This past weekend, I watched Dead Poets Society again for the first time in almost 30 years. In it, Robin Williams’ character quotes Henry David Thoreau when he says, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
How many times have you heard from people who want to start a business, write a book, or change careers? How many times have you said this yourself? What’s holding them back? But more importantly – what’s keeping you from following your dreams?
If you don’t want to live a life regretting things you’d always wish you’d done, consider these 6 reasons why people don’t follow their dreams:
1. Fear of Failure
It’s easy to rationalize and persuade ourselves into making “safe” decisions – which is often just a way of hiding that we’re too scared to take a risk on something. The fear is that we might fail.
As Jim Carrey says in his now-famous commencement speech, “The decisions we make in this moment are based in either love or fear. So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality.”
Very few people hit it big the first time. They key is to understand that you will have failures along the way, but if you’re determined, you can learn from these failures and use them to help propel you forward.
2. Fear of Change
“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Why is this? Fear of change. Most often, it’s easier to endure a known life of mediocrity than to risk going after a big dream. It just feels safer, somehow. Starting something new and different is scary.
People fear the unknown and don’t like to step outside their comfort zone. But think of the times in your life when you’ve grown and learned the most. Chances are, it was when you were challenged. Facing your fear of change takes courage – and the determination to follow through.
We all have people and things that take up our time: jobs, families, friends, hobbies. And these are great things to have in life – but they take time.
It’s easy to let your circumstances keep you from being successful. You can always find something else to do instead of working on your dream; this is often disguised as procrastination. Make sure your priorities aren’t just turning into excuses by re-prioritizing the things that make you happy, the things you love, and finding the time to pursue them. If you don’t make your emotional health and happiness a priority, how can you take care of anyone else?
4. Lack of Confidence
It takes a lot of confidence to pursue a dream. Many people think they either don’t have what it takes, don’t deserve to be happy by following their dream, or aren’t willing to put in the work to make it happen.
There’s something very exciting about fantasizing about your goals and dreams without actually doing anything about them. It’s safer to never move past the dreaming stage because putting your thoughts into action involves risk and exposure to criticism.
The path your life takes is entirely up to you. But to follow your dreams, you have to have the confidence to be honest with yourself about what you really want out of life – and put it into action.
A dream without a timeline is just a fantasy. How will you ever know when the time is right unless you make it happen? Putting off your dream until “someday” usually means that “someday” will never happen.
Break your goals into small, actionable steps. Starting today, set a timeline and milestones for yourself to make sure you’re making your marks.
We all desperately seek approval from friends, family, and colleagues. But the pressure to do what’s expected of us can sometimes keep us locked in a clearly defined box.
If you’re branching out into something new and it’s different from what you’ve done, you might not always get support from those closest to you. This is because people care about you and they don’t want to see you hurt or fail. Often, they might not understand your dream because it’s not something they would do. Try not to mistake their lack of understanding your dream as being a lack of support. The only true compass you can follow is your own heart – not what anyone else tells you what to do.
Twenty years down the road, no one else is ever going to regret that you didn’t follow your dream. But you will. Your dreams are your own, and so are your decisions on what to do with them.
Most of the reasons for not following one’s dreams are based in fear; fear disguised as excuses is what usually holds us back. If you want big things out of life, you have to face your fears.
Putting yourself out there is scary; a lot of people go far down the wrong path before even realizing that they have choices. Believe in yourself enough to turn your ideas into life-changing action. Decide to live a life with very few regrets.