Have you ever had a dream? Have you ever wondered what your life would have been like if you had pursued it? You wouldn’t be stuck in a job you hated. People would treat you with respect. You might be earning more money than you ever could have imagined. You would be loving your life every single day.
But for some reason, you haven’t taken that step. Sure, you have your ingrained list of reasons. Someone had to go to work to support the family. You had to get a practical job, something that would pay the bills. After all, chasing a dream of becoming a musician, artist, actor, or writer is not very practical. Aren’t there numerous starving artists, and hungry actor wannabes struggling in L.A.? No, you wanted to be a sensible, logical person.
Or maybe, your parents discouraged you from following your dreams. You couldn’t move to Los Angeles. You had to stay put in your hometown so you could visit your parents every Sunday and take care of them. They wanted you to be a doctor like your father. Their entire family history was filled with doctors, and you had to be one too, or they would be furious with you. You would be letting the entire family down. Or maybe, they did like your art, but no one they ever knew ever had a career in it that actually paid real money. So, they told you it was an impossible dream. You should get a degree and become that doctor and make the family proud. You believed them.
Maybe someone told you that you weren’t smart enough. Remember that teacher in third grade that never picked your story to read to the class? Or do you remember that time your friend told you that you weren’t attractive enough or tall enough to be a model or actor? Do you remember when they told you that you weren’t that talented to succeed, and compared you to everyone else they knew who was more gifted or smarter than you were?
Maybe none of these were your problems. Maybe it was just you – afraid to take the leap, afraid of failure, afraid of criticism, maybe even afraid of success.
So, you go through your life, dreading getting up in the morning to go to work. You are envious, maybe even angry at all of the people who are out there doing what you were supposed to be doing – before you took the easy way out, and didn’t go for it.
Yes, you took the easy way out. Because it’s hard to go for your dream. You are facing rejection, criticism, angry friends and relatives that secretly wish they had your courage, and think you should remain doing what they are doing, which is barely tolerating their existence. You will even have people who think you don’t deserve to be any more successful than they are. After all you were always the victim, and they are used to feeling superior to you.
But if you want the life you need and desire, you must go for it. And here is the reason why: If you don’t pursue that dream, you will spend the rest of your life wondering if you could have done it. No one else will care as much as you, that you didn’t become a professional artist. No one will care that you didn’t write that novel. This is why you have to do it. You have to do it for you because you deserve the best that life can offer. You deserve to live the life of your authentic self. You deserve to be happy going to work every day.
I’m not telling you to quit your job, cold turkey and throw your financial security out the window. I’m telling you this: Take small steps. Start painting or writing or taking courses in filmmaking on the side. Send your stories out to publishers. You may get a pleasant surprise acceptance in the mail. Show your artwork to people. You may soon have people buying it. Enter your film in a contest. It may win. Start focusing on your dream in practical ways, on the side, and one awesome day, you may be doing it full time.
You will be rejected, but the secret to success is perseverance. I know an author whose first manuscript was rejected by over 70 publishers. But she didn’t give up. She is a successful novelist now. After spending years raising her children, a woman exhibited her artwork in a library. People are now buying her paintings. I know a man who made a film in college and then won a college Emmy award. They are following careers that people think are impractical. And they are succeeding — one film, one novel, one painting at a time. The goal isn’t fame, and it’s not even money. It is personal satisfaction of doing what they were meant to do. They love what they do, and by chasing your dreams, you will love what you’re doing too.
So what are you waiting for? It’s time to throw away the list of excuses, and get started living the life you dreamed of. Take one small step and start now. You can do it!
Originally published on Questions for the Driven website on 4/4/16.