wish I had done when I'm dying?" That sounds morbid, but thinking backward is actually a great technique for discovering the things you should be doing now.
Oh goodness. Anything but miss dinner. Speaking of which, burgers anyone?
P.S. Is it ironic that I wrote this while sitting on a couch, and ate potato chips with dinner?