I have a question for you: have you ever deliberately given up on a dream? Like, have you ever decided that it would be healthier/less frustrating/whatever to conclude that a particular dream is not worth pursuing, for whatever reason, and deliberately shelved it altogether? Or do you think it’s better to keep hope alive and continue to chase your dream down when you can, no matter how remote the outcome may be?

(There is context for why I’m thinking about this topic, of course, but I’d rather hear your thoughts on the subject in general instead of describing the specific issue or asking for advice.)

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Erin Baebler
10 years ago

I don’t think I’ve ever given up completely on a dream but I have deliberately put it on a shelf for later. Sometimes when you let it go for a while, it either becomes less important or the universe conspires to help you toward it. I just tell myself “Not now” and let myself off the hook a bit. It’s amazing what often happens.

Pete
Pete
10 years ago

Yes, I had a dream to build a house in the mountains of Colorado but the wife wouldn’t go for it. Now I have a dream of retiring in Oregon and build furniture. I also have a dream of finishing my software project but that will happen about the time of my other dream of being 160 pounds again.

JennB
JennB
10 years ago

If by dream, you mean my marriage, yes, in the last couple of years I’ve been unhappy and have considered shelving it. But that won’t make things in my life easier. We’re doing the work and pushing on, although I am tempted to tell people when they get married that their happiness won’t last. But that wouldn’t be very polite of me, now, would it?

I think we all have to reprioritize as our lives evolve… past decisions that we’ve made have to be lived with, and there will always be more opportunities to make new decisions. As long as we’re alive, there are dreams that come to the forefront or are shelved, for a week or a month or a decade. There’s always the opportunity to take that dream and put it back in your sights, when your situation changes. There’s always time.

Lyn
Lyn
10 years ago

Yes. I wanted more children desperately. I had one child that required more care/surgeries, I had an unusual home situation. I gave up the dream. It was a huge sacrifice but it was for the benefit of the child I had that needed my 100% attention and the unborn dreamt of ones I knew were better off not dealing with anything they might potentially face.

Penne
Penne
10 years ago

I think sometimes dreams have to change as life changes. Otherwise I’d still be holding out hope that Rick Springfield will show up with an engagement ring. That said, it’s okay to shelve it. If it keeps popping up in your thoughts and your heart then take it down, dust it off and examine it again.

Heather
Heather
10 years ago

Yes. For me, writing a book. I’ve come to realize that I’ve got so much going on in my life that I really just want to enjoy what others have written rather than work hard on my own novel. I could tell it was the right decision when the recognition of my choice didn’t hurt at all. And, like with parenting, not all choices/decisions have to be permanent.

Jill Browning
10 years ago

I’ve given up on the hope of having a second kid. My husband doesn’t want another, and most other aspects in our lives point towards no. I guess I don’t want it enough to keep fighting for it. But when you said yesterday that you look at your family and know that you’re all here… I don’t quite feel that. And it stings. Part of me will always wonder ‘what if?’.

PS. I tried the lip balm you recommend in your side column and love it! Jury’s still out on the skin cream… ;)

Liz
Liz
10 years ago

I’ve shelved dreams because the timing just wasn’t right.

I’ve also given up on dreams that I realized I either no longer wanted, or maybe never really wanted.

I think it’s okay for dreams to change too.

It’s not the dream that’s important; it’s the act of dreaming that truly matters.

Artemisia
10 years ago

I decided that I won’t pursue a PhD after all. It felt like I was so weak, but after making the decision I got my life back. I felt whole again. So, yes. Sometimes it is ok.

honeybecke
honeybecke
10 years ago

When I gave up on a dream because it seemed healthier to do so rather than to keep chasing it, I realized it wasn’t as easy as that. Then it nagged at me you know? So was that any healthier? Mentally? Not really. So I don’t think it’s quite as simple as giving up or not. If it’s truly a dream then it’s going to be there, in your head, regardless. I tend to shelve my dreams, then at least there is a hope to get to it someday.
Good luck with whatever you are wrangling with, don’t mind fuck yourself too much about it! Just let it come or go when it may.

Kate
Kate
10 years ago

Yes, for me it was a career plan. For the longest time I had a career path that I intended to follow, but would involve me going to graduate school, and making less money at first, etc. So I kept deferring it, but still wanting it, while it got further and further away.

And then, at some point, I was like, well, I know I DID want that, but realistically now, do I still? Fifteen years later, do I feel like starting over in a new career, when I’ve been pretty successful in this one? Do I want to sacrifice time with my family and have to work that hard? And is the end result actually as great as I thought it was when I was in college? I decided that the answer to all those questions was no, so I gave up the dream with only a little twinge and in my case, it’s been fine.

