"Follow Your Dreams"; An Alternative Perspective

How often have you heard the suggestion ‘follow your dreams’? It’s a phrase that’s thrown out frequently, and with the best of intentions. If someone is using these words, they are likely encouraging others to make choices in life that are intentional and from the heart. The idea is that this will lead to increased overall satisfaction and happiness, and who doesn’t want that? The problem with this phrase is that most people have no compass to figure out how to follow their dreams, and what that really means or looks like.

Some people have more of an intuitive sense as to their natural inclinations and focusing their time on what they love in life. But for most people this doesn’t come naturally, and that is ok! Paying attention to our intuition, abilities, energy, calling or whatever you choose to call it is a fairly recent phenomenon. Even 100 years ago, there were a lot more social restrictions placed on one’s career or vocation. If you were born on a farm in a small town in Saskatchewan, you were unlikely to have strayed too far from farm work in the prairies. With advances in technology, it became increasingly more common to start moving to cities and choosing one’s own career path. The world has become a much smaller place. But with more choice doesn’t always come more freedom, or so it can feel. There’s no instruction in school on how to figure out what we love or what we want to do in our life. Even career class in grade 10 failed me in this attempt, leaving me with an online quiz that told me my destiny was to become a cabinet maker or funeral director. This was left largely ignored by my grade 10 self, and I was left to make unguided decisions about my future at a fairly young age.

Without understanding what gives you energy and joy in life, it can be understandably frustrating to hear someone encourage you to ‘follow your dreams’. I definitely sympathize if you’ve ever felt this way before. I recently read about a new way to approach this situation, by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic. I am probably the thousandth person to quote this book in a blog because it is so incredibly accessible, inspiring and makes the reader want to instantly create. Elizabeth Gilbert encourages people who are struggling with this to follow their curiosity in place of following their dreams.

If we haven’t fully formed our thoughts or opinions on what we love in life, we can start by paying attention to where our curiosities lie. Our desires won’t always fall into our laps. Sometimes it takes courage and experimentation to jump into things that are new to us and find out what creates joy. Who knows what will come from signing up for that belly dancing or pottery class or volunteering at your local community centre. There are so many ways to follow your curiosity and intentionally seek out what you love to do. Hopefully by doing enough of this exploring, you can begin to answer the question of how to ‘follow your dreams’ in your own unique way. I look forward to exploring this topic again in my next post. Stay tuned