7 Things They Don’t Tell You About Following Your Dreams

A new show has hit primetime with millennials at the forefront. This time, Arrested Development favorite Alia Shawkat stars in her first series lead role as Dory, a New York City transplant reconciling her adult life aspirations with the banality of being a personal assistant to an entitled rich lady.

In Search Party, Dory is catapulted into a dark-comedy adventure with her friends when they embark on a search for her college friend, Chantal, after she goes missing. The reality of her otherwise unfulfilling life serves as the backdrop of Search Party. This show suggests this is a common narrative among our generation—that though Dory longs for a greater sense of purpose, life can turn out to be numbingly normal.

If you’ve met a twentysomething or read a think piece about millennials lately, you may be tempted to assume this generation is defined by a great sense of ambition. And you’d be right. The Internet age allowed us to grow up with a wealth of information at our fingertips; we’re pioneers within our own right. Between growing up as digital natives, having to navigate the depressed economy we inherited and constantly adjusting to advancing globalization, we have no shortage of opportunity to make up the rules and discover what works for us in education, career and personal ambitions.

After all, we grew up in a world where anything was possible.

Whether or not the stereotype that the majority of us grew up hearing “follow your dreams” is true, it’s no surprise that many of us do. God often adds to this desire by challenging us to imagine realities beyond our own resources and capabilities as He brings us into His purpose for our lives.

I’ve felt the grandeur of possibilities available to me through God’s favor and purpose in my life in more ways than one. And that means I’ve often found myself at that risky place where opportunities to fail and opportunities to succeed meet. Out of all the advice I’ve read about following your dreams, there are a few things that never get discussed. Here’s what I’ve learned:

You’ll be really uncomfortable in the process.

Few have mentioned that often times, your voice will falter as you tell others about what you’re trying to accomplish. Or how you’ll have to be your own biggest encourager, because if you don’t believe it’s possible, other people will be hard to convince.

However uncomfortable you might become on your journey, return to the reasons you took a leap towards your goals in the first place and look to what you’ve accomplished in the past as markers when you need to remember what you’re capable of. If all else fails, remember that it’s when you’re outside of your comfort zone that truly amazing things have the opportunity to happen in your life.

You’ll surprise yourself.

Everyone has a starting point. And you can’t learn what you want to learn without beginning at square one. Learning new skills is a lot like building muscle. When you work that muscle at first, it won’t feel natural, you’ll wonder if you’re lifting correctly and you’ll watch others for instruction. Eventually, the motions will become second nature and you’ll be able to lift more than you originally thought possible.

One of my personal heroes in the media industry, Nancy Gibbs, began at TIME magazine as a part-time fact checker in 1985. Today, she’s the editor-in-chief.
Imagine new milestones for yourself. Challenge your skillset to widen. And then, put in the day-to-day work necessary to reach them.

Your access to opportunity is based on the generosity of others.

Make yourself available to opportunity long enough and some incredible things are bound to happen.

I love this article by Bruce Kasanoff that impresses the value of telling people what you want to do rather than what you’re currently doing. His point is that telling people what you want to do gives them the opportunity to contribute to your story. I’ve learned that nobody reaches their dreams by operating as an independent unit. The value of your professional network is incomparable.

In her book The Defining Decade, Meg Jay stresses the importance of “weak tie” connections. She writes:

Weak ties are the people we have met, or are connected to somehow, but do not currently know well. Weak ties are also our former employers or professors and other associations not promoted to close friends … Weak ties give us access to something fresh … like bridges you cannot see all the way across, so there is no telling where they might lead.

Who’s in your network? Think through it. Ask friends, coworkers and family who they know that might help you get where you’re going. And most importantly, respect any access you gain to these connections by communicating effectively, being punctual and taking notes.

And read The Defining Decade if you haven’t yet.

The work is hard.

And work it is.

Whether you’re your own manager or reporting to someone, a student, a stay-at-home parent, working from home or showing up to a buttoned-up office each day, being industrious and proactive about making your dreams happen is an investment of energy and time that might be a pile-on to the responsibilities you already have. In addition to that, I’d be lying if I said there isn’t an emotional component: It can be taxing to be “on” for interviews and put your best foot forward in a series of meetings with professionals you admire and respect, to write when you don’t want to, to network or do research.

See Also

If you’re considering taking on a new project or going for your dream opportunity, make sure your schedule is set up for it. Life will never be put on hold for the sake of your timeline, but if you’re volunteering, going through personal challenges and working 70 hours a week, you may be setting yourself up for failure by taking on something new. And that’s just a formula for undue discouragement.

Think critically about what is demanding your attention and eliminate the items that aren’t wise investments. Be resourceful, be ruthless with protecting your resource of time and energy, and beyond that, be ready pick yourself up in the face of rejection.

Resilience is work.

The support of others may surprise you.

You may be surprised by who shows up to cheer you on.

I’ve had friends check in with me each day for updates when I’ve taken on huge ventures or seemingly impossible projects. Their day-by-day encouragement during these times has reminded me that others are encouraged by your success and will become your champions when you need them most. When you’re taking on a new project or dream, surround yourself with your biggest encouragers. They’re the greatest counter to fear.

When you need a pick-me-up, text your best friend and ask for their vote of confidence. There’s nothing wrong with needing others to remind you of your talents. They most likely see those in you more than you can see them in yourself.

You’ll survive if it doesn’t work out.

Whether you achieve the outcome you dreamed of or you fail trying, the truth is you’ll survive if it doesn’t work out. And you’ll probably be better for it. Did you learn something? Did you meet new people? Did you explore your abilities? All of these things make the journey worthwhile, even if you don’t end up quite where you planned.

Whatever project you’re working on, whatever place at a job you’re hoping for, know that it won’t be your last shot or even your last dream as long as you’re on this side of heaven. Opportunities are boundless if you’re committed to crafting them.

Scroll To Top
This is Big

The RELEVANT annual print edition is here.

PRE-ORDER NOW AND SAVE 20%