Mel
Mel
10 years ago

I’m in this place right now. Trying to decide if it is worth it to pursue my dreams. or just give up. The financial ramifications of my dream could be a little frustrating….

Amy
Amy
10 years ago

Yep. After 8 years of failed attempts to conceive and 3 failed IUIs and no money to pursue further medical intervention or adoption, I have given up the dream of ever being a mom. It IS the more healthy thing to do.

Leah
Leah
10 years ago

I don’t think I’ve ever deliberately given up on a dream. Maybe circumstances have forced me to focus elsewhere for a time or reassess my goals and path. I’d say it’s no longer a dream if you’re willing to give it up – dreams come an go all the time. However there is more than one way to skin a cat – broaden your scope, approach from a different but related angle blah blah. Persistence and creativity are key to getting what you want but what you want can change daily, there’s no shame in it. If it’s something you really care about I do think you should stay away from making it be all or nothing, that’s just not healthy.

Christine B
10 years ago

I think dreams change over time, and like others have said, sometimes you get to a point where you realize you don’t really want whatever it was anymore. That’s okay. :)

Amanda
Amanda
10 years ago

Sometimes dreams are things that force you to climb to greater heights, push your limits, become a better person, etc.

Sometimes dreams are frustrating wastes of time that keep you from attaining real productive goals that are actually within your grasp.

You can also outgrow dreams as your priorities change. Something that interested you a ton in your twenties could be a passing fancy in your thirties.

Sucks, but only you can know which one your dream applies to. I wanted to be a writer in my teens, but ended up a scientist, and now I’m a mom. Stuff changes. The important thing is that you are happy and don’t judge yourself for saying “this is no longer something I want/need/can do, so I’m shelving it.” And let that be that.

Wendy
10 years ago

I’m currently pregnant, working 50+ hours a week and parenting a three year old. I dream of writing and doing triathlons and going back to school to finish my phd but my life feels too full as is so I feel like I have to look at those dreams and say “not now”. Not now may turn into never but it feels easier to say not now. I try to remind myself that I can have all the things I want in my life, I just can’t have them all at the same time.

Crystal
Crystal
10 years ago

I gave up on moving back to my (awesome) hometown. My husband works in a very specific field that will only allow for living in certain geographic areas – since I make a piddly fraction of what he does (I’m a freelancer), his work will always determine where we live.

Faith
Faith
10 years ago

I think we want lots of things in life that may or may not be totally possible. If you want it bad enough AND things fall into place to make it possible, you can achieve it. But I find that more often than not, not everything we desire works out that way, despite our greatest efforts. People have died for dreams, some achieving them, and some not. I think all we can do is what makes us feel good about ourselves, and if a dream isn’t doing that for you anymore, then it’s best to let it go. If the pursuit of it DOES make you feel good about yourself, then who cares if the end goal is achievable or not? In the end, it was all about the journey.

Heather
Heather
10 years ago

Funny you should mention this. I think I am at a point in my life where certain dreams are turning into just that. Instead of stressing about what I’m not doing to achieve them, I think putting it down to pursue the things that are bearing fruit is ok. I have the issue with feeling guilty because I’ve told people of these dreams and not feeling like a loser because I haven’t reached them.

Renee from GA
Renee from GA
10 years ago

The energy required to keep a dream alive can be difficult to maintain. But when I tried to give up on something I really wanted, I felt a kind of hopelessness that was utterly draining. I’ve been stuck there sometimes, and it is really ugly.

I try walking a really, really fine line between being open and hopeful for life in general, and not pinning all my future happiness on a very specific circumstance (because my tendency is to let that mythical future totally jack my present). Sometimes I can’t even find the line, much less balance upright on it and walk straight, but I try.

Kim
Kim
10 years ago

I turn 43 in two weeks. Still no baby after years of trying and I know I’m coming to the end of what is acceptable as far as being realistic about it. Still something, I’m not sure what, is daring to keep hope alive.

Shalini
10 years ago

I’ve shelved dreams before for better times, but given up? I’ve tried, but I can’t seem to. In some ways it seems like life would be easier, but I don’t quite know how.

Lawyerish
10 years ago

I have practically made a career out of giving up on dreams — sometimes by choice, sometimes due to circumstances that made the dream impossible or impractical to pursue.

At 18, I gave up the dream of being a professional dancer for a whole host of reasons. It wasn’t the sort of thing I could just pick up and pursue later on, so when I chose to go to college, that was really the end of my ballet dream. It still haunts me, another 18 years later, although I can’t say I regret it, exactly. I just wish I’d given it more of a chance before giving it up.

