Should you follow your dream?
In my circle, the default answer is yes, but should it be? It’s easy to preach from my ivory tower and tell you how to live your life. It’s easy enough to tell you to go on your grand adventure, find freedom, and discover your passion.
But how realistic is this?
You have a lot of variables to worry about. There’s the whole having to eat and needing shelter thing. You have bills, debt, healthcare issues to consider, the whole nine.
Maybe you shouldn’t start a band and go on a dive bar tour when you have three young children. Perhaps being a c-suite executive makes more sense for your life than becoming an artist.
You don’t need to achieve some outlandish dream to be happy. You could decide to be happy right now simply because you’re alive. I do genuinely buy the argument that ambition can turn you into a slave and that all worldly success is meaningless. I don’t accept it, but I get it.
If you do follow your dream, there’s no guarantee you’ll be successful and even if you do, that success might not, and probably won’t, fill a void for you.
As I’ve continued to study and implement different self-improvement strategies I’ve aimed at finding the closest thing to the truth. I honestly don’t want to pump you up and sell you pipe dreams for no reason. I’ll tell you what I know and it’s on you to decide whether or not I’m right.
Here’s the thing…
You don’t have to do anything.
You don’t have to follow your dream. Self-improvement turns some people off because it implies that you’re under some obligation to live your best life. You’re not. I never use guilt tactics to get people to change their lives because guilting people doesn’t tend to work. Guilting yourself doesn’t tend to work. I will, to the point of being abrasive, paint a picture for you to help you decide, but I sincerely don’t care what you do because it’s your life.
Guilt just doesn’t tend to work. Not from me, and especially when you do it to yourself and say things like:
If you’re trying to change your life, why use the same strategy that got you stuck in the first place?
You are where you are because someone or something guilted you into it. You were told you should get a good job and be responsible, even if you don’t like the job. Maybe you had parents you felt you needed to ‘do the right thing’ for even though you didn’t want to. The institutions of society guilt you into following the rules.
You’re never going to be able to muster up and sustain the energy required to change until you’re proactive about the process. You have to want to change.
And again, you don’t have to. I’ve often thought that, for many people, being resigned to their fate might not be such a terrible idea. At least it might get rid of the tension.
I hate to see people, you, living in limbo. Never fully accepting your fate or deciding to go for it. Just living in this abyss of low-level anxiety.
This sounds like a cop-out answer but…it’s up to you. I’m just sending the bat signal.
See, when you feel guilted into doing something, especially something for yourself, your dreams become a “nice to have” thing. You don’t have that burning desire to become successful.
Don’t read self-improvement articles from a place of guilt that makes you use the word should a bunch.
Think about what you truly want to do.
Think about what frustrates you about your life so that you’re compelled to change it.
Get out of the lukewarm territory. Back against the wall works, so does true inspiration, but anything in between tends to fall short.
So how do you get there? How do you get to the point where you’re able to follow your dream?
Use both extremes and see what sticks.
Society wants you to be this average Joe or Jane — this chump who lets other people and the institutions of society push them around. If you’re one of these people, get pissed off about it.
Why do you have to be the average person?
Why do you have to play by the rulebook?
How come you don’t get to be the one who breaks out the shackles?
You society overlords, politicians, media pundits, the people who say they’re on your team… don’t fucking like you. They laugh at how easily swayed you are and party together behind your back while pretending to be foes. They can count on the vast majority of people living life like lemmings.
Look, I respect the average person in society for taking care of themselves and their families, but I have to call a spade a spade, too.
You fell for the propaganda with little to no resistance. That’s messed up. They not only tricked you, but they tricked you into being okay with it. Robbed you without a gun. You let them right into your home and gave them a fresh cup of coffee while they proceed to steal all your shit.
You know what compelled me to action? I realized I’d been hoodwinked, but I didn’t get mad at society. I got mad at myself for letting it happen.
Most people feel this way. They have this quiet rage that lives inside of them because they know they’ve been tricked. They know the way they’re living is bullshit and deep down they know the institutions of society won’t help them. But the point their anger in the wrong direction.
Tell me I’m wrong.
