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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Mary
Mary
10 years ago

I’ve replaced old dreams with new ones. I’ve taken deliberate detours and put stuff on hold. I’ve let go of dreams in a surrendering kind of way, which I think is different than giving up, and later realized that what was in store for me, had I not been busy forcing something that wasn’t right, was way better than what I thought I wanted. I think we have to listen to our gut when it comes choosing to fight for something (when you just know it’s meant to happen) or surrender it and let go (when it’s just not right but you really want it anyway).

JMH
JMH
10 years ago

I agree with Barbara at 4:26…she said exactly what I was thinking. Good luck with your decision

maggie
10 years ago

I suppose it depends on the dream, but if keeping it alive means constant disappointment and longing, it may be time to get a new dream. A dream that coincides with your life and what can realistically be accomplished. I know that is terribly pragmatic and boring, but it may make you happier in the long run.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do!

Marivic
Marivic
10 years ago

There should be awards for ‘Best Comment Threads’ – and this one should win it.

Dak
Dak
10 years ago

Sometimes dreams need to be put on the back burner because the timing isn’t right. Sometimes dreams need to be put to rest because life changes and priorities shift. Sometimes we can miss better or bigger opportunities because we have dream tunnel vision. Sometimes we need new dreams.

Life happens and it is ever shifting in ways we never expect, both good and bad.

So basically what I’m saying is I don’t know the answer. :) I don’t know if there *is* a definitive answer.

To Lisa M re IVF and children. We had to come to a decision to give up on our dream of having kids because of similar reasons. The pain and stress and anxiety and heartbreak and crazy-making drugs and and and … it was all too much. It was hard. So hard to give up on that dream. As corny as it sounds, we had to open ourselves up to new dreams and they are good. Hang in there and I wish you so much love and luck.

Lawyerish
10 years ago

I totally agree with Marivic. I keep coming back here to read more of the awesome comments. So much insight and wisdom in this thread.

telegirl
telegirl
10 years ago

Everyone’s comments are amazing. I have been hanging on every word as well. I loved Penne’s comment and agree, dreams should change and evolve… I was hoping Jameson Parker would show up at my door with a ring. :)

I’d like to find a better job, but I have a great-paying (although soul-sucking) job now so I can live with that. I would love to move back to Bend but the job situation over there required that we move to a more populated area that is more economically stable. I guess my big dream would be to travel the world but with a 5 year old, a 2 year old, two aging dogs and student loans that we’ll literally be paying off until we retire (late bloomers!), I just don’t see that happening. So my dreams are there but most are shelved for now. Most likely I won’t ever get to travel the world. Does that make me a realist, or an pessimist? :)

laziza
laziza
10 years ago

I have not, but my husband has. He’s an incredibly talented painter, but when he weighed whether the happiness of successfully pursuing his painting outweighed the stress and anxiety and sacrifice, well – painting didn’t win.

Lo
Lo
10 years ago

Yes. So many of my dreams were so stupid! Besides, reality trumps any amount of dreaming. I find facing life on its terms to be fulfilling enough.

There are some dreams that are “worthy,” as some have alluded here, and they can come true. This, however, does not justify arguments about clinging to hope. Years ago, I met the love of my life. Unfortunately, I realized this after hopelessly destroying our relationship.

I kindled hope for years, but if anything changed, I made things worse. At some point, I gave up. I gave up over and over again, tried so hard to let it go and move on. I had other relationships, and threw myself wholeheartedly into making them grow & flourish.

I am now married to “the one that got away.” It’s not how I dreamed it would be. It’s so much better. I couldn’t have dreamed this reality, because the person I was then wasn’t capable of having such a good relationship.

Giving up was *essential* to achieving this goal. If a dream is really right for you, you will make the decisions over time to make it real. No amount of fantasy can substitute for that, and may actually get in the way.

Dreams are dreams. They have their purpose, and they can be great. But they aren’t goals. Turning a dream into a goal is possible, but takes a tremendous amount of courage. People tend not to acknowledge just how terrifying it is to actually do something you’ve always wanted to do. It’s treated as though it should be the easiest thing in the world – and it seems like this would be true, but actual life experience demonstrates otherwise!

Every fond memory I have of finally pursuing a dream is tempered by the memory of pants-soiling terror that went with it. People I’ve met who dropped their “do what’s expected” lives to follow a dream tell the same tale. Once my dad tried to change his career – from something he truly hates – and he called me to say, “I thought I understood how scary this was for you, but it’s so much worse than I could imagine.”

It’s worth it.