Later on, after getting married, I dreamed of acting and pursued that for a while, but gave it up to go back to work because the financial struggle was too much. (There is a theme here, in that I almost always end up choosing the practical option rather than the more elusive dream.)

At two different points, I tried to go back to school to make a major career change. Once, I was rejected everywhere and didn’t want to wait another year to reapply. The other time, I was accepted everywhere but the timing was totally wrong for financial and family reasons (i.e., I got pregnant!).

Oh, and circumstances thwarted my dream of adopting a child, but that turned out for the best since now we have the perfect red-headed daughter we didn’t know we’d always dreamed of.

I’ve also given up on relationships that, in their time, held the promise of a dream-like future but weren’t right or didn’t come at the right time. I’ve shelved the dream of writing a book because it doesn’t seem like the right time, or I simply don’t have the energy to do it right now.

I don’t think any of these choices were wrong or bad, and while a lot of voices tell us these days that we’re supposed to chase our dreams and life is too short to waste and all that, I think reality is much more complicated. At all times, I’ve tried to make unselfish decisions that made sense in the context I was operating, since chasing a dream can impact lots of people — even if those people truly wanted my dream to succeed.

I think timing is everything, and my life wouldn’t be what it is today without each of these choices being made, so I really can’t complain. And who knows what the future will bring — what dreams, what realities, what surprises.

All that said, sometimes I still dream at night that I’m a dancer. Sometimes that loss still hurts. C’est la vie.

sherri
sherri
10 years ago

I don’t think we should ever give up on a dream. Change it perhaps, but not give it up. I think that we need our dreams however unrealistic or impossible they seem. They give us something to work towards and something to hope for.

jen
jen
10 years ago

Yes and no. I think with me my dreams are maybe temporarily shelved. But I always seem to come back to something if it’s truly what I want.

Although I do think it is okay to move on from a dream entirely. People grow up and change and there’s nothing wrong with saying well, that doesn’t fit me, anymore. I used to think I wanted some super awesome career and now I know that my kid is priority one. I don’t think I’ll ever have that career because of him. But I really, truly don’t care about the super awesome career. So I’d say I’ve grown out of/moved one from that one.

Ginger
Ginger
10 years ago

The thing about dreams is that we only imagine them from one viewpoint. Maybe we want desperately to be somewhere else and finally arrive there just in time for the trainwreck. Or we win/achieve our heart’s desire and end up feeling empty. Or maybe we overflow with joy. I don’t think we can know with any surety, but we can keep shifting or enlarging our viewpoint as we grow in age and experience.

Lauren
Lauren
10 years ago

I wish I could give up a dream and be done with it, instead of continuing to nurture it. My dream was simply to get married and have kids like any conventional American woman would dream, but at 44 with no prospects in sight, and an extremely poor track record with many on-line dating experiences, I know this dream is unlikely to come true. If only it was as simple as recognizing this and being able to move on.

Abby
10 years ago

Yes, I have. I had my own software development company, but finally had to face the fact that I was lousy at marketing myself. I’m glad I tried it, don’t regret giving it up. I still have dreams, just not that one.

Robyn
Robyn
10 years ago

I think you are talking about your dream of moving to your dream house, and since it’s yours AND JB’s dream, you should never give up!

Frondly
Frondly
10 years ago

I had a dream I would someday grow boobs.
Alas.

But seriously, I feel like you can’t go wrong taking the advice of this guy who knows this guy I know:

“Follow your talents and interests.”

Sande
Sande
10 years ago

Wow…lots of responses in just an hour. I gave up on having a child because I was told by two health professionals that it wouldn’t happen. It took seven years, but my (our) dream finally came true. So, no…don’t ever give up. Well, ok give up then maybe it will come true just like ours did! Seriously though, if your dream is attainable, don’t ever give up. It may take some time, but if you truly believe in yourself it will happen even if it doesn’t happen exactly as you planned.

Sarah Lena
10 years ago

Yes. Just recently, funny you should ask.

I gave up on dreaming of another baby. I hate even typing that, like I just gave it weight it didn’t carry before, but maybe that’s how I’ll cope. Just in the last month, custody situations in our lives have gotten so out of hand that I’ve looked at the stark reality of our lives and realized it’s not going to happen, and maybe even if it did, it wouldn’t be fair to the child.

I’ve been trying to not think about it, but the constant custody discussion (and it is CONSTANT) just seems to reiterate: I lost my dream.

sweetney
10 years ago

I think it depends on 1) how good – genuinely talented – you are at the thing you want to pursue, and 2) how intrinsic doing that thing is to who you are and want to be.

