When my brother was three, he wanted to be a tree when he grew up. Instead, he went into law enforcement.
We're constantly growing and changing, and as we do, our dreams change with us. Unfortunately, it can be incredibly difficult to stop chasing a dream that you've already put a lot of time and effort into. It can be hard to explain to friends and family who've been supporting you along the way why you're giving up.
There are some short-term goals that can provide a lot of learning opportunities if you see them through. For example, you might realize half-way through triathlon training that you never want to swim again, but finishing the training and the event is going to improve your confidence and mental toughness. It's a short-term project and you have more to gain than lose by completing it, even if you realize it's not something you want to do again.
However, what if you've spent 10 years as an actor? You've talked about it since you were a kid. You've taken all the classes, gone to hundreds of auditions, and maybe have even had some good roles and earned a living in front of the camera or on stage. But it doesn't feel exciting anymore. It's more work than play. Learning lines and driving across town to audition is tedious. The cons list is growing.
Moving on from a dream in a situation like this is not "giving up." It's about knowing that something no longer serves you and having the strength to leave it behind, much like leaving a worn-out relationship or a job that is no longer stimulating.
Maybe you're not just having a bad day. Maybe it's time to move on.
1. Admit it.
Have a talk with yourself, and be honest. Do you still care about the goal you're chasing? Does it still make your heart sing? Does it still fill you with passion and excitement? If not, give yourself permission to let it go.
2. Take a step in faith.
Maybe you don't know what you want to do next, but one thing is fairly certain: it won't show up until you clear the way for it. If you're forever putting energy into the fizzled-out dream, you won't have anything left for your next mission — and if you're feeling grumpy, anxious, and stressed out about what you're doing now, you might not even recognize your next opportunity when it comes knocking.
When we pursue our goals, we often put our heads down and focus. That tunnel vision helps us stay on track, but it also keeps us from realizing what else is out there. Take off the blinders and recognize that opportunities are everywhere.
4. Remember: you don't owe anyone an explanation.
This is your life, and only you can decide how to live it. Friends and family who have supported you might express shock, disappointment, or even anger if you abandon a job or a goal that no longer means anything to you, but they're not the ones who need to live with your choices. You know what will make you happy, and letting other people convince you of something else is a sure way to end up regretting your choices. Move forward with confidence, no matter what anyone else says.
Have you ever had a big dream change? What gave you the strength to change course?