Society has done a number on our brains. And when I say society, I mean our parents, family members, friends, professors, significant others. Not to mention movies, music, books, commercials. All of the above.
What that means for some of us is that over time, we may have lost touch with the life we really want to lead in lieu of pursuing a life that others have told us we should want for ourselves.
I’ve heard enough stories of former lawyers turned bakers/yoga teachers/fiction authors/nonprofit leaders to know that sometimes, the opportunities that everyone says we should feel lucky to have are the very ones that are holding us back from what we truly want to do with our lives. The ever-elusive “American Dream” can sound really good after hearing hundreds of people tell us that’s what we should be striving for, but nothing is better than being in tune with our own ambitions. No matter how out of line with conventional wisdom they are.
Are You Chasing THE Dream?
I know a woman who recently filed for divorce from her husband because the relationship no longer fit with who she wanted to be as a person. She made this decision after several years of just “going through the motions” of being a wife to a husband she was no longer in love with. Why? Because she was chasing the dream of having a happy marriage with 2.5 kids and a picket fence, all while the reality of her own feelings couldn’t have been further from the truth.
There are a lot of things we do as part of chasing THE dream that other people may have laid out for us. Most of us don’t even realize it until we hit a certain point in our lives where we end up asking ourselves, “is this it?” I almost went to law school because my grandfather pushed me to go. “You’re so smart,” he would say. Or, “It would be so great to have a lawyer in the family.” For my grandfather, this encouragement made sense. Part of the “American Dream” for his generation was being able to go to college and make a nice living at a stable job. I soon realized, however, that my values of creativity and social change mattered more to me than stability and status. So I studied English and went into the nonprofit field instead. It’s been an interesting journey, but it’s been MY journey.
Some of us still worry way too much about how our family or friends will react if we make certain decisions. It’s just easier to chase the same dream that everyone else is chasing, especially if our true desires are “too risky.” But are they?
Are You Chasing YOUR Dream?
I probably don’t have to tell you how difficult it can be to break away from what everyone else is saying you should do with your life. Most of the time, the best thing to do is to stop asking other people for advice. You are the only one who knows what’s best for you. Listen to your gut and learn to trust it. What is alive in you at this moment? That’s where you should put your energy, even if it means completely resetting your life.
How do you know if you’re chasing your dream or someone else’s dream? Close your eyes and envision your ideal life. Be radically honest and brave. If the life you daydream about is different than the path you’re on now, it’s time to change course. Your real life is out there waiting for you to claim it.
We all need to be disrupted every once in a while. We need to be reminded of the dreams we had as little girls, way back when we didn’t know any better. We need to be brought back to the core of who we really are and what we really want. It will take some deep and thoughtful self-examination, but it’s totally worth it, if you ask me. I mean, this is your life we’re talking about here. And it’s time to stop living it on autopilot.
I want to hear from you. Right now, today. Are you chasing THE dream or are you chasing YOUR dream?