Are Your Dreams Impairing Your Happiness?

Posted in Balanced Lifestyle, Balanced Mind and Soul | November 27, 2011 |

What would a life be without a dream? – A very boring existence, that’s what.

We all have dreams that help us move from one point in life to the other one.

In winter we dream about warm summer days and a well-deserved vacation.

While growing up we dream about who we want to be, how many kids we want to have, sometimes even who we want to marry.

Once we establish our families we start dreaming about seeing our kids grow up.

After long years of work we dream about retirement and the wonderful peaceful place that we will move to.

Our dreams keep us going in life, get us through tough periods and give us hope and goals to work for.

“How, in the world, can they ruin my happiness?” – you are asking me then.

I knew a guy once who had trouble finding a girlfriend. He was smart, attentive, kind and a wonderful person all over. He just had a dream of finding a girl who was way taller than he was. Of course, by setting his expectations so “high” he created a dream that was practically unrealistic to obtain. He is forty now and he still hasn’t found his dream girl.

Another girl that I knew had a dream of building an amazing career and starting a family at the same time. Obviously her dreams were conflicting all the time making her feel miserable instead of relishing the joys of motherhood or finally making that coveted step up the career ladder.

You are probably thinking, “This is nothing that I should worry about.” Please allow me to disagree.

Dreams are powerful motivators in life but they can trick you into losing your happiness. Here is how:

1. You dream without ever doing

A dream is pretty much your ideal life vision. If all you do is dream about the future but never focus on the steps that it takes to make that vision a reality then you cut out all the chances of ever reaching that dream. Recent research found out that images that your mind creates when you dream about your future are enough for your brain to consider this dream a reality and release hormones that make you feel relaxed and accomplished. While this function is excellent when you are trying to release daily stress it is absolutely useless in motivating you to bring your dream into reality.

How to make your dream come true: Try to visualize your dream with as many details as possible. Now think about all the necessary steps to materialize your dream. Create several scenarios depending on what hurdles can get in your way. Think of possible obstacles and how you can overcome them. Now you can keep dreaming but also start taking steps towards your dream.

2. You use dreams to cover up your fears or insecurities

Did you ever hear a person say “If I were younger, I would have…” “If I didn’t have the responsibilities of … I would have …” “If I didn’t have to work, I would …”
Dreams like these create a bulletproof excuse to never reach them or achieve happiness in life. Instead of focusing on what you have achieved in life and how you can use this knowledge to fulfill your dreams you focus on all the reasons why you can’t reach your ideal future.

You are covering up your fear of rejection and failure that ruin your dream forever. This is negative thinking at its best.

How to make your dream come true: take a look at your dreams and see if you are covering them up with any excuses or if you subconsciously create dreams that are impossible to reach.

Try to find out if there is some fear hiding behind that dream. The only way to address that fear is straight on.

For any excuse that keeps you from reaching your dream find 5 counter-arguments why you can bring your dream to reality. Now go back to the previous paragraph and create your practical plan for your happy future.

If after everything you do you still fail to reach your dream then at least you have cleared room for another dream. Keep reading to learn why it’s good to change your dreams.

3. You don’t let your dreams grow with you

Can you imagine if all of us stuck to the dreams that we had when we were 6-7 years old? Who did you want to be back then?

I wanted to be a teacher at school because I thought that grading papers with red ink was the best thing in the world. I used to make my dolls “write” in the notebooks and then I would find all their mistakes and with huge satisfaction give them a “D” and call their parents for a meeting. I would hate to be the student of such a mean teacher! I’m so happy that my dream changed when I grew up.

However, a lot of dreams that we get as adults also have to change when we transition in life.

If in college you dream about a huge career advancement it doesn’t mean that you have to stick to this goal when you start a family.

And you don’t have to stick to the dream of retiring in a place that you visited for your honeymoon just because you have such wonderful memories associated with it (you know, that place probably has changed in the past 40 years.)

How to make your dream come true: let your dreams grow and change with you. There is nothing wrong with moving on to the next dream if you feel that you’ve outgrown your present one. As you get wiser with age your dreams also improve, expand and become more direct.

