When are you truly happiest? When do you feel the most fulfilled? The most confident going after something, or defending it? It is always when it is something you care deeply about, when all of the crap of the world falls away to make room for it. All of a sudden you don’t care about what people think because it doesn’t matter any more. Or you just find yourself proud of what you are doing, and happy that you are pursuing it. This is what happens when you start taking actions to follow your dreams.
During the ongoing research for the Choose Movement Certification Program, the ability to follow your dreams has come up more often than any other skill across cultures and throughout history as a key to happiness and success. The main point here is that it is the pursuit of the dream that is the most important. Over time your current dream will likely teach you something new, and your dream may change. By pursuing your dreams today you will find yourself “living the dream” later in life. That life will likely be different than you expect. But it will give you purpose, pride, and confidence that you are doing the right thing with the time you have.
Here are some things to think about to make it easier to channel your Week 1: Extra Mile and start pursuing your dream:
Choose Your Safety Advice
Throughout our lives, we are hammered with advice form everyone and everything around us. Much of that noise can be boiled down to things like “make responsible decisions,” “earn good money,” “don’t rock the boat,” and “be good.” These are all helpful tips and pieces of a successful life. But they are also very general, and focused on an attempt to keep you safe. They are really only small components of a larger picture. Happiness rarely comes from only doing these things. But they are important factors and we should know when to apply them. Think about it this way: what are the characteristics of the people we admire? They are those that take risks, fight for their beliefs, challenge harmful thinking, and most importantly care for those around them. So how can someone be responsible and take risks? Not rock the boat but challenge harmful thinking? The point is these people are able to know when to play it safe, and when to take the risks they need. It is this combination that enables them to follow their dreams.
So maybe your dream is not to solve world hunger. But it could easily be a new profession, or simply to travel the world or learn an instrument. The idea is the same. Successful people mix their daring with their responsibility. Plan your trip, figure out how much it will cost, start saving, or figure out some options for how you will be able to sustain yourself on the trip. But make sure you still go. Talk about your dream, and you will start getting recommendations. You might even get people who want to help you or join you. Listen to others, but make your own choices.
You don’t need to have it all figured out before you begin. You just need to look at that first step and start there. Enroll in lessons and start practicing. Put together a group of people that share your ideas. Once you have taken the first step, the next step will become apparent. And then you can proceed. If you knew exactly how to do everything, you already would have done it. And you don’t become a star athlete just by knowing the training program. You need to get out there and start actively pursuing that dream.
It’s the Ride, not the Destination
The pursuit of your dream will begin to show you what you really care about. You will find some things you thought were true aren’t exactly as they seemed. It will also expose you to new and interesting ideas. This process will likely alter your dream, or change it completely. And that is exactly the point. You are now learning what you really care about and where you actually want to be.
Eventually you will find yourself on your way to your dream. You’ll get on that first airplane, or master your first song. At that point, pause. Enjoy that moment. Remember it. The joy from this process comes from paying attention to your progress. And now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.
Be Determined and Know Why
When you choose your dream, choose something that matters to you. This is not an “it would be nice” sort of thing. This is a blood, sweat, and tears sort of thing. What do you really want or need? How much pain are you willing to go through to get there? Are you willing to give up Thursday night with friends? Move to a new city? Choose your dream, and understand that it is now a priority. Be determined to get there. And make sure you know why you want it.
Your reasons for why you want to get to your dream are yours alone. But you need to know them. It is typically your own fear of failure that has the largest chance of stopping you. Your reasons will keep you steady. You may have people discouraging you, or questioning your thought process. Some of it will be out of concern, some out of jealousy that they don’t have the courage to do the same. But by knowing why it is important you can make your case and win people over. These people will likely help you along your way.
It’s Not Too Late
Regardless of age, or what has happened, there is always a way to achieve your dream. That way may have become more difficult than before. You may have to give up more to get there. But there is a way. You just need to find it. Even people in their 80s and 90s pick up new hobbies and professions, or patch up old relationships. Their largest regret is typically not going after their dreams.
- Take a few minutes of down time and list all the things you have dreamed of doing. Learn an instrument? Pursue a profession? Travel? Find someone special?
- If you know what you want to do, think of 3 small things you can do this week to get you closer to your dream. Sign up for lessons. Start a budget to save. Peruse meetup.com.
- Choose one dream to work towards right now. In general, what steps do you need to get there? Pick that first step, and break it into tiny actions to accomplish just that step. Pick action 1 and do it. Then do action 2.
- Can’t think of your dream? What has been sitting in the back of your head? What recurring thoughts do you have about your life, or that of others? What is most important to you?
- Talk about your dream to someone. Anyone. The more you talk about it, the more support you will get. The more real it will become.
- Once you have chosen which dream to pursue, try to identify why that dream is important to you.
- Already pursuing your dream? Fantastic! Post what you’re doing to get there.
Just by getting in there and starting to go after your dream you will feel a weight lifting off your shoulders. It’s like you’re finally scratching that itch that you forgot was always there. As you keep up with it you will find that it really is possible to get there, and you will be able to rearrange parts of your life to help fit your goal. Everyone has different responsibilities, but they can also be part of your pursuit. Balance your responsibilities with your daring and let yourself believe that one day you will be where you want to be. It is rarely what you expect, but you will get there.
 Quote from Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918)
 Ware, Bronnie. The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing. London: Hay House, 2012