So one day I’m having coffee with a friend when she says “I would love to open a bookstore and coffee shop, too bad there’s no money in it”. And there it is – a beautiful dream that is finally spoken out loud and then quickly dismissed all in one simple sentence.
How many times have you stated a dream out loud or even just to yourself and before the dream could even take flight you shut it down with “but it would never work because…”. You probably thought you were being practical. And maybe you were. But do you want to live a practical life, or do you want to live an inspired life? And why can’t it be both?
I’m guessing you want to live an inspired life or you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now. But you also want to be practical, responsible, and make sound decisions.
So how do you find your way through the responsible and practical choices you need to make so you don’t end up living on the street while you pursue your dreams?
Well, the first step is to acknowledge that you can do both. All too often I hear people dismiss their dreams because some practical choice makes it unreasonable to pursue them. But why can’t you do both?
Sure, pursuing a dream takes some risk; you’ll have to be bold and do some things you’ve never done before. But you don’t have to throw everything away as you do it.
Let’s say you’re thinking about starting your own business and you want to quit your job, but you can’t afford it. Some people say “quit that job, burn the boats, that’s how you’ll force your dream to come true!”. But this is the impractical choice that can really freak people out, and if it feels like the only way they can do this, they’ll abandon ship. So I say try something else. Take a leap while being practical.
Here’s how that might look…
Since money is the primary gap in this example, you’ll need to get more of it. So maybe you start by creating a special savings account, and you call it “funding my dream” or something inspiring. Then you figure out how much you’ll need (3 months salary?). Now, start saving!
Get a side hustle going to make some extra money. Stop buying your coffee at Starbucks every day. Curtail your shoe shopping habit. Do what it takes to put money away into that savings account every week. You can do this! There are always ways to change your spending habits so you can build up savings.
Now, will those choices be hard? Sure, some will be harder than others. But will it be worth it? You tell me. What’s that dream you have worth to you? If you could be living it in 3-5 years, how would you feel? What will your life be like? And is that life worth skipping your double tall vanilla latte today?
But not every dream requires money. Some need more information. Let’s say you want to live someplace else. It seems like a dream location, but you don’t know enough to feel confident making this leap. So maybe you try renting a place there for a few months. This works great if you already work remotely or online. But if you have an office job and you’re not ready to leave then ask if you can work remotely for three months. You’d be surprised how many employers will actually accommodate this. The point is, you never know until you try.
And if your dream is to change industries and start your career over again, then you might be hesitating because of the pay cut you’ll have to take. Well, the first question to ask is, do you know for sure you’ll take a pay cut? And, if so, is it really as big as you imagine it will be? Find out. Interview. And do not sell yourself short.
Your specific industry experience or technical skills are not the only things that make you worth hiring. You have knowledge, skills, and gifts that will translate to any job you do. Take credit for those and ask for the salary you deserve.
So, my message to you and your dreamy dreams that feel impractical and irresponsible is this – your dreams are only as impractical as you let them be. The obstacles in your way are your own. And, the problem you have isn’t that these are immovable obstacles, the problem is that you’re too comfortable where you are to want to do anything about them.
You have a choice to make. You can choose to stay where you are because it’s safe and comfortable and you just want to kick back and cruise along. If that’s your choice, then you do you, no harm no foul. I commend you for knowing what you want in life. But if you have dreams that you’ve been ignoring, then I caution you against this choice because there’s a little thing called regret that will eventually catch up with you.
If you have other ideas about how you want your life to be, and you cringe at the thought of this being your life for the next 5, 10, or 30 years, then ask yourself this – what will you regret most if you do nothing today?
Regret is sneaky; it builds slowly without us even noticing. It’s growing in you right now as you read this and do nothing to pursue your dreams. You don’t feel it now but then, one day, suddenly, it’s there. And it’s only then that we realize it had been building all this time when we could have stopped it but didn’t.
This is the downside of being comfortable. Nothing ever grows there, and nothing ever happens there, nothing builds there except for regret.
If you choose to take action, to explore other possibilities, then regret is no longer an issue. But now fear and worry take hold. What if I don’t succeed? What if this is a bad decision? Fear and worry make us hesitate because we are experiencing them right now. It’s easy to stay comfortable and avoid fear because the regret that’s building isn’t affecting us today. That’s a tomorrow problem. And we are experts at not preparing for tomorrow!
But these feelings of fear and worry that you experience right now are a good thing. Because now that you’re aware of these feelings you can deal with them. And you can use fear and worry to fuel your actions. It’s much easier to deal with those things that are visible to us than with those that aren’t, so be glad for all the awareness you have of these crazy thoughts and emotions you experience.
So, what’s stopping you? Are you going to continue to let regret build? Or will you take some bold but practical steps to pursue your dream?
I say nothing is stopping you but you.
If you want to explore an idea, then explore it. If you worry about what others will say, then don’t tell them yet. If you don’t know anyone else who is doing the thing you’re thinking about doing, then find them. If you can’t afford to do something different because you want financial stability, then create the financial bridge you need.
All of this is in your control. And I know it sounds like a lot of work. But isn’t it worth doing the work now so you don’t experience the regret of a life half lived later?