“Follow Your Dreams” might be the most well-worn piece of advice in our culture.
Inspirational movies allow us to watch people achieve their goals and overcome obstacles because of their strong desire to succeed and the strength of their will, and we believe that it can happen for us too.
This focus on dreams is not completely misplaced. It is important for everyone to have a big-picture goal that guides their actions. It might be a dream for the ideal job, or perhaps something deeply personal. People can derive energy, focus, and a sense of meaning and purpose from having significant goals that they strive to achieve.
That said, a pure focus on the dream is actually likely to end in failure. That’s because obstacles cannot be overcome just through a commitment to the goal.
It’s important to analyze what that inner voice that talks you out of making changes by giving you all of the reasons why you might fail is saying. You often use those reasons as excuses not to pursue your dreams.
Instead, you need to take all of the obstacles you find and plan for them. The obstacles that will block you from achieving your goals will be there whether you are ready for them or not. The more time that you spend planning for the things that will go wrong, the less likely that the obstacles that appear will derail you.
There are two types of obstacles that you need to plan for:
The problem with your dreams is that they take a lot of time to achieve. As a result, you need to budget, time, money, energy, and space to making those dreams a reality.
Chances are, though, you don’t have a lot of extra time, money, energy, and space just waiting to be used. Instead, you are going to have to find a way to reorient your life in order to find ways to reach your dreams. That is going to require some effort. It is also going to mean negotiating with friends, family, and coworkers to create the resources you need to succeed.
Temptations are actions that are attractive right now that get in the way of your dream. Just like each delicious bowl of ice cream makes it harder to lose weight, temptations are hard to resist in the moment.
In the workplace, temptations can be things as simple as emails that suck up your discretionary time or as complex as opportunities for promotion that might benefit your career in the short-term but make it harder for you to reach your ideal role in the workplace.
Temptations are particularly difficult, because in the moment they really engage your motivation. Temptations are hot psychologically. They create feelings of need and desire. And in that moment, they are hard to overcome.
That means that when temptation strikes, you need to find ways to cool it off. Find coworkers and friends you can call to help you keep focused on your dreams. Don’t make decisions in the moment. Always ask for time to think things over. When you face a temptation, ask yourself what you would recommend to a friend facing the same situation. The distance you create by pretending to solve your problem for someone else can make the temptation seem less tempting.
In the end, it is great to have dreams. But, you cannot just dream. You also have to acknowledge that you live in the real world. And that means doing the hard work to translate that dream into a plan that takes life’s obstacles seriously. It is less fun to plan for obstacles than to dream, but it is ultimately more rewarding.