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Realising your dreams means letting go of them

Why is it that when I finally find the time to work on the things that matter to me, it seems that my motivation to work on them has suddenly vanished? For years, I fantasized about picking up songwriting again. I love the idea of me writing music. But whenever my schedule gives me a break, and I would have time to jot down lyrics or figure out a chord progression on my guitar, writing a song suddenly doesn't feel tempting anymore. Inspiration: gone. Nothing. Nada.

This might not be a big concern if it was only with songwriting. Maybe writing songs simply isn't that important to me after all, and I was mostly in love with being a songwriter and less so with the craft of actually creating music. That's fine. But I've had the same experience with other things which I thought mattered greatly. Like creating new business offerings, for instance, workshop ideas. Or writing, for that matter. Writing this post right here. Whenever my schedule showed gaps that would allow me to write, my mind automatically checked for chores that needed to be tackled instead – urgently! Doing the laundry or reading the news on the internet. Discovering if the latest running shoe model has been released yet. It was driving me nuts, and I wondered where these sudden dips in motivation came from at the worst of all times.

Then I came across an explanation in Oliver Burkeman's book "Four thousand weeks" that resonated with me: The moment you start working on your dream, it's no longer a dream. It becomes part of your reality. This means you must make trade-offs, accept that things will be less perfect than you imagined them, and, ultimately, you might fail. Burkeman goes on to quote Henri Bergson, who writes: "The idea of the future, pregnant with an infinity of possibilities, is thus more fruitful than the future itself. And this is why we find more charm in hope than in possession, in dreams than in reality."

Realising a dream means giving up that dream. I'm trading it in for the real thing, and there's no guarantee that reality will match what I envisioned. Thus, the question becomes: Am I willing to let go of my dream and trade it for a shot at turning it into reality?

Working on our dreams is scary. In my mind, I always pictured working on my big goals being fun and fulfilling - all the time. So, I become highly suspicious quickly when the process feels less than enjoyable. This can't be right! This is what I always wanted, so why would I be feeling anything but total bliss? And then the frightening realisation kicks in that I may suck at it. Or maybe create stuff that simply doesn't live up to my expectations. Because in my dream, I'm nailing it.

I'm not completely delusional, of course. My rational mind knows that there's a learning curve to everything. Yet, in my dream, this learning curve doesn't play a big part. In reality, however, the process is pretty much the entire story. It's funny, because I love reading and listening to other people's stories about how they have overcome self-doubt and life's challenges to finally reach their goals. I find that incredibly inspiring. But when I fantasize about my goals and ambitions, I somehow dismiss the inevitable struggles.

So, here's the question I'm asking myself for each dream: Am I ok with taking this dream to my grave? (There are cases where my answer is a firm yes.) Then, I figure out the dreams where I'd be disappointed in myself for not at least trying, even if I may ultimately fail. There's never a guarantee that we can reach the things we aspire to. But unless we overcome that resistance, until we start working on our dreams and put them to the test, one thing will be certain: They will remain dreams.


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