The Hardest Part of Dreaming

Why “What do you want to do with your life?” is so difficult to answer.

There’s a lot of talk about “dreaming” these days.

Now more than ever, finding your “dream job” seems to be a God-given right for anyone with a brain and an Internet connection. In fact, I belong to an entire generation of dreamers—an itinerant group of movers and shakers who refuse to exchange their passion for a paycheck.

And yet, pursuing a dream is still difficult for most people. Why is that? Because they struggle with the hardest part of realizing a dream: knowing what it is.

While I’m sure there are people who know exactly what their dream is, I’ve not met them. Most people who have a dream struggle to articulate it. I’m one of them.

Do you know what your dream is?

When people ask me what my dream is, I stutter and trip over my words. My insecurity rears its ugly head. Words like “sort of” and “kind of” abound.

The other day, I was on a conference call with a young woman who was passionate about social work, but she didn’t know exactly what her dream was. She was hesitant to specifically name what she wanted to do.

And why is that?

It’s an issue of experience. If you’re young or inexperienced with your dream, then you may be prone to not know. And that’s perfectly normal. How could you know?

Your dream is an accumulation of your life’s experiences, skills and passions. It’s what you were ultimately put on this earth to do. It’s your calling. So you should be a little cautious in naming it. There are some big implications to identifying your dream and chasing after it.

Take your time in coming to the realization of what you were made to do. A little hesitation is natural.

Beware the over-confident dreamer

I’m wary of people who can name their dream immediately without having had any real experience with it.

Although you do encounter those rare cases of a person knowing what they were meant to do since the age of 5, most people struggle with this.

If you tell me, “I want to be an author” but have never written a word, I’m skeptical.

If you say, “I was born to be a carpenter” but have never lifted a hammer, I’m dubious

You may like the idea of being a writer or the image of being on a construction project, but you haven’t done any actual work. You don’t understand the cost of your dream—of putting yourself out there, risking failure before you get your first “yes.”

The hardest part

The hardest part of realizing your dream is, indeed, naming it. And it should be. This is your life’s work we’re talking about.

But this line of thinking—of questioning yourself and wondering what your dream is—can paralyze you. You can get stuck doing nothing. And that’s not where you want to be.

I know a lot of people who do this, actually. Of course, they’re not really doing nothing. They’re working at Starbucks or corporate America. They’re living in their parents’ basement or a loft in the city. It doesn’t really matter; the bottom line is that they’re biding their time until their real life starts.

The problem is these people are procrastinating their dream. They may say they’re waiting or resting or whatever, but I don’t buy it. They’re wasting their life—at least part of it.

You can always be doing something to further your calling.

An alternative to waiting

I propose an alternative, something in between doing nothing and picking the wrong dream: Make a seasonal commitment.

Guess at something that strikes your fancy, based on the possibility that it could be your dream. In other words, experiment. Not in a flaky, non-committal way. Pick something, and commit to it for a season. Call it a seasonal dream, if you want.

This will give you experience, broaden your skill set and teach you the value of commitment. Most likely, this is how you will find your dream. Not by waiting, but by doing.

Here’s one thing you can be sure of: I guarantee you won’t find your dream by standing still.

Dreaming is laborious. Finding your life’s work will not be easy. You will have to work at it. It will require your action and reflection.

What’s been the hardest part in pursuing (and possibly realizing) your dream? Share in the comments.

Jeff Goins is a writer and works for Adventures in Missions. This article was reprinted from his blog with permission.

61 Comments

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Bethywethyrarr commented…

There is one of my favorite quotes by Howard Thurman where he states, "Don't ask what the world needs, but ask what makes you come ALIVE. Because what this world needs are people who have come ALIVE." I think deep deep inside us we understand that trying to grasp this huge abstract cloud in the sky as our "dream" is fulfilling because it's this chase, this pursuit of greatness that will hopefully lead us in somehow becoming a work of greatness. It's like we almost feel geared, and fashioned, to dream big and not look back. Dreaming is fun, mysterious, and always a ride into the unknown.

But the beauty of Jesus and the life that he lived was in the dream of every-day life at the heart of it all. Remembering to love your neighbor as yourself, to seek justice, love mercy, to be the peacemakers. I mean.. sermon on the mount, come on! I think it's this dream of character that transcends boundaries and brings you into this place of where your gifts and passions exist. To live fully from where you are and realize that today is not a disappointment because you "dream" is not fully all there is the ultimate challenge. "We can do no great things. Only small things with great love." --Mama T

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Guest commented…

Whats been the hardest part in pursuing (and possibly realizing) your dream?

All of it. :/

What exactly constitutes as real life? I mean regardless of whether you're living with your parents or in a loft or where you work your always living your real life and if you don't like it you can change it. Plus not everyone can afford to move out.

Good luck to everyone and best wishes in the new year!

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Darryl McMillon commented…

Hey Jeff,

I am learning something very interesting about dreaming... once you believe you know what your dream/passion is, that by no means implies the work is done. I'm cyrtal clear on what God put me here to do (at least the part that gets me going right now... the plan I can see in front of me). Sure, it is a strategy to impactthe lives ofurban kids, and sure He has begun to connect me to the people that will help me get there.. but the challengefor me is what do you do when you don't know what to do next? Of course we can pray, and seek guidance, and yes, knowing why we are here is comforting and exciting all at the same time, but that doesnt makethis any easier. There still is a lot of praying, planning, and more praying to do before we pull the "Big Dream" off.

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EMCroker commented…

My mother always said that it was good to dream because it was free. I grew up in poverty and longed for an education. My dream was to attend university and become a nurse. I graduated at 33 years of age. I had another dream and that was to visit and work in Africa. That eventuated. Then the dream to do postgraduate studies beckoned and I succumbed to it. You see anything is possible if one works towards it with azealous passion. Now, I dream to be a writer. It is not a new dream altogether. It is an old dream that has finally come to light simply because the timing is right. I am now42 years of age and I simply want to write. Timing is of the essence and god does reveal all at the right time.

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Anonymous commented…

Sometimes it only takes a season if you really listen to the Lord to know what he is asking of you!

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