I have a button—big and round, the kind that has a pin in back where you can wear it—of a little girl letting go of a bright balloon. The caption says simply: “Follow Your Dreams.”
Cheesy, I know! But I’ve had this now for thirty-five years—when the writing bug bit me and never let go. Now faded but not brittle, that little girl and her balloon still inspire me.
You’ve had dreams too. Some you followed once, some that you’re aspiring to now. And some that fell off somewhere in the bar ditch along the winding road of “real” life.
Perhaps one that’s brand new. And that little voice within is still saying, “You can’t do that. You have kids to raises. A job to keep. A mortgage to pay. Stick with what pays the bills.”
You know that voice. It’s not a new one. In fact, it’s the declaration that speaks loudest in your psyche, the one trying to keep you safe. That noisy screech when you ask, “Should I follow my dreams,” answers quick and strident and sure. And that answer is always a resounding, “No!”
Doesn’t matter your age. Anytime you even consider the idea to follow your dreams, that ego rises straight up to keep you on the conformist path. The road that’s tried and true and others have successfully traversed it. “We will be safer here,” the ego says. “Why make our lives harder?”
I always remember what Joseph Campbell said about the well-worn trail: “If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s.”
Pretty much! Your road is yours and yours alone to carve out. You may study the map of another, but if you’re truly following your dreams, you’ll track on twists and turns and meet trolls under the bridge there solely for you.
There are always dark places on the road of dreams. That’s what all the myths have been trying to tell us for thousands of years. The demons in those stories, although external, mirror the terrifying ones within. Rare is the person who had no internal foes fighting against her.
And a common one is that we fear change. No matter how much we desire our goals, our dreams, the prizes at the end, we have to walk through change to get there.
Horrors! You mean I can’t write the Great American Novel without altering my life? I can’t become the CEO of the greatest company in the world by hanging out in my basement? Didn’t Steve Jobs and Bill Gates do that? Oh, right—that was when they were creating the concept. Not much basement hanging once the idea got rolling.
Change comes with this territory, like a perpetual sign along the way: Like your life? Take a hard left.
And just a ways down the left-hand road, you can already see the potholes.
Of course, that’s if you’re of an age to have stumbled upon them before! Before then, well, let’s just agree that ignorance is bliss 🙂
So why do all of that? Why let go even a semblance of a cushy life, for one fraught with all sorts of demons and peril?
Because you need to. It’s your part in the play, and far worse monsters will eat you from the inside if you don’t take on your role. At best, you’ll be left with a life that is not authentically you. And deep within, in that place where the dream was born, a deadness will grow. You will not experience what it means to be truly you.
Now, that’s a tragedy.
Our world needs you to pursue your dreams as well. Nowhere in history (that I can find) has the planet more direly needed dreamers. Okay, maybe the Dark Ages! Many times in human history have been dreary indeed. But a more perilous state for humankind than now I’ve not found.
You and the world go hand in hand. Because it’s those with the courage to follow their dreams who enrich this Earth. The dreamers are those who bring meaning to this crazy existence, who show what is possible, and what it means to be fully human.
I can’t think of a better reason to follow your dreams than that.
As Joseph Campbell so famously said:
“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”
Now, what is the dream awaiting you?