We often hear “dream big” or “reach for the stars” as adages on how we should set goals and plan our lives. Walt Disney simply put it: “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
That’s all wonderful advice, until it’s not. What if Disney was wrong? Can all dreams really come true?
We don’t live in a fairytale, and sometimes the big dreams we hold dear to our heart — the ones we’ve been working toward for so long — don’t come to fruition — and it’s not always because we lacked courage.
Now, in full disclosure, I am a huge fan of dreaming big and believe that in doing so we can find great happiness. But I also know from personal experience that not all dreams come true. When we are faced with a wilted dream, it’s important to know when to let go and when to courageously press forward.
Revive a dream
If you find yourself with a dream that is on the verge of dying, here are three things you can do to breathe life back into that dream.
1. Step back
When we are in the trenches, doing the work to make our dream a reality, we can get too invested. Take a break. Go on a vacation. Get away. Simply putting space — emotionally or physically — between yourself and your dream can create just the energy you’ve needed to keep moving forward and refocus.
2. Remember your “why”
Why are you chasing this dream in the first place? Is it still important to you? Can you remember what motivated you in the first place? Reconnecting with your purpose may be all you need to revitalize our dream.
3. Seek help
Is it possible your dream is wilting simply because you don’t know what you need to know? Seek help to learn a new skill to support your dream. Maybe you need to know more about marketing or publishing. Whatever you’re lacking, the information may only be a phone call or e-book away.
Process the death of a dream
Are these options not enough? It’s possible it’s time to let go of your dream, or maybe death, sickness or divorce has forced that situation upon you already.
Processing the death of a dream is hard. Dreams feel real. They are a part of you, and when the opportunity to fulfill a dream passes it feels like a part of you is gone as well. During this time we often feel rejection, failure, doubt and fear. Here are three things you can do to move through these emotions.
1. Grieve the loss
I have never met someone who felt nothing when they let go of a dream. You are attached, and that is OK. Feel the emotions, even disengage if needed, but give yourself a time limit. It’s important for you to continue to focus on the good things in your life and surround yourself with happiness.
Lara Mountford, a mother from Syracuse, Utah, said she went through a long grieving process when she thought she’d never have the chance to be a mother. “We struggled for over a decade trying to find a solution to our infertility issues or adopt, but medical complications and other circumstances killed our dream again and again. I was so fixated on the loss of my dream that I plunged into depression and withdrew from nearly everything.”
Because of her extended grief, Mountford was unable to see the wonderful parts of her life that were available to enjoy. “I finally determined the grieving process was over, and it was time to enjoy my life despite my loss. When I fixated on the good things and truly allowed myself to enjoy them, I found peace. I didn’t give up on having a family, and we have since found absolute joy in adopting our children, and the lesson I learned about enjoying the good things without fixating on the bad things has made me a much happier and joyful mother.”
Forgive yourself, forgive others, and forgive the situation that caused your dream to fail.
Tifani Ruck is a health coach from Spring Hill, Fla. But before Ruck became a health coach, she almost became a midwife. “I realized that there were outside forces that were going to make it nearly impossible to complete my (midwifery) training, so I did not apply, even after having taken all the prerequisite courses to enroll.”
Had Ruck fixated on the loss of this opportunity, she would have never been able to forgive the situation and move on to a better option in nutrition.
3. Look for seeds for new dreams
Just like flowers, dead dreams can leave behind seeds for more growth and opportunity. Sometimes our dreams were only meant to last a season and then lead us to the next thing — and that next thing is often even better than the last.
Author of The Queens Journal, Rachel Sayers feels often the hardest part is saying goodbye to the part of us the dream represented. “Quite often later — but rarely in the moment — I can see how the new and improved version is always more impactful and able to bless more people, but at the time it is so painful.”
So, keep dreaming, even dreaming big. You’ll still be a better person for it.
This article originally published on KSL.com
Stock image from freedigitalphotos.net