If You Don’t Follow Your Dreams, You’ll Regret it Later

If you could do anything you wanted, what would you be doing right now?

Deep down, we all have something that we were meant to do in our lives. Some people are passionate about cooking, others obsess over starting businesses. But think about this for a second, how many people do you know who are pursuing their dreams?

My guess is that very few people pursue their dreams. A portion of people in this category are so-called “realists.” They have aspirations, but view them as unrealistic because they have bills to pay or other obligations that prohibit them from going any further. Others are so caught up in the day-to-day minutia that they’ve never taken the time to dream. There is also a third category of people who never make any progress. These are the dreamers who want to wish things into existence without exerting any effort.

Which one are you?

For the longest time, I was a cross between a realist and a dreamer. As you might imagine, these two don’t exactly go hand-in-hand. I’ve always known that my purpose is to help people, but for the longest time I was afraid to share my thoughts for fear of ridicule and because it might not make any money. Instead, I pursued other options and hoped that one day someone would read my work–the problem was, I didn’t post anything to read!

If you’re reading this article, you probably have dreams and just need a little bit of encouragement to get the ball rolling. Trials and tribulations throughout my life have taught me that the best time to start anything is now. A dream that can change your life is worth pursuing– just think about all the amazing things that could be part of your life if you just tried.

The Alchemist

One of my favorite books of all time is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It seems like every sentence from start to finish was written with such intention that it could be its own life lesson. The quotes below have been extracted to help guide your quest, here are my takeaways.

“He had worked for an entire year to make a dream come true, and that dream, minute by minute, was becoming less important. Maybe because that wasn’t really his dream.”

Have you ever pursued something you thought was worthwhile only to find out that it wasn’t what you imagined it to be? It can be an incredibly demoralizing experience. This happens in careers, relationships, and all areas of life. We pursue shiny objects only to realize it’s fool’s gold. But if you give yourself time, things always become more transparent.

My most recent encounter with this was my dream to become a real estate agent. I studied hard, passed all of the tests, and even quit my full-time job to go all in. I was drawn to the allure of high income potential, choosing my own hours, and working from where ever I wanted to be. In the end, it just wasn’t the right fit for me. It taught me that I’m good at talking to people and that I love real estate for investing purposes, but I don’t like working on a clients’ schedule and I like a certain level of security in my employment. Without my brief tenure as a real estate agent, I would still be wondering if it were right for me. The only way to know anything for sure is to try.

“I can always go back to being a shepherd.”

When contemplating something new or outside of our comfort zone, we always begin to think in terms of “what ifs.” We catastrophize and concoct worst-case scenarios to a point where we never get out of our comfort zones, so we never grow.

If you find yourself on the fence about something, just do it. Chances are, your worst-case scenario is going back to being a “shepherd.” In other words, your least favorable outcome is your current reality. Although this isn’t always true, the point remains that you should weigh the pros and cons to consider possible outcomes. What’s the worst thing that could happen? How about the best thing that could happen?

I’m inclined to believe that you have far more to gain than you have to lose.

“The boy felt that there was another way to regard his situation: he was actually two hours closer to his treasure.”

Looking back on any negative experience, there’s always a silver lining. The boy could have easily given up and went home. Instead, he interpreted this setback in a positive light and continued to pursue his treasure.

When something doesn’t go your way, how do you respond?

Our response to any given situation is more important than the situation itself. We are not always in control of what happens, but we are in control of how we interpret it. It’s no coincidence that nothing good ever happens to pessimists. Glass half empty people tend to fixate on the past and what could have been rather than what is. Since the past has already happened, you won’t gain much from trying to rewrite it. Instead, use the past to extract lessons you can use in the present and future.

Consider the COVID-19 outbreak this year. When realizing that I would be stuck in my house, I felt like life was ruined and got extremely resentful. I wondered why this was happening to me and began complaining about all the things I couldn’t do. A few hours later, when I got over my self-pity phase, I realized that quarantine needed to happen and there was nothing I could do to single-handedly halt the pandemic. When my mindset shifted, it became obvious that I could use this time to improve myself by getting back to the basics with no outside distractions. There’s no excuse for spending money on frivolous things, failing to work out, or going out to eat. By focusing on these fundamentals, I’m going to be closer to my dreams when quarantine is over because my newly found mental fortitude will help me weather any storm. You can do this, too!