4. You limit your dreams

For some reason a lot of people limit how big they can dream and how many dreams they can have. Of course, this is not the worst thing in the world as you can stay completely focused on your dream and actually make it your reality. However, what happens when you reach that dream? All of a sudden you start feeling very empty, lonely and lost like a blind kitten.

How to make your dream come true: There is no limit to how many or how big your dreams can be. Just make sure that whenever one dream is accomplished you have another one to keep you going.

5. You are afraid to let your dream go

Some dreams are not meant to happen. A lot of times something much greater than you could ever dream about happens in your life. It’s important to savor those moments of complete happiness and accomplishment. It’s okay to let your dream go and refocus on the present.

Other dreams just become obsolete and irrelevant over time. Let them pass away and don’t get upset about not fulfilling your dream. Move on to the next one.

How to make your dream come true: just let it go. Focus on another dream that is meant for you.

6. You choose the wrong time to fulfill your dream

Timing is everything. Most of our dreams are long-term goals that don’t have a deadline.

Ever since I got interested in Pilates I wanted to have my own Pilates studio. I thought “I need to have it running by the time I am 30. Then I can focus on starting a family and everything else.” Of course back then I had no idea that I will be blessed with twins at the age of 23 and will be living in a different country.

Today I am happy raising my girls and teaching only several hours a week. One day when the girls get older I might “renew” my dream of having a Pilates studio but right now I am not interested in running a business. I am completely happy where I am in life.

How to make your dream come true: If you feel that no matter what you do you run in yet another dead end then you might need to take a different road right now. Your dream might have to wait for the opportune moment. What is going on in your life right now that is important and meaningful? Maybe you are living a dream that you couldn’t even imagine. You just haven’t realized how blessed you are to be at this point in life. Promise yourself to get back to your dream in a year or two. If it’s meant to be then your persistence will pay off.

Dreams are powerful. Life loses all its colors when we stop dreaming but it’s so important to keep your dreams in balance with who you are right now.

Today I dream about moving to a Caribbean island.

I dream about making Balance In Me the ultimate life balance portal that will help people from different roads of life to find their balance.

I dream about running virtual Pilates workshops and retreats.

I dream about seeing my girls grow up and choose their path in life.

And every day I make a step towards making these dreams come true while enjoying the blessings that I already have in life.

What are your dreams? How do you make them come true?

Keep it balanced!

Photo credit: Gabriela Camerotti

Smart Thoughts (14)

  1. Sarah says:

    Thank you so much for this post, Anastasiya; it’s so timely for me. It is so important to have goals and dreams in life, but they can become so much larger-than-life that they overwhelm us (especially those of us with a streak of perfectionism) to the point that we give up before we even try. And it’s so easy to believe that “happiness” is itself a goal, that you will achieve “someday” – but I think it’s more useful to think of happiness as a means to realizing your dreams, rather than an end in itself!

    • Anastasiya says:

      It’s true, Sarah. I know from personal experience how destructive perfectionism can be. If I try to reach perfection every time that I set a goal I end up never competing what I started. It’s ironic that the more perfect we try to be the further we move from the ideal that we set in front of ourselves.
      Thank you for reminding everyone here that happiness is something we should feel every day and not look for it some day, some where.

  2. Donna says:

    Yes very good reminder re happiness to help achieve a goal, I really like that one! After reading your article, Anastasiya, I have just felt the freedom of letting go (not giving up) of a long held dream to find my soul mate, marry and start a family. This has been my dream since I was a young teenager! I have been through many long and happy enough relationships, but have left all of them and currently in one now that isn’t going so well. I know I am going through alot of self-growth right now and closing doors on old behaviors too, so its been tough, but I am hanging in there. I resonated with the feeling of coming up against ‘road blocks’. I have just realised that perhaps I need to let go of this long held ambition to marry, which I have always felt would be some mark that I have made it, that I must be perfect now to be loved.

    I think its best to refocus on finding my true dharma (passion) in life and my career, live authentic to who I really am, and seeking that balance between what my heart and heads needs/wants. I feel that is the key…take yourself to the place where you are truly loving life and the right man will show up. So I am not giving up on being with my life partner, just refocusing to what really will make me feel whole on my own.

