When is the Right Time to Give Up on a Dream?

Last week I delved into the topic of when to quit. This woman weighed in with another great answer from the perspective of someone who followed her dream but eventually gave it up. A lot of younger women worry about how long they should pursue a dream, particularly if it is in the arts or an area where it is hard to “get a break”. Many people offer the advice that you should never give up on a dream. This woman has a different point of view. Be realistic after a certain point, there are other ways to let your passion enrich your life.

The idea of “never giving up on your dream” is actually terrible advice. I was a musician in a band for many years and that fallacy combined with the fact that a lot of mediocre people in the world “make it” kept me hanging onto a dream that I had outgrown long before I was willing to let myself open up to all the other possibilities in world. You don’t have to LOVE what you do. You have to LIKE what you do and LOVE your life. This means feeling fulfilled and accomplished, but it also means cultivating healthy relationships, and moving through the world in a way that makes you feel good about yourself and also enriches those around you.

Let’s face it-most of us are not Picasso or Cate Blanchett or Lady Gaga or Jane Austen but that doesn’t mean we can’t lead fascinating, wonderful lives and be passionate about a lot of different things instead of paralyze ourselves with some outdated identity or “dream” that often limits potential for other things.??  You know yourself.  If your “dream” has stopped bringing you joy or feels like a dead end it may be time to re-evaluate. I would say to follow your dream but with the blinders off.  Realize that a 25 year old dream can be very different from a 35 year old dream and that’s FINE. So much of what I learned playing in bands and touring all those years helped to prepare me for what I do now, and I really like what I do now. I would never want to be back in a bus or a van with a bunch smelly guys ever again. I love my life!”

Two interesting points here. One, you can take different parts of your dream and apply it in your life. She realized after all those years of touring that she was awesome at logistics, understood financials and never would have stage fright presenting. But she also realized she could enjoy music in other ways: doing some dee-jaying on the side and just participating in the music scene or simply including it in her life.

The second point is that you don’t have to have passion that is also your career…it’s okay to just enjoy what you do. So many people who aren’t blessed with a talent envy the people who do have a passion for what they “do”. And some that do have a passion envy those that don’t have to work so hard to make their talent pay off. It can be a catch-22. She doesn’t regret following her dream to make it in the music world and made a living on it well into her 30s. But she found  it was easy to get lulled into the thinking that it can happen because you’re better than mediocre people who do make it big… whether it be a lucky break or their timing was right. So be realistic about what is right for your timing. Think about what you want to be doing when you’re 50. For her it was, “Do I still want to be hanging out with rockers having the same conversation about who is better Pearl Jam or Nirvana?”

Her answer was no. Of course there is the rare person who does get a break later in life so you just have to ask yourself that question if it is still giving you joy. In your twenties you don’t have to cross that bridge yet. But think about what other skills you’re learning and what you like to do so when it comes time to make that decision you have options. It doesn’t have to be a big light bulb. She just assessed what she liked to do. She knew she liked her independence. She didn’t want to own her own business but she did want to be her own boss. She liked meeting people and reazlied she could pitch anything in front of anyone. She found a job that fulfilled those requirements and realized there was more to life than her job…friends, wine, food, interests. And now, as she says, she loves her life.

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