I really love to sing, and wanted to be a singer (somewhat secretly) most of my younger life. But I wasn’t good enough at it to pursue it seriously, to try seriously to live that dream. I loved it – still love it – but I was middling-to-good. Not great. Not fantastic. That kind of determined the death of that dream for me.

But… there are many kinds of dreams. YMMV.

PS: I’m here to help, for what it’s worth, if I can be of any help.

kellylynn
kellylynn
10 years ago

I say don’t give up on dreams. Sometimes that may be all they are – fantasy in your head that can be fun to think on. Sometimes though, if you are working for them it may not be the right time in your life. So you push it to the back burner and just ponder it (while not working for it). And a few years later another opportunity may present itself to get you heading back in that dream direction.

I hope that makes sense. This one really hit me and I had to respond. Been there, my dream job is starting to peek its head back out at me after 8 years on hiatus.

Nikki
10 years ago

I have been one to give up before, and I really regret it. I had the opportunity to move to a new city several years ago, and I didn’t take it. My boyfriend and I both had jobs lined up and we had friends in the new city, but I just couldn’t do it when it came down to it. I regret it so much and I wish that I would have branched out. I would love to live somewhere else now – even just for a few years.

Kate
10 years ago

I started to say ‘yes’ but actually the answer for me is to find the difference between a dream like an aspiration, or, a dream like a life path. I’ve given up on a life path because sometimes you just have to choose. I don’t think I’ve given up on an aspiration dream like being healthy, or happy with my current life, or something like that. Either way, living for today is a good way to go.

abp
abp
10 years ago

i still have the same dream that I’ve pushed to the back burner at least a dozen times now over the last 6 years (going to school for nursing). Its made sense for me to wait on it, but I’m still not giving up. The amount of stress I feel when thinking about classes, financial aid, and time away from the kids should make me just s–t can it altogether, but i just can’t. I’m hoping this fall is the right time. Don’t give up.

Melissa
10 years ago

I think an important part of any real dream is flexibility. Flexibility to make changes or allowances due to changes in our circumstances. People change, lives change, priorities change… Why shouldn’t dreams change, too? It seems silly to feel like we HAVE to pursue a particular dream. Then your dream just becomes one more obligation.

Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to let go of a dream and move on to something else. I guess it all boils down to the reasons why we might “give up” on a dream. As for me, my big dream changed. It doesn’t make me any less. It just means I changed.

agirlandaboy
10 years ago

I’m not a big dreamer/goal-setter (a downside, perhaps, of being a naturally content person) (and also lazy), but I have definitely told myself “Now is not the time to pursue X.” Moving things to the back burner when life gets in the way is not the same as giving up, I don’t think.

MRW
MRW
10 years ago

I gave up on the dream of a career different from the one I have now. I went back to school, passed the qualifying exam, got a job with a big company that does the job I dreamed of doing, and did my dream job for 2 years before realizing it was not what I wanted. The timing was crap, the situation at the company was not good, and the prospects diminished greatly from the time I started going to school for it. So I went back to my old job and my prior profession. Sometimes I think what if, but mostly I realize it wasn’t the right situation or timing for me.

I am about to give up on my dream of working part time due to the restrictive nature of my job and the uncertain nature of the industry in which my husband works. He’s been laid off twice in 4 years so it’s probably time for me to accept and come to terms with the fact that I will always be the primary and more stable bread winner, so no working PT with the accompanying pay cut for me. Reality can be a real bitch.

pam
pam
10 years ago

I used to have a dream of living in London. It was a serious dream, and I did everything I could to make it come true. But then life (in the form of triplets) happened. But I suppose it’s still lurking in the back of my head, when they’ve made me millions from their acting careers, we’ll be able to move and live off them. :P

Alina
10 years ago

I believe that sometimes when we’re not sure what to do we should consult our bodies. We already know what we want, and what we should do, but aren’t ready to admit it to ourselves. So I do a gut-check. For me, that means I flip a coin. While the coin is in the air, I know what I want it to be when it comes down, and I know for sure how I would feel if I were to truly put aside a particular path.

Sarah
Sarah
10 years ago

I have let go of a dream I never imagined I would be able to kiss goodbye. And the freedom from wanting feels surprisingly good. (That doesn’t mean I can’t change my mind and reach for it again.) IMO, is important to allow yourself the option of finding contentment in different places. You may find it frees up a lot of energy and focus for something new.