    • Anastasiya says:

      Donna, I believe that the best things in life happen when we don’t expect them. By focusing on yourself right now you will open up opportunities for the right relationship to knock on your door. After all, our first serious relationship is the one with ourselves. I am sure that you will find your partner when the time is right for you :-)

  3. My dream is live fully as an Art Epicurean – someone who fully enjoys the simple luxuiries of life. For me that is painting, cooking and eating great meals and peace in my soul- Paint,Eat, Be. I work towards this end a bit each day. Ultimately to earn a livlihood from painting is the ultimate dream! Great post and food for thought.

  4. Sheikh says:

    Thanks for important tips for ” How to nurture ,care and achieve our dream along with the other blessing of our life.”

    This week I dreamed about planting a seasonal vegetables in my kitchen garden.
    Seed has been prepared and a small piece of land has been identified for it.
    On Sunday morning I will be planting and watering.I hope to be a beautiful garden and enjoy with the fresh vegetable in near future .

    • Anastasiya says:

      Good luck with you garden Sheikh! I enjoy growing plants too, especially vegetables and herbs. It’s so gratifying to see how little sprouts and seeds that we plant turn into beautiful plants that we can enjoy day after day.

  5. zahra says:

    This post is a wake up call for all dreamers. What I get out of this post is how the power of dreaming can affect a life; if we learn to be mindful of our dreams and analyse them regularly we can find passion, work path and true meaning for our whole life.Thanks for this wonderful post.

    • Anastasiya says:

      You are right, Zahra. Dreams are very powerful sources of self discovery. If we pay enough attention to what we REALLY want in life we can change completely the course of our life, our habits and anything else that doesn’t align with who we really are. We just have to harness the power of dreaming and use it to live our most gratifying and balanced life.

  6. jared says:

    Great article. I totally agree.

    For most of my life the hope and dream of something better or reaching my ideal self was all I had. Yet that hope provided enough security to keep me, well, stuck or going through the motions for a long time.

    My fear was: what happens if I do try to reach for what I dream of and fail? Or WORSE YET, what happens if I achieve it and I’m still miserable? Then I’m really screwed.

    I think I realized early on that it wouldn’t matter. That no matter what I achieved I would never be truly satisfied with life. Although I later discovered after reaching a point of desperation, that’s not the case.

    The key as you mentioned really is to lower expectations. Maybe not lower them so much as keep them realistic–which sounds better (I personally like to almost eliminate them all together).

    “You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” – Joseph Campbell

    Or as Nora Walker put it in an episode of Brothers & Sisters, “You have to give up on the life you dreamed of to find the life that’s waiting for you.”

    It’s like when people in relationships constantly try to get back to “the way things were.” It’s a limiting view and nothing will ever be as we dreamed it will be or how it was. It has the ability to be so much better than we could have ever imagined.

    Just as things are never as bad as we imagined or created in our heads, so too things are never as great as we imagined or dreamed.

    Gee, I hope this doesn’t all sound negative. I’m not saying life is a drag. Quite the opposite, it’s more beautiful then ever when we can just be OK with ourselves, lower expectations and enjoy the journey.

  7. noch says:

    indeed – it’s ok to let some dreams go. i need to keep reminding myself that, and not beat myself up over it. thanks for reminding me :)

  8. Kay says:

    Lovely post. :)

  9. Judy Belmont says:

    Anastasiya – What a creative piece and so true – as a self-help author myself, I always appreciate a different twist in this personal development space. I do believe that looking for happiness can bring you only so far – as research has shown that people are notoriously bad at predicting what will make them happy. Dreams are a great topic – I encourage my therapy clients as well as my readers to be defined by their dreams and not their disappointments, but you have shown that even being defined by dreams can be a problem if taken too far. Author Harold Kushner has spoken of “The Tyranny of the Dream! ” Thank you for the post! I saw you on your guest blog entry on the great site “Change your Thoughts, Change Your Life” and my “Fact vs. Fiction” entry was right below yours. You might enjoy that also.
    Judy Belmont, Author, The Swiss Cheese Theory of Life