Defining “Happily Ever After” and “Following Your Dreams” - Part 2

happily ever after the writing life Aug 27, 2019

If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.

Whether urban legend or real life, somebody knows someone who knows a gal who “followed their dreams” and it turned into a living nightmare. Maybe it was a spouse who quit their job to pursue a business, only to fail and lose the house. The woman who ran off, leaving those in her life to wonder why. Or the college-age kid who went off on an adventure and ended up dead. There’s always a horror story, but someone’s bad luck pursuing a dream doesn’t mean we will have the same experience.

As I see it, there are two kinds of dreams. One is the kid who lays under the stars and has visions of a sci-fi-esque life, meeting aliens and traveling in the vastness of space. While technology is still developing so extended space travel could happen in the next century or two, there’s no guarantee other intelligent life forms are anywhere to be found. These fantasy-based dreams are fun to think about, but not likely to transpire.

The other kind of dream is more realistic. These are goal-based. A woman wants to publish a book. Or create a non-profit. Adopt children from a foreign land. This type of dream has tangible steps that can be taken to reach a goal and fulfil a longing.

When I talk about dreams, I usually mean goal-based dreams. Fantasy-based dreams can inspire the plot for an amazing novel, but they aren’t usually practical to manifest in your life. The people who talk about making their dreams come true usually start with a goal-based dream. From there, they simply chipped away at the steps needed to make it happen.

I want to help you pursue dreams that you can a plan and take realistic steps to accomplish. Yup, you might have to adjust your plan twenty times along the way, but any move in the direction of your dream is a win. Whether it’s writing a book, starting a blog, getting an article published, organizing your home, or enrolling the kids in fall classes without losing your mind, dreams come in all shapes and sizes.

Little dreams are just as good as big dreams. I’ve had women apologize and tell me, “I just want to write a [blog, a newsletter, my grandmother’s recipes, or encourage people with a worthy, but small project.]” Not everyone was meant (or wants) to handle the circus of fame that arrives with certain types of success. While there are those who were born for the stage, others aren’t. You get to dream your dreams and decide how big, or small.

Writers are unique with different strengths, skills, dreams, and vision. It’s insensitive to think someone’s desires and goals aren’t as worthy as another’s. Be true to the creative desire in you, keep pushing forward, and your dreams will follow in time.

Most people should not drop everything to pursue their dreams. If you’re 18, fresh out of high school, with no responsibilities beyond your next meal and where to sleep, it’s easy to put everything you own in a backpack and strike out in search of your dreams. As a married woman with a job, mortgage, and three kids, pursuing your dreams should cause you to reflect a moment before diving in. Consider your circumstances and what steps would best accomplish your goals.

I’m a firm believer in thinking though the details of a proposed idea. Some folks do well diving in, but most everyone else needs to consider how best to implement their dreams. A time of reflection isn’t to scare you away from trying, it’s to reduce your chance of failure. When you take the time to think through the potential outcomes, you can put fail-safes and contingency plans to work.

One way isn’t better than the other. Each circumstance is simply different. Make sure you plan the next step with intention, whether you’re making it up on the fly or pausing to consider how it will impact next year’s choices.

Begin with your smaller dreams. Whether it’s a new exercise program or building a skyscraper, start simple. Start small. Be content with beginning successes and milestones, then work up to bigger ones. Many people fail to accomplish their biggest dreams because they don’t have the experience to execute small ones.

A book is a series of magazine articles strung together by theme, explored from every angle, and bound into one volume. If you can write thirty-eight articles on one topic, you can write a book. But to begin, you have to finish the first article.

Bigger dreams and larger projects take more practice and endurance to complete. They have more moving pieces and unknowns to compensate for. They require confidence that only experience brings. Instead of being frustrated by the size of a project, intentionally choose a small one to start. It will be more manageable and easier to complete. Take the success and build your confidence for the next, bigger, project.

Following your dreams is not an excuse to pursue ethically or legally questionable ideas and hurt people who genuinely care about you. When I think of dreams, I think of making a positive difference, experiencing new things, and creating goodness in my life and the lives of others. I cringe when I hear tales of people who “followed their dream” only to leave heartbroken people in their wake or find themselves in less than idea legal standing. Be smart.

With the number of writers today, the topic of ethics brings a firestorm of opinions. Direct plagiarism is always a huge no-no. But how about mashing together ideas from a dozen different authors and creating your own spin? On one hand, we need to make sure the content we create is ours: word for word, written by us from our own thoughts. On the other hand, each of us are the sum of everything we’ve ever learned. It’s impossible not to be influenced by our favorite authors. Be sure you create your own work and give credit where it’s due.

While there are some who will justify any behavior in pursuit of a dream, be truthful with yourself. If we’re honest, it’s easy to identify questionable behaviors. Cheating on a significant other in the name of “research” is never a smart move. If you aren’t happy in your current relationship, get help or end the connection as graciously as possible. Never use pursuing your dream as an excuse for inappropriate behavior.

And for people who thrive on the edge, find ethical ways to do “bad” things. If you’ve always wanted to rob a bank (or create a character who does), work with a company who specializes in digital security. You may not get to keep the money, but you still get the rush.

The idea of following your dreams resonates more deeply with some than others. There are those who dream of a quiet life where all the socks match and you can drink tea on the back porch and write while the sun rises. Those kinds of dreams are just as beautiful as someone who longs to write a string of bestsellers and deliver TED Talks. The important thing is you know what your dreams are and you intentionally take steps to follow them.

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