Mary
Mary
10 years ago

I have been having this exact conversation with myself in recent weeks, trying to decide if I am “too mean to quit” or ” too smart to stay” in a teaching situation I am in at my school. The advanced program I’m part of consistently fails to recruit the right students, leaving us as instructors to deal with candidates whose combination of academic weaknesses and personal issues create a toxic mess in the cassroom. In addition, our district is in financial crisis, and the program is now facing a reduction in instructional time, which will force my course out of the regular schedule and into some alternate form next year. In this era of tying teacher performance ratings and salaries to student test scores, I feel like the deck is so stacked against me, there’s no use in trying. All I want to do is throw in the towel. Even so, something in me (the stubborn, competitve part?) makes me want to dig in my heels and fight for the integrity of the program as a whole and my own course. As a colleague recently said to me, ultimately it’s about the cost-benefit ratio and where you draw that line. Right now I’m not sure where that line is for me. Good luck with your own decision.

billie
billie
10 years ago

If your dream is MEANT to become a reality, it will happen. Just relax and know whatever is supposed to happen, will.

Jennifer
Jennifer
10 years ago

Sure. Life happens and makes some dreams impractical. I’d say it depends what it is and how rewarding that dream would be. If it would be more rewarding than the work required (add some mathematical formula incorporating the reward/sacrifice and likelihood of it happening) then it’s still worth pursuing.

Anonymous
Anonymous
10 years ago

When I was in college for undergrad I really didn’t think I could graduate from my biology/premed program… let alone get a job. A lot of hard work later, I did and landed a job at a prestigious hospital/university doing clinical oncology research work. Now I’m in night school earning my MBA to go into hospital administration. That’s the career dream for now. The exercise/body dream is slowly going okay with weight watchers starting (again) this week. ugh. Can’t (Four months till swim suit season here in Chicago. I’m preparing early for dressing room horror.)The other dream that I never thought would happen and I gave up on was falling in love. I’m nine months in with the best guy I’ve ever met. I really never thought it would actually happen. I wish we could both stay at home from work all day and just be together. Reality sucks.

Lori
Lori
10 years ago

Do you mean sacrificing your dream for someone else’s or realising that a particular direction isn’t right for you after all? A particular romantic notion in your head that, even if you were to realise it, wouldn’t look, in reality, like it does in your dream?

As in, I really wanted to be a ballerina but I’m 5’10” and solid so I joined a dance company in marketing. (totally made that up) Or as in, I’m one credit away from a PhD in environmental policy but my husband just got a lifelong dream job in London (again made up). Or as in I’ve always wanted to live on a huge ranch and be completely self-sufficient but I just realised you have to get up at dark-thirty every morning and clean out the stables and frequently there’s no hot water and the reality isn’t as appealing as the dream.

Tina
Tina
10 years ago

I used the term surrender when I let go of getting married and having a child. I unclenched my fist and in doing so, set that dream free. (it wasn’t a one time act, I had to let it go over and over and over and over.) It did come true, but I firmly believe if I hadn’t let go, if I hadn’t found peace, joy and love in the life I had (not the life I kept wishing I had) I don’t think I would have been open to the person I met, married and have a child with.

Amy
Amy
10 years ago

WOW! Amazing thoughts/feelings/information from everyone. I recently ended my marriage, but I don’t see it as giving up on a dream. It was 14 years of mostly being unhappy…now I am dreaming new dreams and forgiving myself for moving on. (my ex will probably never forgive me but that is his issue, not mine). I am happy again and things I thought I had given up completely are falling down off of shelves I forgot I put them on :) Give yourself freedom to review it when the time is right.

adequatemom
10 years ago

Yes, I have given up on dreams. I gave up my dream of being a professional singer in order to have a quieter life with a husband and child. Definitely the right choice and I have no regrets. I hope (someday soon) to return to music in a less consuming capacity.

telegirl
telegirl
10 years ago

Oh, and forgot to say “THANKS” for the title… I have had that damn song stuck in my head for two days now.

Lisa S.
10 years ago

I think it depends on the answers to the following questions:

1. What is the dream?
2. Why did it come into being to begin with?
3. What part of you does the dream feed?
4. What hope and goal does the dream represent?
5. What does it cost to fulfill the dream?
6. Why am I considering giving it up?
7. Would dropping this dream make room for something else that feeds my soul?

But the question I always ask myself when pondering whether to recalibrate my goals and stop feeding some hopes:

“Is [taking this path] what I really want or is it only what I want *right now*?”

Kateebee
Kateebee
10 years ago

When i was 20 I had a list, a huge list of things that I was going to do.

At 30 – I fretted and worried that I hadn’t done these things on my plan. I judged myself against it. I don’t have a masters / house / baby / real career / nicer furniture / trip around the world. Pressure was high.

