Everyone has dreams. We all create and envision a world yet to exist. No one is without imagination, whether it is used for great good or great evil. There has never been a human being who did not have hopes for a better life, but not everyone has chosen to move towards those dreams. Those of us who have chased our passions and failed feel as if the universe is one bad joke. Why did I fail? What did I do wrong? Why do some people succeed while others fail?
When I was in my early 20s, I believed I could accomplish almost anything. My desire was to become a film actor, so I moved from Virginia to Los Angeles to begin my journey. Believe me when I say that I knew it would be a difficult road to become a working actor, but I also believed that pursuing my dreams was the biggest, most important step. I had always believed that moving into the future by pursuing my dreams was the most challenging part of a dream coming to fruition, which led me to some wrong conclusions.
After a couple years struggling in Los Angeles and not becoming the successful actor I had envisioned, I was in massive debt, overwhelmed with my pre-existing mental illness, and filled with anger at God. Why did I fail? What was it about me that wasn’t enough? I took the step! I risked it all! This was not in the script I had written for myself.
One of the greatest deceptions we can believe is that we are what we do and that our value is rooted in what we accomplish. There’s no doubt that what we do matters and leaves an impact on this world. Yet, despite our longings to make a difference, we often fall into the belief that our dreams are equivalent to our personhood and our purpose. What I learned, and what you may have learned in your own life, is that life is not fair. When things fall apart, even after giving it our best shot, what are we left with?
Below are 5 lessons I recommend you meditate upon if you have failed at a dream and are searching for the answer to who you are and what to do with your life.
- Remember that your identity is not in what you accomplish, but rather in Who you know. As a follower of Jesus, I am ultimately not valuable because I am celebrated upon the silver screen. One of the most important, yet often forgotten truths of the Scriptures, is that we are created in the image of God. We are not merely animals with no love, no purpose and no value. Keep your eyes on Jesus and who He says you are, not what your accomplishments (or lack thereof) say you are not.
- You can dream new dreams. We often become so frustrated that we failed at one dream that we forget that life is filled with possibilities. Just because one door closed does not mean that there are no opportunities awaiting us in the future. As I am currently in graduate school for my MA in Mental Health Counseling, I can verify that God can use our failures to give us new hopes and vision for our lives.
- This one is hard to swallow: stop making life just about you. The “pursue your dreams” culture has some fine qualities, but it is also very narcissistic and self-adoring. When our dreams become our purpose, rather than loving others and being in relationship with humanity, we lose sight of the people who need us the most. Jesus taught us that this life is not merely about ourselves, but rather how we can serve one another. When we become focused on our dreams without striving to serve others, we lose sight of what really matters.
- Some dreams are not worth chasing. There are so many noble, wonderful dreams we can conjure in our lifetimes, where we become convinced that those dreams require our investment. In actuality, most of what we imagine is not for us, nor is it worthy of our time. I have likely imagined 6.5 million possibilities of who I would become during my time on earth, but very few are actually worthy of my attention.
- You are loved, even in your failure. There are people in this world who want your presence, not your success. They want your friendship and time, not your accomplishments. There is a God who loves you deeply, so much so that He knows you better than you know yourself. You are not worthy of love by your accomplishments, but rather by who you already are.
Failing at a dream hurts and can leave us scarred. I get it. Yet, when we step back and see that our dreams are not the definitive sum of our being, we can find peace and tranquility in who we are right now, not who we thought we would become.
If you are hurting and reeling from the pain of a dream unrealized, I challenge you to meditate on the 5 thoughts I shared, as well as to begin to dream again. As long as we have breath in our lungs, we can continue to imagine, create and dream of a better future. Don’t lose sight of who you truly are.
Andrew Voigt is a writer and blogger who engages in conversations about God, brokenness, and what it means to be human. He currently lives in Charlotte, NC and is a self-renowned root beer and coffee enthusiast.