I recently did a post about changing dreams and it received a lot of positive feedback! If you’re new and missed that post you can read it here. I thought it might be interesting to talk about chasing dreams as a continuation of the discussion that started with my ‘changing dreams’ post. Once we know what our dreams are, the next step is to chase them. I think it’s important to chase dreams because it’s not enough just to have them. We can have hundreds of dreams, but what happens to them if we don’t actively pursue them? Well, they probably fall to the wayside and we forget they even exist.
So, we need to begin actively pursuing our dreams once the dreams take form. Rather than offer specific, listed steps, I want to have a discussion about methods for pursuing our dreams. I believe that pursuing your dreams is an art form. Chasing your dreams takes dedication, perseverance, and grit. You have to be willing to fail and fail again because chances are you won’t have your dreams handed to you after exerting minimal effort. However, you have to have the grit to keep going even when you think it’s probably best to just say “whatever, I’m getting cheese fries,” and walking away.
I read an article recently that was talking about the importance of grit and the fact that a high IQ isn’t enough to be successful. The article’s main point was that truly successful people put the work into whatever job they’re doing. Harvey Specter, the handsome attorney on Suits, once said: “The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary.” I couldn’t agree more with that statement. I used to get so immensely frustrated when people I knew would score super high on standardized tests, like double digit points higher than me, only to waste opportunity after opportunity. I have never been a great test taker. If I can study material and apply it, I’m golden. However, the whole standardized test issue gave me sleepless nights, panic attacks, and a lot of tears. I know people who scored well over 2000 on the SAT (I took the SAT in the period where it was out of 2400 rather than 1600), got into great schools, but totally flopped when they got there. Here is the key: how well someone can score on a test gives the minimal indication of what their work ethic is or how badly they actually want to do the thing that follows. Sure, someone can get into Harvard, but do they even want to go to college? Sure, someone can get into UC Berkeley, but can they actually do the work to succeed once there? By this, I don’t mean “do the work” as it relates to the intellect. Rather, I mean can they “do the work” as it relates to work ethic. Are the going to put in long hours at the library or attend class regularly? I’m fairly certain the number on their SAT scantron won’t tell you that information.
I once felt that my inability to take the SAT or the LSAT well prevented my foot from getting in the door. It’s like I went to step into a building and suddenly the door shut before my foot could cross the threshold. Now, I’m not trying to make this a rant about how standardized tests are ruining the dreams of young people across the nation… while I feel like they certainly impede them sometimes, I’m not that naive as to make such a blanket proclamation. However, I think we can find analogies to the standardized test game in many aspects of life. Going for a promotion? Maybe it’s a big assignment that’s standing in your way. Trying to get a job a top 10 firm? Well, you’re having trouble getting an interview. To return to my “getting your foot in the door” explanation, I firmly believe that in life, most of us are most concerned about the foot. Once we get our foot in the door, we can accomplish what we need to relatively easily. However, our foot hasn’t crossed the threshold. It’s as if we’re living an episode of Vampire Diaries where we’re the vampire who hasn’t been invited in (you’ll need to watch the show to see what I mean or watch a clip on YouTube both of which I recommend). So, how do we ensure that our foot will get over that threshold and we have an opportunity to reach our dreams?
I would say the biggest piece of advice I’ve gotten that I agree with is that networking can create opportunities where there weren’t any before. Only roughly 20% of available jobs get posted. Let that sink in. So many opportunities aren’t public but are available only if you know someone or know someone who knows someone. I think the more you can network, the more you are creating opportunities to reach your goals. Actively chasing your goals means talking to people who are where you want to be and figuring out how they got there (i.e. so you can get there, too). Additionally, I think actively chasing your dreams requires you to take risks. If you aren’t sure whether graduate school is possible, look into more and apply! If you aren’t sure whether to go to college away from home, but you know the program is better, take the risk. If you get to point B and hate it, you can reroute back to point A or figure out a new path and head to point C. I don’t recommend blindly taking risks, I think you should do your due diligence first. However, I don’t recommend taking so much time to think it over you miss your chance entirely either.
Therefore chasing your dreams seems to be about balancing the ability to go after what you want with building relationships. Chasing dreams is easier when people are willing to give you advice, give you a heads up when the perfect opportunity for you arises, etc. Chasing dreams is also easier when you’re willing to fight for what you want. To circle back a bit, you have to have grit. You have to work hard to see the trade off. If you feel like you’re pouring energy into something and nothing is coming from it, reevaluate and come up with a new plan. You can chase a dream to the end of the earth, only to realize you weren’t chasing it at all. Sometimes we believe we have amazing strategies… but in practice, they yield zero results. If this is the case, we have to be able to acknowledge this and move on to something that’ll deliver.
This post is long and I’m not sure I said everything I wanted to say, but I think the gist of what I wanted to convey is present. What I wanted to convey is that we can’t chase dreams if we aren’t willing to run. You have to put work in and you have to figure out what work will be able to deliver the result you envision.
How do you chase your dreams?