At 40 – I could take a look at the list and say this has a higher priority or likelihood of happening. I can let those others go. Singing back up in a rock band is pretty low on the probability list. Start enjoying what you do have and have done.

At 50 – I reviewed the list and it’s edits. I added up the things that I did do and they were pretty darn good. I evaluated myself as I did my child. Did I do a good and true job? Was I loyal”? Am I a good person? Do I see myself in the world rather than me as the world? How would my friends describe me?

In life we have free will. We can continue to try to scrabble up that wall again and again until our fingers are bloody. But if we step away and get perspective we just might see another way to get where we are going. It might not be exactly what we thought it would be like.. but really whatever is. The best gifts that we receive are the ones that we didn’t know that we wanted or needed.

So the answer is yes. Step back from a dream and take a fresh look. There is no fault or shame in revising the plan. It could lead to a better one.

Amy
Amy
10 years ago

Medical school. Oh that was a mother fucker of a dream, full of ego, resolve and the general misconception that all Pediatric ER Attendings look like George Clooney.

By the time the dream arrived I was well into the swing of my early thirties looking down the barrel of ten more years. So, after an anguished and complicated calculus, I opted to go to PA school instead, fully believing at the time that I was settling for less, opting instead for “MD-Lite”.

Years later, while at chilly roof top party in Boston, I stood with a group of five women all my age. All with children the age of my own. All of them Doctors. All of them trying to broker the reality of pumping in an ER bed next to a vomiting patient at 4 am on a Sunday or scrubbing out of Surgery to go puke in the bathroom. Routinely spending upwards 20 consecutive hours away from home.

Even before this moment though I knew I had, in fact, made the right decision. Let go of the right dream. Not a goddamn thing in this life is free and sometimes the cost of admission (or omission) is far from what one could ever imagine.

Melissa
Melissa
10 years ago

I love that everyone is reading their own lives into this. The hallmark of a good writer is that you can see yourself in their work.

I did the same of course…because I (like you) have a (pipe?) dream of living somewhere that I don’t currently live, and things like the realities of children, jobs, etc will probably keep us from moving closer to family and to the place we’d prefer to live….that’s the dream that first came to my mind when you asked this question. Does it need to be given up? I don’t think so. On the other hand, you can’t spend every day wringing your hands over it and miss out on right now wishing you were living/doing/being somewhere/sometime else.

I wish I knew the answer. I think life’s too short (and unpredictable) to wish away one’s time. But, it’s also too short not to do what you want to do. So. Yeah. Let me know when you figure it out?

nonsoccermom
10 years ago

Sometimes dreams are just that. Dreams. All of them are wonderful and worthy of an effort, but many times they have to change with the dreamer.

I think that having goals is different than having dreams, and while I’m never going to give up on my dream – working on achieving my goals is a hell of a lot more realistic.

Best of luck with whatever you decide. In my experience, if you have to force it then it wasn’t meant to be. Sadly, although I’ve learned this lesson many times over it is still a bitter pill to swallow.

Shannon Lell
Shannon Lell
10 years ago

I like this line from Jenny, I think, “…if it feels one iota like giving up, and does not feel completely like letting go, like finally being able to breathe, then you’re not done, with whatever it is.”

I believe whatever we are facing in our lives is exactly what we need at the moment to grow deeper into who we are meant to be. If we could all embrace that fact, I think we could relieve a lot of personal angst over what we don’t have.

Even though I believe it to be true, I always have to remind myself that it is so because I’m not done reaching for dreams. Uh uh, no way, never.

“The possibility of a dream coming true is what makes life interesting.” Paulo Coehlo, The Alchemist

Rachel
Rachel
10 years ago

Yes! Walking away from my dissertation was an extremely healthy decision. I only regret that I didn’t get a master’s out of the deal.

Katherine
Katherine
10 years ago

I think the point of a dream is not necessarily about achieving it. It’s about imagining yourself differently, or your life differently. It’s about keeping you open to growing beyond what you are. The act of dreaming itself is fruitful in its own way. Some dreams get transformed into actual goals and actions to reach the goal. Some don’t. Some dreams get held for a long time and change as time goes by. None of it is bad or any type of failure.

Sharon
Sharon
10 years ago

If you look at the dream/goal, and know or figure out over time that you honestly do not have and will likely not obtain the resources and/or personality traits necessary to achieve that dream/goal, then it might be a good idea to simply let that dream/goal go. And be OK with it.

kim
kim
10 years ago

I’m sorry but there are too many responses to read them all before adding my own! (I started reading but ran out of time). Some others have said this, but I do think that sometimes the healthier thing is to let go of a dream. Clinging too tightly to something that will not come to be can do more damage than good. The trouble, of course, is figuring out when to let go and feeling comfortable with that choice.

