Follow your Dreams is Terrible Advice

Follow your dreams is terrible advice. Don’t do it. Following my dreams led me to years of frustration and dead-ends. My life improved when I gave up on my dreams.

Big Dreams are for Disney

Flikr - Joe Penniston
Flikr – Joe Penniston

If I followed my dreams, I would be a career writer, travelling the world and talking about my books. But I would have no life experience, no idea about my topics and I would hate having to live out of a suitcase. My dreams would have led me to start a ‘consulting’ business where customers would magically flock to my door. I would also own a cabin in the mountains and manage to live there full time while also writing full time and having a full time consulting business.


Big Dreams are for Disney. Big dreams can be too specific. Big dreams can be inflexible.

The impossible, inflexible dream. .

Linda Peall - Flikr
Linda Peall – Flikr

My ‘big dreams’ made me too single minded, too focused, too early in life. I thought that successful dreams need to be specific, so I wrote down what success would look like and where it would come from. I expected success but ignored the hard work and hard knocks that can create the success.

Successful writers persist, they take feedback and they share their writing (especially) when they are afraid. They write about different topics, share their writings with new audiences, pursue different passions because they know that they are poor judges of what people want to read. It can take years to find and prepare your audience so they embrace your writing.

Ironically, this same advice applies to starting any business or beginning any career:

Persist, take feedback, take risks, be open to different opportunities, pursue different passions, know that you may be a poor judge of what other people find compelling, know that people are not waiting for you to show up so they can be amazed by you, earn the right to be heard, listened to, followed, and realize that success will likely come to you from unexpected avenues.

Multiple dreams of income may wreck your life

Jooly - Flikr
Jooly – Flikr

Multiple streams of income is good a good concept. Multiple dreams of income can wreck your life. In the early years, I experienced so much failure that I gave up on my dreams. Unfortunately, I also gave up on myself. I gained 35 pounds, I had no focus and I spent more time wishing than working.


When I finally woke up six years ago, I knew that I needed to give up several things if I was going to change:

  • Holding onto dreams that were really just rescue fantasies
  • Blame and excuses
  • Rigid and narrow dreams (expectations)
  • The idea that my dream has to be specific to be real
  • The belief that I needed to quit my job in order to ‘pursue my dream’

Give up on your dreams, but never let go of your themes

My life improved after I gave up on my dreams. I became more accepting, more thankful and willing to work hard at very small things. Real dreams are seeds, never abandon these. My new dreams seeded belief, growth and energy back into my soul. Instead of following my dreams, I followed my themes:

  • Take work that will lead to my growth and development, which usually means take risks and be out of my introvert-comfort zone
  • Be creative every day. For me that means create ideas, paint, write or draw
  • Be funny, make people laugh and be a genuine human
  • Share funny stories
  • Mentor, nurture and support other people’s dreams
  • Read and nurture ideas and wisdom
  • Get outside more, move more, try to eat a little less
  • Spend time with people I respect and enjoy

When I stopped following my dreams but started following my ‘themes,’ my life has gone in directions I never dreamed of 10 years ago. In fact, if I followed my dreams, I would be miserable.

What are your life themes? Follow them and expect surprises. Life is like a child, life delights in surprise.  And you and I need to become as little children…

For an excellent article on Themes, see James Altucher’s post on how To-Do Lists are Ruining the Planet.

Keep it real

3 thoughts on “Follow your Dreams is Terrible Advice

  1. Ah, this makes me happy. I love it when people shatter common conceptions and then pull out the real truth a phrase was once meant to communicate during the process of contradicting it.

    This is why no word, phrase, or even paragraph is capable of communicating on its own. This is why conversations must happen. This is why relationships must develop. This is why life takes time and experience. Because, when we finally come around the spiral for the 2,000th time, we finally understand that inspiring thought that drew us into the pattern in the first place.


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