Why Chasing a Dream Doesn’t Work

You want it all. You want it now. You’ve done everything right. Read all the books. Taken all the workshops. Shaken all the right hands. So why hasn’t your dream come true yet?

Your dream could be anything. A better job, a nicer house, a better girlfriend, or that next big client. Dreams are a good thing to have. They give us a reason to get out of bed in the morning. But dreams are difficult to achieve.

When we see other people achieving their dreams, and ours still remain just out of our grasp, we get very frustrated. That woman just bought a beautiful cottage. That guy just sold his startup for ten million bucks. Those two seem so happy together. Other people’s dreams have come true, and you’re left wondering if yours ever will.

The Rollercoaster from Hell. I don’t like rollercoasters. Never have. Having the wits scared out of me is not really my idea of a good time. Neither is cheating death.

I’ve been an entrepreneur full time for almost 3 years now. Every single day of my life is one continuous rollercoaster ride. We reach the highest highs and the lowest lows all at the same time. The loop de loups are unbelievable. I wish that my days could have fewer ups and downs. I wish I could spend all my days celebrating success and that I’d never have to worry about failure. Or do I?

The rollercoaster ride is fundamental to dream achievement. I am truly passionate about what I do. I am completely emotionally invested in my business. It makes me laugh big fat belly laughs. It makes me cry in my pillow. It makes me want to dance with joy. It makes me want to throw things. It doesn’t make me like rollercoasters any more. But now, I just tolerate them and accept them, because they are part of the deal. No dream worth having was ever achieved on a straight road.

Hot Pursuit Never Gets You Anywhere. I remember back in high school I had a HUGE crush on this boy. He was my first love. Man, I really dug this guy. (Oh how I hope he isn’t reading this post, as I realize suddenly we are still Facebook friends.) I chased after this boy in a big way. I went out of my way to call him, to be around him, to talk to him. I was what you would call, in hot pursuit.

I chased and I chased and I chased. He was, after all, my dream guy. I was lucky he was a good person. Even though I “loved” him, the feeling was not mutual. For all my chasing, all we ever became was good friends. I was grateful for that (and still am). That experience I had at the ripe old age of 13, is a metaphor for the pursuit of dreams.

Chasing a dream never works, for a couple of reasons. First, when you chase, it’s obvious. Others notice, and they don’t see the chasing of a dream. They see desperation. And nobody wants to do business with or start dating desperation. It helps if you are a nice person, of course, because then the chasing isn’t as obvious. If you’re fun to be around, people won’t mind. They will like you. But they will always keep you at arms length because they sense your ulterior motive (i.e. I am desperate for you to be my boyfriend/client/wife/boss!) And in the end, like me and dream boy, what you may end up with is a good friend, but you won’t get your dream.

Relax. Go Do It. So what’s the solution? If I don’t actively chase my dreams, how will I ever make them happen? Well first, stop. Take a deep breath. Then stop trying so damn hard.

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of dreams coming true. You imagine yourself on that podium getting the big award. You envision bags of money all around you. You see yourself walking down the aisle. But if the actions you are taking are only about achieving that ideal, then you are coming from a place of lack. You are wanting to be somewhere you are not. You will only be happy once you achieve your dream. And that’s the wrong place to be.

This is the downfall of dreamers. They always want to be someplace else, when where they really need to be is right where they are. Ever hear the story of the guy who was an overnight success? Flash forward two years and he’s on the street, having lost all the fame and fortune he wasn’t ready for to a life of depression and drugs.

The reason you haven’t achieved your dream yet is because you need to spend your time preparing to be able to handle it. That means working hard. Making connections. Appreciating what it’s like to be broke, or lonely (or both). Feeling exactly the way you need to feel in the situation you are in right now.

The bottom line is, you need to have dreams. You MUST have them. But until you stop demanding they come true this minute, you will be stuck in a pattern of chasing. Once you let go of your want, and start doing what you need, you’ll suddenly see a shift. And your dreams will seem closer to reality than ever before.

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  • June 26, 2009 at 1:46 am

    So true – I spent seven years chasing a business dream which only ever seemed to get further away. Eventually I ran out of money and had to stop – very painful but what a learning curve.

    Not only is dream chasing frustrating it can also be damaging as you stop appreciating the great things that are all around you.

    Now I try to fix my dreams one at a time into goals – then I can plan how to acheive them – so far this approach seems to be working a lot better.

  • June 26, 2009 at 5:31 am

    Great post!
    I tend to spend some time exploring a lot of stuff, including that metaphysical dabbling that takes folks into these places of “The Secret”, Deepak etc. and i often see the practical side of these beliefs/practices lost in the dreamy shuffle. Some of these “facilitators” do offer practical suggestions, but it is so wrapped up in the ethereal, the message gets lost…

    Think about it to make it happen…

    Get off your butt and do something to make it happen. And if you don’t know what you want, then spend some time dreaming about the possibilities, and think it through – make plans and act on them. If your dream does not come true, you’ve at least gained some experience for when your next life changing thought comes through!

    I have been self employed for most of my working life and while I am not yet wealthy beyond belief, I am rich in relationships, joy in my work, and constantly finding new and crazy ways to keep myself active, productive, and creative.

    I love what I do, and if I get overwhelmed or bored or stressed with one aspect, I shift over to the next next – when you choose to work at about 3-4 different “jobs”, it helps!

    Anyhoo – just to say I concur!

  • June 26, 2009 at 6:11 am

    @Halyma: you and @wtl are role models for how to be self employed and happy! You aren’t chasing, you’re doing. You know what you are good at and what you want! I admire you both for that, and take inspiration from it. Thanks!

  • June 26, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Excellent post and great advice that I will be acting upon! Thanks!

  • June 27, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Funny that you don’t like roller coasters – I can remember going to Crystal Beach with one of your parents – I won’t say which one – and I don’t think that person was not impressed with that roller coaster.

    I’m gonna send that post about chasing the dream to the graduate in our family, Steven. He’s not one of the lucky ones who know exactly what they want to do – just hope he checks his emails once in a while…..he and his sister are constanly on the go and both have jobs………

    HAPPY CANADA DAY to you and yours

  • June 28, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Good article and smart advice. Entrepreneurial but also great for creative types. Going to send this to someone I know. Thanks!

  • July 23, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    […] From Sue Murphy over at suzemuse: Why Chasing a Dream Doesn’t Work […]



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