Have you ever had a dream, a goal, a desire that came true – only to find out that the reality wasn’t what you expected? Disappointing, isn’t it? Devastating, even. And it can leave you confused about what you actually want in life.
It makes us wonder why we bother, why we strive for something more… But we have to have dreams and goals. They are what motivate us in life. The key is trying to figure out what will truly make us happy. Many people are surprised to find out it’s not what they thought.
Where our dreams come from
Our dreams and our visions of how life should pan out come from various places – adverts, childhood, the people in our lives. With so many adverts telling us that a car, a face cream or a new health regime will change our lives, it’s easy to get sucked into making that thing a dream. Maybe your favourite computer game as a child was Mario Kart and you spent years wanting to be a racing driver. Your relationships might be measured up against your parents’ own marriage – a ‘perfect’ marriage that’s too hard to achieve, or a difficult one that you’re aiming to avoid. And then there’s work. Many people spend years working themselves to the bone to get that all-important promotion or partner position… only to find out it isn’t what they’d imagined.
In a great podcast for The RE of Marketing, successful businessman Michael Owen (not the footballer!) talks about this exact situation. He spent years working harder, harder, harder, earning huge amounts of money to be able to afford the massive house with automatic gates on the driveway. He said those gates showed him that he’d achieved his goal. They were part of the dream. And then… the reality wasn’t what he’d imagined. To the point that his marriage broke down and they sold the house. The dream house. But, after a lot of soul-searching, he realised his dreams weren’t aligned to what made him happy. So, he scaled everything back, bought a smaller house, and he and his wife got back together and are now ten times happier than they were before.
So, how do we figure out what’s really important to us?
How to stop chasing the wrong dreams
There are a few steps we can take to try to create dreams and goals that will end in a satisfying and happy reality:
- Don’t measure yourself against others. Social media is a terrible catalyst in this. Everyone seems exuberantly happy and successful, posting pictures of their ideal family life, their expensive new car or clinking champagne glasses to celebrate the latest achievement. What you don’t see behind these pictures is the struggle they went through to get there. You don’t see the tantrum the kids threw while putting their shoes on to get out to the park. You don’t see the late nights, the missed time with loved ones and the daily stress at work that possibly preceded the promotion.
- Think about what you actually want. In a consumer world, it’s too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you want something. That’s what advertising does. But what everyone actually wants differs from person to person. And if what you do genuinely want is the big house and fancy car, then go for it. It will leave you with the sense of achievement and satisfaction that fulfilling a dream should do. But if saving up to go on a lovely family holiday to create experiences and memories is more important to you, then you shouldn’t feel bad about driving around in an old Ford Escort.
- Stop overthinking and look at what you’ve got. There’s a lot to be said for just taking a moment to look around and take stock. In our blog Finding Your Place On Life’s Spectrums, we discuss the idea of constantly wanting to be better at everything, as well as constantly striving to be happier… and almost looking for problems where there aren’t any. This is where we’re at risk of creating dreams that lead to a disappointing reality. It’s ok to be happy with your lot and appreciate it for what it is.
So, what about you? Have you ever achieved a dream that didn’t turn out as you expected in reality? If so, we’d love to hear about it in the comments, as well as how you dealt with it and moved forward.