September 13, 2016

The Dark Side of Living our Dreams.

Wiki Commons

We all have an ideal life we dream of, but often there’s such a big gap between where we are and where we want to be it’s hard to know where to start.

Add to that the challenges of our busy lives and current commitments, and that dream can soon seem impossible.

At age 30 I found myself trapped in a long-term relationship I’d outgrown, stuck in a corporate job I hated and trying to fit in and be what I thought the world wanted of me, not who I truly was. In fact I didn’t even know who I truly was and as a result I was unhappy and unfulfilled. But I was lucky enough to put myself on the path to transform my life into one I loved.

Fast forward three years and those dreams are a reality. I changed my career from head of HR to author and yoga teacher, I figured out my passions and I walked away from everything that wasn’t working and rebuilt my life around what would. My 9-5 was replaced with world travel, days on the beach filming video blogs, writing in cafés and interviewing people I’d long admired and wanted to learn from.  I trained to be a yoga teacher and lived in ashrams across the world. I volunteered teaching English to Buddhist monks and learned to meditate and I blogged about my story and wrote my first book.

But it hasn’t all been a bed of roses and whilst I have never regretted my decision there are times when I miss the familiarity and ease of my former life. It’s strange going from living with a partner of seven years to suddenly being alone, missing the security of a regular income, holiday and sick pay. The familiarity of knowing what each day would hold, even if it wasn’t what I wanted. I was gripped with fear about the unknown: What if I failed? What if I’d made the wrong choice and what were people thinking of me? Many of even my closest friends thought I was crazy for turning my back on what looked like a “successful” life.

I naively assumed that once I found my purpose and followed my dreams the Universe would take care of everything for me. Now that I was aligned surely it was only a matter of time before I was a best-selling author and running yoga retreats in Bali, right?

But the universe didn’t keep its side of the bargain—why should it? It’s our dream, our responsibility and we’re naive to assume it’s going to be easy or handed to us on a plate. But if it’s our passion, if it makes us happy surely it’s worth working hard for. Navigating the hard times can make the success taste all the more sweet.

And the hard times came.

I was paying money so I could work for free and the pressure of having no income at a time when my bank account was empty was telling. Not only that, but there was no money to pay for things like marketing and web design so I was having to learn to do this myself too. I was doing what I loved but I was also having to do all the things that came with that which I didn’t really love. It was also a huge learning curve and at times I was way out of my depth. I ended up tired, frustrated and my motivation disappeared.

I was supposed to be living my dream and whilst I never expected it to be easy I wasn’t counting on it being this hard.

The fear of failure was compounded by the small numbers I got to classes and no-shows at events, negative comments and those who simply didn’t believe in me (including myself). This fuelled my self doubt and it also made me consider: what if they were right? All those people who said I was crazy and that I could never do it, what if that’s true?

But no one ever said it was easy. Even today there are ups and downs, successes and failures and times it feels a little too hard, but I continue to work at my passion every day, often along side other jobs that pay my bills.

I look back now on the day I felt like I was on the brink of failure and ready to give it all up.  Ironically this came just weeks before the launch of my first book, the dream I’d worked so hard for over the last couple of years. At a time when all the dreams I’d had were about to come to fruition, I was ready to throw in the towel. So what stopped me and what did I learn?

When I hit rock bottom I decided I needed a day off. I spent the day putting perspective around this and trying to work out how I could regain my motivation at what was such an important point in my journey. I began to think, if I gave up now all that hard work to date would be for nothing, after all, this is still my dream and I’ve never been closer than I am now. What if success is just around the corner and I throw in the towel when I’m so close? I turned to those who’d been here before and managed to overcome it in a bid to be inspired by them and this is what I learned and what ultimately put me back on track.

Sometimes we need to take a break, even from the things we love.

Taking a few days off not only helped me get over exhaustion but it rekindled my motivation. I found the passion in living my dream again after hitting the off switch for a short time to rejuvenate my mind and soul. My new energy also brought fresh ideas to help me progress. Here’s what I learned from the experience:

Never forget to celebrate the successes and reflect on how far we’ve come.

Focus on what we have rather than what we don’t have. Comparing my following to those who were “successful” I was always falling short. How do they get thousands of followers and why do I only have a few hundred? Ironically, a year ago I would have been happy with just one hundred. I started to focus on what was going well and the amazing things I’d achieved this year.

I remembered why I’m doing this and recalled what I used to do and why I made this change. This gave me gratitude for having made the change and got to this point and made me realise that I wouldn’t want to go back. Recalling my “why” helped me reaffirm the meaning and purpose behind what I was doing and made the struggles worth battling. My motivation was not the money or the class numbers, it’s not the social media followings or the press coverage. It’s helping other people, inspiring them and knowing what I write helps even just one other person. This is my definition of success so why had I been measuring my success in numbers and money?

I spent time considering the barriers I faced within myself, my fears that had been holding me back. Fear of failure and of others not approving. I was frustrated that many of my closest family and friends either didn’t understand what I was doing or thought I was mad (or both in some cases). I felt alone and it made it harder not feeling like I was supported. I realised that I doubted my own ability and if I was worried I might fail of course they would be too. How can I expect anyone else to believe in me unless I believe in myself?

I learned to accept the struggles and learn from them. For every tough time we encounter we can ask ourselves: what lessons is this teaching us and how we can use it? Now that I’ve been through this and come out of the other side I can help others in similar situations and when I speak it’ll come from a place of real experience and that’s powerful. It also means that what wasn’t working before I can reattempt having the wisdom to try something different, it may fail again but each time I am closer to succeeding based on what I learn from my failures. Which leads me to the final point—perseverance, not giving up, even when it feels tough and we’re tired.

By putting these tips into practice I found ways to overcome the struggles and move forward closer to my dreams with the same passion and motivation that started me on this journey in the first place.


Author: Jess Stuart

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Editor: Katarina Tavčar

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