{flickr photo by: MarthaRiley}

The Difficulty with Following Your Dreams

The other day I wrote about one way to find your calling. This post is all about what happens when you take the steps towards following it.

Here’s the short of it: The journey toward following your dreams will feel lonely at first. The tumbleweeds will blow as you step out on your own and you suddenly wonder where’d all your peeps go (not the marshmallow sugary kind).

And the long version…

It’s not to discourage you. But going out on your own is hard. When I did it a few years ago, I was stunned by the response I got.

Co-workers, friends, family and even acquaintances had an opinion. And they were not good.

One person said, “I have a friend who has tons of experience and he can’t even make it. How will you?”

When I told a friend that I decided to get my masters, instead of excitement and congratulations I got, “Do you think that’s very financially responsible? There are a lot of people who have dreams, but don’t pursue them because they can’t afford to.”

I soon learned over and over again that if I wanted to take big risks, I had to get used to the criticisms that usually came with it.

Gregg Levoy, author of Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life says, “One of the frightening prospects of saying yes to a calling is that you may find out who really supports you and who doesn’t.”

The Solution to Minimizing Negative Reactions from Others

Watch what you say and how you tell people about your decision to follow your dreams. What does this mean?

Here are a few tips Levoy advises:

  • Be honest. You might be scared, confused, and need support. Instead of focusing on their reaction, focus on being honest about what you’re going through. You will come across as cocky, overconfident, unrealistic or even irrational if you sound certain about your plan and they may feel left out of it as if you didn’t consider them at all. This will only entice your friends and loved ones to talk you out of your dreams.
  • Don’t try to please others. One of the people Levoy talks about in his book experienced tons of rejection and criticism from those he loved. It was difficult to get such negative feedback so he did what most of us do, he tried to convince them that what he was doing was right. But all the energy trying to please others and get their support worked against him. It’s hard to people please and it’s especially difficult when you don’t know why you’re drawn to being an artist or have a strong feeling to quit your job and move. But try explaining that to people who don’t understand either and you’ll set yourself up for more heartbreak. In The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life, Julia Cameron says, “Seeking to value ourselves, we look to others for assurance. If what we are doing threatens them, they cannot give it. If what we envision is larger than what they can see, they cannot give support for what it is we are doing.” Maybe we should focus on ourselves, our purpose and value what we can do and accomplish instead of leaning on our loved ones to hold us up when we feel doubtful of our abilities.
  • Be compassionate. One of the hardest things about change is that it impacts those around you. When we finally take that step to do the unthinkable (move, get a new job, quit our old one, change careers entirely) it affects those who haven’t changed. Loved ones may feel abandoned or worry about how the change will impact them. Levoy says, “When others protest our changes, it’s not that they don’t want us to change; they just want us to change to meet their needs, not our own.” If we can learn to be compassionate to how our decisions will affect others, we can minimize their worries and learn from their reactions instead of resist and react to them.
  • Don’t try to change others. When you go through some life-changing event, it is very tempting to pass on what you’ve learned. But the people in your life may not be ready for that type of change. And pushing your own beliefs and values may make others resent you.

The truth is following your passion isn’t supposed to be easy. It’s not just the fear of failure that comes with the territory, it’s the fear of rejection and abandonment from those you love as well.

But there is a purpose to the heartache. If you can sustain it, you will find great lessons from those that hurt you most. They can teach you compassion and to be true to yourself. They can even give you real feedback on things you need to know to keep you grounded.

All we need to do is walk through the path with eyes wide open and an open heart.

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