Sarah
10 years ago

After my third miscarriage (and with three difficult pregnancies ending in bed rest and early deliveries) I gave up on the dream of just indefinitely having babies. Both of us dreamed of a really big family, and have the support system to manage it, but my body just does not seem to like being pregnant AT ALL, from start to finish. So I realized at some point soon (I’m thinking this year, possibly) we are going to have to make that Final Decision and be done with it. I just can’t face the idea of leaving pregnancy as an open ended possibility for the next ten years or so.

Carrie (in MN)
Carrie (in MN)
10 years ago

No, I don’t think that I have, but that’s because for a long time I’ve been cruising along without really having a dream idea. Isn’t that pathetic? I used to be very goal-oriented, career-wise and in my personal life. The last thing I got really really stubborn about was having a second child. I got my longed-for second (and bonus third – twins) child at the last possible moment before we would have had to give up (no more $$).

I’m aware that I’m drifting along without a goal in sight and I think it’s a problem – it may be part of the root of my depression (or maybe it is because of my depression). I’m just slogging along from weekend to weekend trying to get…where? Just through it, with my three kids and my great husband and my full-time job that I don’t like anymore. Blah. On the other hand, what the hell am I whining about?! I have three kids, a great husband and a full-time job – shut your cryhole Carrie!

Kate
Kate
10 years ago

I’m 25. I had my first son when I was 16, my second when I was 22, and my third last year. My second died two years ago, so I’m currently living with two children. I’m married, I work full time in a demanding office, and we’re currently living with my in-laws to save money so we’re not broke forever. My in-laws are super type A and we are super NOT.

Every day there is constant pressure from all sides to be a good mom, keep my older son involved in recreational and sports activities, nurture both kids, cook dinner for 5 at least 3 times a week, clean a very large house at least 3 times a week, perform well at my job which requires a lot of at home work, be a good wife, and generally just fucking rock at life. It’s hard.

But I always wanted to finish undergrad and go to med school. I’d all but shelved the med school option, resigned to just maybe getting a general ed Bachelor’s and staying with my current company (which is fantastic).

And then I got accepted to UPenn. To their pre-med program. That I applied to on like..some random ass whim. So I had to make this decision – I’d be taking online classes at community for years and even so, the pressure to do well in school combined with everything else wasn’t easy. Could I add this, too?

Long story…slightly less long; I did. I’m attending Penn twice a week, and man..shit is hard. School is hard, work is hard, living in this situation with my husband’s parents is incredibly fucking hard. The pressure is constant and more days than not, I feel like I’m going to break.

I could probably push myself to say some happy sunshine rainbow shit about how it’ll all be worth it, or I’m so glad I have this opportunity, and dreams really do come true! but on the real? Most days I seriously consider shelving this school business indefinitely, until I have a little more flexibility in my schedule. I’ll guess we’ll see how long I can hold out until my mind completely collapses.

Deanna
Deanna
10 years ago

I pinned two good quotes recently: Never regret anything because at one time it was exactly what you wanted. And What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be.

I have been thinking about those alot lately.

Like everyone else is saying we grow and change and mature and circumstances and those around us change as well.

Given time and space things gain or lose importance. Letting go of a picture in your head (like a dream or a vision of what you think it is supposed to be) is sometimes much clearer with time and space.

What was that saying we had in high school? If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it was meant to be. Yeah- sappy ’80’s movies logic but it applies as a life lesson.

Life of a Doctor's Wife

I haven’t specifically had to do this (so far), although I have delayed dreams. But I do think there IS a time when putting a dream on the shelf is a good idea. If it’s causing life-disrupting emotional turmoil to pursue it. If there is truly no way that you can achieve it (well, and if the pursuit is upsetting your life in some way; I can imagine being tone-deaf and having the dream of being a singer, but continuing to pursue that dream as long as I wasn’t crying myself to sleep nights or draining my bank account on lessons and American Idol auditions that only reaffirmed my lack of talent). If other, more important dreams take precedence. If your dream is having a severe negative effect on your children, your spouse, your health, etc. (And I mean SEVERE, which is totally subjective. Obviously, if you dream of becoming a doctor, pursuing that dream is going to put a huge strain on your finances and time with family. But those might be acceptable negative effects.)

I can see how giving up on a dream might be a huge shock to the system. I’ve thought of myself as a writer, a future author, for my whole life. So giving up on the dream of writing a book would have a massive impact on my identity. But I would guess that if there was a good reason to give up on a dream (good being purely subjective, of course), there might be some relief in the decision to end it.

Antropologa
10 years ago

Yeah. It took the form of not pursuing a certain career in favor of family. I made that decision with a clear mind and understanding of the consequences and I’m okay with it.

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