When Your Dreams Become Drains (And How To Escape)

image: dan james

We all have dreams.

Not the strange and often apparently random nocturnal variety, but the dreams we have for our lives, the ambitions we have for ourselves, and our artwork.

Sometimes these are very long held dreams, ones we first formed years, even decades ago.

Which, if they’re still relevant to us, and if we’re still as passionate about them as the day we initially set our hearts on them, is of course all well and good.

The problems come when we find we’re chasing old dreams that really don’t fit us anymore, that don’t mean anything like as much for the person we are today.

Then they become drains, rather than dreams, sucking our energy and preventing us from moving on to something more relevant to who we are and what we’re excited about and motivated by today.

We could just choose to let go of them, and define new dreams. But that’s not what we usually do.

Instead it’s more likely we’ll keep trying to chase the old ones, feeling we can’t possibly give up now, as we’ll be seen as flaky or a failure or uncommitted.

There are some powerful questions we can ask to “check in” with our dreams, and ensure they are still relevant, worthwhile, and worth pursuing.

Possibly the single most valuable question to ask is this –

“When I’ve reached this dream, what will it give me?”

Let’s say you’re answer is “confidence”.

Then repeat the question, applying it to that new response –

“When I have confidence, what will that give me?”

You might answer something like “the freedom to experiment”.

Again, apply this new response to the same question –

“When I have freedom to experiment, what will that give me?”

Maybe you then think “permission to finally try painting abstract art”.

Repeat it as many times as you can, probing deeper into why that original dream is/was important.

Then, when you find that deepest value and motivation, you can see if this dream is still helping you towards it, or whether you can find that fulfilment in different ways. Or whether that deepest value is still something that’s important to you at all.

In fact, you might find that the first time you ask the question – “When I’ve reached this dream, what will that give me?” – your response is more like –

Um, well, nothing really. It simply doesn’t hold much meaning for me anymore.”

In which case you’re free to let go of that dream and focus on new ones that do mean something to you.

Either way, this is a very effective question and exercise to help you focus on the dreams that are relevant and important to you right now, as the person and the artist you are today.

Which means you no longer have to trudge around with outdated and now meaningless dreams draped across your shoulders, weighing you down and preventing you from from flourishing in new exciting ways.

If your dreams have become drains, it’s time to dust them down and take a good look at them.

Try this exercise and see how it works for you.


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