Everyone talks about “the crossroad”. Doing a leap of faith and fighting for that dream. Quitting the job you have and hate and pursuing your dream because it’s the authentic path and a recipe for happiness! Leaving behind the job that was forced upon you by your peers or society and embarking on the unknown and dangerous path towards achieving the dream you have always had, whether you’re 20 or 50.
And you can see so many people doing this and succeeding.
“The American Dream” used to be people owning houses. I believe the “American Dream” is now people owning businesses. And that’s not a bad thing. It shows how our priorities and values have changed: we want to be independent, we want to pursue what our heart desires, we want to have the freedom and find a different kind of work-life balance.
Yet no one seems to talk about when your dream dies.
You did the leap of faith: you quit your job, you’ve made sacrifices, you pursued your dream and had hopes that this is the beginning of the new you and your new life. Buuuut somewhere along the way, years have passed, you’ve gotten tired, you’ve lost hope and you know dread pursuing the things you have to do for your dream. Is your dream dead?
Possibly. Lately, I’ve been asking myself this question way too often.
We dream because it makes us feel alive. Our dreams fuel us, they energise us. Which is why it feels so fantastic to fight for your dream in the first place. You wake up every day excited for the new move because fighting for your dream pulls you out of the mundane routine of life. But when your dream doesn’t energise you anymore, what do you do?
Can you quit it? Do you quit it?
I personally can’t quit it. At least not that easily. Because I’ve made the mistake of defining who I am based on my dream. I have defined myself as the person fighting for my dream, the “I will make it despite the odds” the “I will prove people wrong” the “I will set an example that this can be done and I will inspire others to do so!”.
I realised my dream might be dead when I started noticing how I react when I’d meet people pursuing a similar dream. I wasn’t gaining hope, I wasn’t feeling joy, I didn’t feel like jumping and cheerleading that person for sharing the same dream. I felt pity and a weird desire to “ground” that person by telling them that it’s not going to be easy and that it’s gonna suck. I was the bitter one warning people that they won’t make it. There was no fuel left in me, no more energy, just bitterness and resentment and a desire to warn people not to go through what I’ve gone.
When you find yourself in the position of the bitter pessimist looking at your dream with resentment as if it’s a failed relationship with “the one”, what’s next?
- Step aside and allow yourself to contemplate and “grieve” the situation. Stop forcing yourself to fight for that dream at least for a while. You’ve fought for it for years. Maybe 5, maybe even over 10, like me. After all, the pessimist inside you is telling you that whatever you do, it’s pointless. So just stop.
- Find what energises you! You can’t just jump from your dream, “the dream”, to another one. But if you’ll get stuck in the “grieving” part, you most like start feeling confused, lost, purposeless and even start questioning your identity. All those feeling and thoughts are energy that you will have to steer in another direction. Not necessarily a dream. No. Let’s take a break from big dreams. Figure out in the past weeks or even months, what brought you energy! Was it watching a new show? Taking photos of your cat? Researching a new field? Writing? Helping out someone? Find what brought you spark and what energised you and try to steer all that fuel there.
- Focus on what energises you and charge your batteries. Even if you’re doing the same thing every day or different things every day, it doesn’t matter. Just go and fuel up your batteries!
And if you’re like me, maybe even try to figure out who you are. Again. Strip yourself from achievements, dreams, places, people and material belongings and try to figure out exactly who you are without them. And in the process, you might discover you’re a completely different person. And you might even discover that your failed dream only had the purpose of teaching you some lessons or helping you discover new parts of yourself. If we see so many people achieving their dreams, that doesn’t mean that once the dream is achieving there’s no other dream ever again, right? So if people who succeed can find a new dream, why can’t the people who failed to find a new one? Or why can’t we have multiple ones at the same time?
Put that “dead” dream aside. Let it rest. Stop forcing it. Find what energises you, find who you are and create a new dream that will fuel you like your “big dream” used to. And over time, who knows… maybe the first dream only served as a lesson. Or maybe you just needed some time away to rekindle the fire. Only time can tell.
Right now you are free. There are no expectations, there’s no urgent task, no schedule, no plans, no “I have to do this because this defines me”. You are free in the now and you have the freedom to do whatever brings you joy because who you are today is not who you’ll be in 5 years. You never know what’ll happen and what your dream will be.