Is Living Your Dreams Worth It?
Living your dreams is not as simple as it may seem. And in this piece, the truth behind failure may surprise you.
Dreams and Reality
Everyone has a dream. Everyone has goals – that if they could only accomplish –would make their life so much more fulfilling, so much more enriched, so much more complete.
Yet 94.7432% of people in the world now, in the past, and in the future to come, will not bring their dreams into reality. Why is this the case?
You know that feeling? That feeling that keeps you up at night as you wonder: what would happen if I worked on this project? What would happen if I started this business? What would happen if I took a leap of faith and moved to where I’ve always wanted to live?
We all have that feeling. And the truth is: most people actually do make an attempt to make their desires real. However, the key part of the previous statement is that they make an attempt.
Individuals the world over often speak of the pain of failure. Failure can be an immense burden that prevents so many talented people from rising up and seizing their great potential. It’s a simple fact of life that we all fail more than we succeed. However, despite the pain and the disappointment: failure is not the hardest part of life.
The hardest part of life is never trying at all. The hardest part of life is being kept up at night by that nagging feeling of fleeting wonder. The hardest part of life is driving to your job, running your errands, and heading back home, ever dreaming of whether or not your life could or should be different.
And so, people try. Once or twice. Of course, making any strides toward a goal takes courage and honesty, and every person who begins such an endeavor should be applauded. However, a lot of people begin their dream projects with the wrong mindsets. They go in expecting themselves to fail. And what happens when all of your mental energy is focused on a single outcome? You get that outcome.
And furthermore, what’s surprising – perhaps even shocking – is the fact that despite all of the negative feelings that are associated with failure, many of us actually take solace in the fact that we tried and failed. We comfort ourselves in the much too easy statement of “Well, I tried.” Now you no longer have to sit up at night wondering what would’ve happened had you gone down a different path. Now you can take that sigh of relief knowing that you were right, things never would have worked out.
But the real question is: What does it mean to try?
I live by a few sayings to help direct my life, and over the years I’ve come to create a few of my own based on my life philosophy. The saying that I apply to every new project or new stage of my life is: leave nothing unsaid, leave nothing undone. That means that by the end of whatever I undertake – regardless of the outcome – I can tell myself, I can know in my heart of hearts that I did everything in my power to make my experience as fulfilling, enriching and valuable as possible.
That means that I made every phone call, wrote every piece, typed up every report, went to every meeting and did all of these things with the attitude that there was no doubt that I would achieve my goal. And most of the time, I did achieve it. But the funny thing was, even if I didn’t, the amount of value I had gained from my experience, and the amount of appreciation I had for the person I became in the process, was often more worthwhile than the end goal.
In my ebook 30 in 30: 30 Ways to Improve Your Happiness in 30 Days, I talk about the power of process. That true change, true success, and true happiness often has little to do with the desired outcome, and more to do with who you become on the path to getting there. That is what trying is.
The hard part of success is attaining it. The even harder part is maintaining it. As soon as you do something noteworthy, you can’t stop there. You can’t stop there because you have to be working to ever improve yourself. You can’t stop there because people who live their dreams create a tapestry of moments and achievements that make up their great lives. Picasso didn’t just paint one painting. Dickens didn’t just write one book. If they had, we wouldn’t still be talking about them.
Changing your own life and making an impact in the lives of others is a constantly ongoing process. It’s also terrifying at first. Suddenly you’re doing work that could make or break your expectations of life, and potentially affect the lives of many people in the world. But usually, a lot of this terror comes from our own self-imposed limitations.
So many people have an immense amount of deep courage, talent and sheer genius within them that they could access if only they could move past their limiting fears. Sometimes, the best way to move past fear is take a leap of faith, and have confidence in the transformative process of working toward a great goal, all the while divorcing yourself from an otherwise mundane life.
I love this article on brainpickings based on a commencement speech given by Debbie Millman (and included in her wonderful book):
“I work in a bustling Skyscraper and make logos for fast-food restaurants…I’m not profoundly unhappy with what has transpired in the years leading up to today; most days I consider myself lucky that I have a fun and secure job and a good paycheck. But I know deep in my heart that I settled.
I’ve come to a realization over the years: I’m not the only person who has made this choice…We begin by worrying that we aren’t good enough, smart enough, or talented enough to get what we want. We begin to believe that these personal restrictions are, in fact, the limitations of the world. All the while wondering…[calculating and recalculating]…when we will be ready to do the things we want. And we dream. If only. If only. One day. Someday.
If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve. Do what you love, and don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now. Now.”
Failure is easy. But the thing about life is that easy things are rarely worthwhile. Waking up every day knowing that you can smile because you’re contributing meaning to the world? That’s worth it.
In the next concluding piece in this series, I’m going to look at managing fear and understanding how to use it to your advantage.