The problem with following your dreams

There are certain times in the calendar when we’re encouraged to take stock, reassess and decide on new paths in life. Follow your dream. It’s inspirational, it shows self-belief and encourages us to make that leap into the unknown.

Around the new year, we’re bombarded with stories about the woman who walked away from her high-paid IT job and now makes a living in a cottage by the sea. Or the guy who quit the bank and working for the man to set up his own cartoon business. They may have less money to play with, but they’re happier. Or even better, they’re richer and happier than ever before. And they did it as they ‘followed their dream.’ These stories are inspirational and amazing. However, for most of us, the real world doesn’t work like that.

You can’t just follow your dream if you have a mortgage to pay or kids to rear. It’s also pretty rare to be so passionate about something that you’re willing to risk everything you already have to give it a whirl. These stories can sometimes make us feel like we’re doing something wrong. We wonder why we’re not so inspired that every day we leap out of bed to attend to our passion, which amazingly is also work that we love.

This is what creates a market for the ‘find your why’ workshops that pop up in hotels around the country. Gurus helping you figure out where your passion is so you can follow your dream. Knowing what feeds your soul. The problem is that this concept of ‘following your dreams’ also kind of judges you for not being particularly passionate about a cause or a thing. Or that you’re too shallow. Or that you have given up on life and can’t make time for dreams. You are devoid of purpose.  

I am a huge advocate of finding the thing that drives you. But we need to appreciate that ‘following the dream’ is not always easy or automatic. If you have bills to pay, you can’t just quit your job to retrain, or build up new clients. If, upon reflection, you feel that a change is needed, make a plan. Sit down and lay out your goals. If you want some advice on how to do that, click here.

Leave the follow your dreams schtick to the inspo-quotes and the beautiful folk on Instagram, sitting on piers looking over still waters somewhere exotic. Don’t just jack in the job as you feel like you must chase the dream. What a lot of these ‘follow your dreams’ articles don’t tell you is that a lot of those who end up successful at their dream gig do so due to a huge amount of strategic planning, money, pitfalls and mistakes along the way. It never happens overnight. Go part-time, attend night classes, do a new degree in your spare time. Build your new life up before you leave the one that has brought you this far in life behind. Don’t allow the belief that you’re not 100% ‘purposeful or passionate’ about what you are or what you do make bad choices for you.