A client of mine, not content with what he was doing for a living and desiring to improve the quality of his life, came up with a checklist of projects, any one of which could deliver him the life he wanted.
Unfortunately, in his spare time, of which there was an ample amount, he did not pursue any of these projects. He reported to me that he was unable to do so because he was depressed, he had no energy, he had no motivation, and he couldn't focus. He asked me what I could do to help him.
The first thing that I did to help him was to point out to him that all of his reasons for not tackling his projects were excuses that had no basis in reality.
I was able to say this because when he wasn't working on his projects, he would work on a hobby that demanded a great deal of artistry and attention to detail. Additionally, he had a desire to do volunteer work for a local organization, and he had already taken steps to make that happen.
Both of these efforts required energy, drive, and motivation. Therefore, it was not accurate for him to say that he lacked these qualities when attempting to pursue his dreams or that he was too depressed to accomplish anything. He had already demonstrated his ability to be quite effective when he put his mind to something. In regard to his dream projects, he was simply choosing not to do so.
The reason for this is not complicated. He's afraid. He's afraid he will fail. He's afraid his work will be rejected. He's afraid of the shame he will feel from rejection and failure. To avoid that shame, he chooses to do nothing. Unfortunately, at the same time, he's choosing the perpetuation of an unsatisfying life.
Many of us are like him, in that we are afraid to go after our dreams, we are afraid to find out if we've got the goods or not, we are somehow more content within our discontentment to keep our pipe dreams alive and never truly test ourselves.
We discussed the value of not waking up one day, old and gray, regretting that we never went after our dreams, that we never gave ourselves the chance to win, that we never took our shot. We talked about the pain of looking back and saying to ourselves, "If only I had tried, I might have made it happen."
There are many reasons, besides the risk of future regrets, for going after our dreams:
It's possible that we might succeed right out of the gate.
It's possible that we might not succeed initially, but learn from our efforts, hone our skills, and succeed at future attempts.
It's possible that we will discover that we don't have the chops, that we're not good enough to compete in this realm, and then we switch gears, pursue another dream project and realize success in this alternative venue.
Many people have started out seeking fame and fortune in one area, have encountered resistance and repeated failures, only to have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams when they put aside that path and found the right form of expression of their passion.
Certainly, there's always the disappointing scenario that we pursue our dreams, things don't work out, we change course, things still don't work out, and we finally give up.
The important point to realize, should this outcome happen (which is the one possibility that keeps most of us from going after our dreams in the first place), is that shame from rejection and failure will not kill us, that we can and will get over it, and that it's best to discover if we can pull off our dreams or not, because if we can't, then it behooves us to accept this, put our energy into counting our blessings, being grateful for what we've got, and making the most out of our lives, rather than coexisting with angst and frustration.
Bottom line: In more cases than not, it's worth it to take our shot and not sit on the sidelines because, oftentimes, the process of going after our dreams yields all sorts of adventures and unique life experiences that make the journey worthwhile, even if we never reach our fantasy destination.
It would serve us well to keep in mind, when we are afraid to pursue our dreams because of our fear of failure, that we all can't be Rocky Balboa, we all can't beat Apollo Creed or Clubber Lang. But that's not what made Rocky great.
What made Rocky Balboa great was that he took his shot, he went the distance. That was his success. Facing his fear and going after his dream in spite of it was his Eye of the Tiger.
Facing our fear and going after our dream in spite of it is our Eye of the Tiger.
Our success is in our doing, whether we win, lose or draw.