Anne’s dream was to create a nonprofit organization that brought school supplies to Third World villages. She felt discouraged because she had not reached a fraction of her fundraising goal.
“I don’t know if all of this work is worth it,” she added. “I don’t trust my own ability to make good decisions anymore.”
Anne’s frustration reminded me of my own experiences many years ago. I dreamed of being a writer and speaker. I spoke at large conventions throughout the country. And then I stopped. I felt afraid and vulnerable. So, I abandoned it all. As look back, I believe I was literally scared of my dream. Afraid of failing. More afraid of it coming true.
A dream can fill us with excitement and joy, but obstacles and setbacks invite doubt, disappointment, and frustration. Sometimes it is difficult to know whether or not it is time to give up. Before surrendering and waving the white flag, consider the following questions:
1. Why is your dream important to you? When was the last time you stepped back to remember why your dream is meaningful to you? What would you do if your dream came true? Who would you be doing it with or for? How would you be doing it? “It is in this place that the power of our imagination is rooted,” explains Mary Morrissey, author of Building Your Field of Dreams. She adds that as you dream and “get emotionally involved with ideas that enliven you, you enter a new realm of possibilities. This new realm of possibilities comes with new solutions that were previously unavailable to you.”
2. Do you have a plan? A dream does not transform into a reality until you create a plan with tangible goals. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, insisted that the act of writing goals puts things into motion. “Your mind accepts the challenge and will consciously and unconsciously work to achieve the goal,” added Covey. “The momentum picks up if you tell someone your goal. The act of stating your goal creates a sense of accountability for its completion.”
3. Are you wrestling with emotions or facts? Our emotions often guide us as we make decisions about what we want and what we should do. However, the time not to make a decision to give up is when we experience intense emotion. Reacting when we feel anger or embarrassment often results in behavior that leads us to say or do things we may regret later. Emotions are not facts. Talk to a trusted friend or colleague about how you feel whether or not you want to quit before you make a decision.
4. What are you afraid of? Thirteen years ago, I was terrified to be vulnerable. I left doing what I loved (speaking and writing) to do something I do something much safer (educational research). I am grateful for the opportunities that shaped me and helped me grow, but I believe I was more afraid of success than failure. I was particularly afraid of the open criticism that often follows those that experience success. ”Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,” explains Marianne Williamson, author of A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles, “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” A huge dream invites huge rewards and requires a huge commitment. We must also tap into the source of courage within us and into the jaws of fear, disappointment, and setbacks.
5. Would your life improve if you quit? There are times when we recognize a goal conflicts with other interests. Or you may discover your dream no longer appeals to you. For example, I was very active in theater when I was in high school. I took acting class as an adult and found I simply lost interest. If you don’t love it, don’t do it.
6. How would you advise your best friend or colleague if they wanted to talk to you about giving up? What would you say to your best friend if, after talking to you, they decided to give up on the dream? What if your best friend shared your same dream and was standing where you are at right now? This is a time to be your own best friend, your own cheerleader, your own supporter.
I invited Anne to tell me all about her recent experiences.
“Thank you for listening,” said Anne. “This path I’m on seems so uncertain. I feel blind.”
Sometimes the echos of the voices within the walls around us are actually the voices of our own inner chatter and the power we give to fear or frustration. It is at these times when we must simply stop trying so hard and trust we are moving forward. It is all about perspective; we can interpret unexpected events as “complications” or “arrows” that lead us deeper from where we’re at to where we want to go.
“What would you do if you were standing on the path you were looking for and your eyesight was perfect?” I asked.
“I hadn’t thought of that.”
Anne realized she had become so focused on all of the problems and complications that she was losing focus of her dream.
We do not have to force our dreams into existence. Mary Morrissey states, “It is more important that we welcome our dreams with joy, hope, and anticipation.” She adds, “As you reduce your resistance to your dream, you accelerate the speed at which it takes root, takes form, and blossoms into the magnificent experience we call – your life.”
Begin by tuning into all that is right and successful about today. Surrender to what is and trust fully in what will be.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to give up? What experiences would you share?