Without exaggerating in the slightest, I can honestly say that in the last year I have come across hundreds of articles that encourage the reader to ‘follow their dreams’. I myself am guilty of writing pieces of a similar nature. After all it’s good advice, isn’t it? It’s far better to aim for what your heart really desires than convince yourself that it will never happen and live a less fulfilled life as a result. These articles are supposed to make you act; first by deciding what your dream life is, and then by devising a set of goals designed to help you reach that dream life, if only in teeny tiny baby steps.
While at first glance this all sounds great, I am starting to take umbrage with the entire idea of ‘dream life’, as it implies that the life you’re currently living isn’t good enough as it is, and is simply a waiting room for the life you want to be living.
Too often these articles ask the question: ‘are you stuck in a nine to five job?’ knowing that the answer to that for the majority of people will be a resounding yes. They then go on to argue that now is the time to start living your life, and to do so you should quit your job and open up the coffee shop you’ve always wanted/become a sky-diving instructor/make money by telling people how to live their best life. Now if that is what you want to do, go for it. However, my issue with this advice is that having an occupation that isn’t in the field you want, or simply isn’t everything your heart desires, does not mean that you are not living a fulfilled life. It doesn’t even mean that you are not living your dream life. These articles give the impression that we should not be happy, fulfilled or feel that we have ‘made it’ unless every single card has fallen into place.
That is not to say that dreams and goals are not important, because it’s great to have things to aim for. I for one am probably the most goal-orientated person on Earth, and would probably spend all day sitting in a park with a book if I didn’t have a check list of things I wanted to get done every single day (like writing this article for instance). Nevertheless, the problem with goals, particularly if you are not happy, is that they can become a sort of life raft. You base the happiness that you may not be feeling right now on that goal, thinking that think once you reach it you can finally settle down and appreciate the here and now. However, no matter who you are and no matter how lucky you are, nothing will ever be perfect. There will always be additional goals and things that you are dreaming of that may not have yet happened, and may not ever happen. So for every dream or goal that you do fulfil, there will be thousands more waiting in the background, giving you a reason to feel unfulfilled in your current situation.
To put things in perspective a bit, eighty percent of people live on less than ten US dollars a day and 1.3 billion do not have enough to eat. If you think about that and then look around you – at the roof over your head, the food in your cupboard, the security of that boring office job – then it is quite easy to see that you are already living a dream life. You don’t need to wait for every single thing to be going exactly the way you want it to before you can stop and appreciate how lucky you are.
So despite the so-called positivity and motivation of these ‘follow your heart and live your dream life’ articles, goals and dreams aren’t what are really needed right now for many of us. Rather, we need to foster gratitude for our current situation, and the dream life that we currently have ownership of. It’s okay to have dreams – in fact, I highly encourage it. However don’t let those dreams stop you from enjoying the here and now. There needs to be far less articles that advise how to get from point A to point B in order to be happy, and more articles on how to be happy right now in the life that we are already living.
(Image credit: 1.)