Tell me you don’t sometimes think to yourself, “What the fuck happened to me?”
You did everything right and this is your reward for it?
Does that piss you off? Good. If it doesn’t, just live your life. Honestly. I don’t think one hundred percent of the population should read self-help articles, not even close. The ones I know who’ve made it to the other side and followed their dreams just didn’t think a normal life was good enough for them.
This doesn’t require you to put a bunch of pressure on yourself and use guilt. You get pissed off, but then you also just calmly decide you’re going to move in another direction. It’s not that serious. Life is just a game. But now, you’re tired of losing.
Combine that with the next strategy and you have a shot.
Earlier in the post, I said that you won’t be able to properly follow your dream until you have a burning desire to do so. But where does that come from? How do you all of a sudden develop a will to succeed that you’ve never had in your life before?
You don’t get a sudden burst of motivation. At least I didn’t. You dabble until you find what resonates with you deeply enough to spark that inner drive. Keep doing what you’re doing and looking for self-improvement teachers to learn from and whittle them down until you find a few that speak to you the right way.
Find a message that can help you see the way forward. For me, that was Jim Rohn and his five-year rule. It just seemed like the perfect time window to overhaul my life — not immediate and drastic but not forever either.
Find a skill or path that resonates with you. I found writing, rather, writing found me in the form of a friend asking me to start writing. I started and I liked it. Then, as I kept writing, I really started to like it. Eventually, I had that burning desire.
You might ‘wander in this wilderness’ so to speak for a while before it clicks. One of my favorite writers, Robert Greene, bounced around in life for 20 years before he published the 48 Laws of Power. Another great writer, Charles Bukowski, spent 25 years fumbling around before he published his first book.
You don’t want to fumble around your whole life, but you also don’t want to beat yourself up if you don’t know your exact dream up-front. Both Robert and Charles always dabbled with writing up until the point they got successful.
Find something you can dabble in until it pops. Find something that inspires you to dabble.
I can’t tell you how to start something.
I can point you in the right direction — I have a whole chapter in my book about identifying what your strengths might be. But all the research in the world doesn’t help if you don’t try the new skill out.
And then you have to try it long enough to get it to work.
Try the 90-day sprint. Buckle down for three months and give an idea, dream, or path of yours a real shot.
How do you stay motivated? You don’t. You stay disciplined. Like I said to start the post out, you don’t have to do any of this and it’s going to be difficult to do it if you feel chastised into doing it, so don’t come from that headspace.
Just…give it a whirl.
What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen? I ask myself this question, constantly, to help me realize that trying something new isn’t such a big deal — just a series of steps that may or may not work. That’s it.
This overused quote from Steve Jobs says it best:
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.
You don’t need some magical plan to become really successful. Rarely does someone set out to have some very specific dream come true with everything planned up-front. Even major companies — Google, Facebook, Instagram — all came from people just messing around trying to solve a problem or meet a need.
All this grandiosity is unnecessary
That’s all you have to do to make a dream come true. Start. Don’t stop. Nothing cute.
Use that combo — frustration and inspiration — to begin to follow your dream.
As time moves on, you widen the scope of possibilities.
You don’t know what you’re capable of right now. You just don’t have the experience to know. 99 percent of the audience for self-improvement, online business, blogging, all the different little categories, is comprised of total newbies.
Quit trying to have these huge dreams when you’re an infant in the game.
Quit trying to predict the future — whether or not you’ll fail, waste time, or get your dream to pay off the way you think it should at the time you think it should.
And if you still can’t bring yourself to start this moment, just continue to contemplate your life until you’re triggered to start. I spent a long time not caring about self-improvement. Hell, at certain points I didn’t care about anything in general.
And then one day, I looked up and said “oh shit.”
This is what happens for all people who follow a dream. One day, or over a series of days or any length of time really, they come to the realization that today is going to be the day they’re going to start changing their life and they actually mean.
So…just think. Use every angle you can to get there.
What does your life look like a year from now if you stay the same? How about five? 10? The rest of your life?
You don’t have to do anything nor will I tell you that you should, but I do know one fact.
You don’t have an infinite amount of time to come up with the answers.