Three Reasons to Give Up Your Dreams

Dreams—meaning lofty goals in life, not sleepy-time imaginings—are highly valued in our society. You don't have to look far to see social messages urging people to not give up on their dreams; indeed, we are urged to pursue our dreams with all our might. Broken dreams are seen as a bad thing. It is very common to have a dream to "write a book someday," and the annual NaNoWriMo event helps make that dream a reality for many people every year. But I'm not writing this blog entry to be a part of that bandwagon. I'm here to tell you that there are good reasons sometimes to give up your dreams. Read on to see three of them.

Let me be clear: I'm not saying you should give up on all of your dreams. Lofty future goals can give you a direction for near-term goals. However, speaking from experience, if you find yourself in one of the following situations, you'll probably find that letting go of dreams is less painful in the long run than pursuing them.

  1. If you have too many dreams, you may find that there just isn't enough time in life to fit them all in. If you're an ambitious person and an imaginative dreamer, you may find dreams accumulate rapidly. One of my many dreams when I was young involved building and running a certain type of restaurant. With so many things already "on my plate" and with my remaining decades of life dwindling, there's no value in pursuing that dream, or even keeping it alive. I let it go.
  2. If you have impossible or highly-improbable dreams, the certain or almost-certain disappointment is better dealt with early than after you've wasted who-knows-what on pursuing it. One of my dreams of youth was to be a drummer in a rock band. Unfortunately, I apparently had no natural talent, nor did I seem able to build relevant skill, and there was a distinct lack of opportunities to improve my drumming and get into a band. By the time I was in my mid-twenties, I realized it was better to set that dream free from my grasp, to get the disappointment over with.
  3. If you have harmful dreams, whether that means harmful to yourself or others, in any way, you should let them go with all haste. It can be easy to rationalize things, but some dreams would be harmful if they were to become reality, or even if they were pursued. Be honest with yourself, and pare away any harmful dreams.

Normally I encourage people to pursue their dreams, especially as those dreams may relate to writing, but it's not always the right answer. Sometimes it's okay to hold on to unrealistic dreams, like my dream of building a castle, because it was never realistic to begin with. However, those that initially seem at least within reason (starting a restaurant, being a rock band drummer) are the dreams that need to be considered carefully to see if they should be kept or let go.

A key benefit of letting go of old dreams is that it will mentally clear out old ideas and set the stage for new ideas, new dreams, and possibly new directions that you may find more fulfilling than your original dreams would have been. So if you have the dream of writing a book someday, great! Go for it! Unless, that is, you will be better of setting that aside and recognizing a new dream that means even more to you.

Pre-modification photo credit: Michelle Kwajafa via morgueFile.com, used under license.