Why Living the Dream Isn't the Goal

Ah, living the dream. Books have been written and companies have been founded on this idea of living the dream. We all have dreams. Maybe your dream is to sell your startup and retire at age 40. Maybe your dream is to become a well-known author. Maybe your dream is to buy a small island and start your own country. Maybe your dream is to become a top-rated online poker player. Maybe your dream is to travel to every country in the world. Maybe your dream is to earn an honest living doing something you love.

These are all wonderful and worthy aspirations to work towards. The danger is that too much attachment to “living the dream” can lead us to have a misguidedly one dimensional focus. It may lull us into buying the comforting thought that once we do this, or once we get there, or once we have that, everything else will fall magically in place. But a single milestone accomplishment can never unlock the wonders of a life well-lived. Having tunnel vision can take you out of presence, so you miss out on your life as it is happening right now.

“Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Another thing to watch for when in hot pursuit of “living the dream”: make sure you wrestle that dream to the ground with a healthy dose of reality, so you’re not surprised or disappointed when you get there. Don’t pin your hopes on a dream may that is desirable only because it is unattainable. Living the dream is not the aim. The hope is that we can live rich, full lives, rooted in reality, here on Earth, as our authentic selves, with our issues, warts and all.

One important truth is often missed by many inspirational speakers and writers when they’re painting a compelling vision of “living the dream” in order to draw you forward into action. When you start to turn up the volume and intensity of your life (aka “living the dream”), it doesn’t mean that you’ll suddenly become immune to hardship and struggle. In fact, it is usually the opposite. Leaving the safety and security of what you know almost guarantees there will be more hardship for you, at least in the near term. We intuitively know this on some level. This is why it’s often hard to take the first steps to change, even when we know change is needed. But if you find the courage, your life will likely be richer for it.