To fulfill our dreams, we need to learn and apply lessons from past experiences. Each time something goes differently than expected, think about what you can learn from it. When you do this, you’re one step closer to your destination.

How to Start Following Your Dreams

Before going any further, you first have to commit to exploring your dreams. This only works if you are willing to dedicate time and mental energy towards the steps outlined. It isn’t something that happens overnight, like anything else worthwhile, it takes time and patience.

When you fully commit, be ready to go through the steps mentioned below. Sometimes you need to go through life and experience this process multiple times, but if you stay committed, you can achieve anything you desire.

1. Reflect.

We spend most of our adult lives doing what we’re “supposed to do.” In effect, we suppress our true desires convincing ourselves that our dreams are impractical or unrealistic. We console ourselves by saying that we will get back to our passions someday. Introspection is the only way to really find out what we want out of life.

Meditation in one form or another is an excellent way to reflect. When I go into deep introspection, I love using the app Oak’s unguided meditation. This helps to relax me and blocks out any outside noise. Another great way to meditate is by being alone in nature. You don’t have to climb Mount Everest, your backyard will do just fine. These two methods work well in conjunction, but it really comes down to personal preference. Take at least ten minutes at the beginning and end of each day to focus on your dreams. It won’t take long for inspiration to appear.

Keeping a journal is another regular activity that helps me sort out my ideas. I’m not big on expressing emotions to others, but writing helps me clear my conscience and clarify my desires. Some people like to free-write, some people like having a strict format to follow. This doesn’t matter as long as it helps you extract your inner thoughts. After you finish writing, go back and reflect on what you wrote.

Reading is another great tool for self-exploration. Books like The Alchemist and The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari are two examples that I highly recommend. We can find meaning in anything that we read if we look closely enough. Even reading the same thing multiple times can extract completely new and profound concepts.

2. Surround Yourself with the Right People.

Once you’ve discovered your true passion, share your feelings with those you care about. Don’t put it all over social media (save that for when you reach the finish line), but tell the people who are instrumental to your journey. These people need to be supportive and honest.

Support needs to be there for both ups and downs that you will experience along the way. Honesty is equally as important because the people who care about you have your best interest in mind. They will challenge your ideas to make sure that you think things through. If you have sound logic with clear expectations, these people will give you approval. Make sure you identify both groups before progressing. Too many people surround themselves with those who tell them what they want to hear, not what they need to hear for their own good.

Just as you need to surround yourself with supporters, you need to eliminate distractions. These come in many forms, but in general they can be categorized as people who bring you down. For instance, there are people who are “know it alls” that will stop at nothing to criticize your actions or give you a million reasons why you can’t do something. On the other end of the spectrum, there are completely unmotivated people–these are the silent killers. Hanging out every once and a while can be fun, however, if done in excess will lead you back to your couch thinking about your dreams without taking action. In some instances, distractions are family members or significant others. You really need to get them on board or strongly reconsider where you stand.

Choose wisely.

3. Create a Road Map.

Depending on your aspirations and life situation, this map will vary. If you want to start a business, but also need to feed your family with a day job, your path will be different from the single twenty-two year old. Keep in mind that life is not always fluid, so you will need to adjust course along the way to fit into your current reality.

Here are some questions to help you design your road map:

Where are you on your path?

Where do you want to be?

What can you do each day to progress towards this?

How will you know when you arrive at your destination?

4. Execute.

At this point, you’re ready to put your plan into action. Start following your road map and track your progress. Consistency and definiteness of purpose are your most important metrics, they will dictate results in the long run. Continue to reflect and refine–remember that life isn’t afraid to throw curve-balls at you.

Final Thoughts

Some people go through life hoping that things get better. Others take charge and make things happen. The path to self-exploration requires consistent effort, trial, and error. Be open to learning from mistakes and trying things outside of your comfort zone. The reward is worth every bit of sacrifice along the way, you deserve to live your best life. If you don’t follow your dreams, you’ll regret it later.