Still, letting go is not necessarily giving up. You perhaps could decide to table it without deciding that it is forever more impossible. I had a dream, but after several years’ unsuccessful pursuit of it, I decided I needed to give up and come to terms with the fact that it will never happen. Then things in life unexpectedly changed; opportunities opened up; risky decisions were made; and the dream became possible, after all. The same might happen for you, but it might not happen until after you come to peace with walking away.

Life is filled with surprises and miracles, right?

Mia
Mia
10 years ago

At 28 I gave up the dream of nursing school part way through due to a latex allergy.
At 31 I gave up the dream of kids when I lost my last ovary to a reoccurrence of ovarian cancer.
Last week I gave up the dream of moving to a smaller town when I didn’t get the interview for a job in that area.
I want to know, when do the dreams start coming true?

Tracy
Tracy
10 years ago

Most awesome comment thread on a blog EVER.

aviva (Old Mom, Young Child)

Well, off and on I have decided I wasn’t going to write. I did a grad program in creative writing, have published various stuff (fiction, poetry, non-fiction, etc.) but haven’t been able to make my living at it. So there have been times in my life when I have deliberately decided it wasn’t worth the effort, that I should stick to the day job, etc. My blog, “Old Mom, Young Child” is an effort to express myself again and to explore writing in whatever way feels right at the moment. I find it very freeing, as I can write a satiric piece one day, a heartfelt thing the next…. But whether I’ll ever have a chance to work on the novel I turn over in my head on a regular basis, only time will tell…..

Simon
10 years ago

Context is everything. What’s the dream, what are the prices, what are the consequences of failing, etc…

We should go out and get a club soda together.

Erin@MommyontheSpot
10 years ago

I gave up being a Rockett for several reasons:

I was going to college to be a teacher.

I wanted a job with benefits.

My technique was not up to par and I wasn’t getting any younger.

Lanie
10 years ago

I think its healthy to put a dream in sleep mode or hibernate for a while if your not making any traction. Still believe it will happen and act as if you are still making it happen, but live day to day the best you can and k.ow it will happen when the timing is right. Expect the unexpected!

CC
CC
10 years ago

If it is a dream that is SOLELY up to you as to whether you complete it or not – then I say don’t give up. Give it time.
If it is a dream that others have a role in, then yes, give it up. People don’t change because you hope they will. That is what I have learned in my 35 years.

Wanda
Wanda
10 years ago

Not sure what dream you are referring to, but I don’t think you should ever give up on it completely. It may be necessary to put it on the back burner for a while, but always keep the hope and the option of the dream. Life happens and our plans change, so you never know when you might be able to make your dream come true.

Very Bloggy Beth
10 years ago

I think probably my CAREER actually falls into this category. I got a degree in English, emphasis on creative writing. I had all those undergrad warm fuzzies picturing myself writing the great American novel. When I graduated, trying to make ends meet I just took every piddly little freelance web writing job that came my way, and my resume took a whole different turn. Then I spent 5 years at a company editing business manuals, not even CLOSE to creative writing. Then, I became a mom, and then I got laid off. I haven’t had an idea for a creative piece in years, and it shows. I’d have to start from scratch. That whole “write something new every day” bit of advice is so true. The only writing I do now is my blog, and even that has been suffering lately. I’m seeking out new career opportunities, stuff that works with my SAHM lifestyle, like art or something part time. It just feels like I exhausted that part of me or something, I’m not sure I can explain it. And I figure, if I’m not driven enough to pick up where I left off, it must not be where my heart actually was all that time.

JenV
JenV
10 years ago

I side with Sherri on this one.

Karl
Karl
10 years ago

Hmm. Tough one … define “dream”. :-) Yeah, I badly wanted to go into space, and I’ve pretty much given up on that. (Not that I seriously tried for astronaut corps, more like I thought it would be easier to do by now.)

I wanted to get to Glacier National Park, and gave that one up when my girlfriend announced she was pregnant. (We’ve been married 30 years this coming June.) I wanted to have my own personal KI-10 (see wikipedia) and had a real shot at it, but She shot that one down and was probably right in hindsight.

I thought about this question for quite a while, and decided that all along my unverbalized dream was to be seriously good at something — whatever that something might be — and, as it happens, I am. This sounds corny to me even as I type it, but I rather suspect it’s true. I guess I’m one of the lucky ones for never having set the “something” in stone before its time? I dunno.

(and fortunately, I’ve not had to struggle with some of the biological issues mentioned by other commenters. being away from the top of mother nature’s bell curve is a bummer, and makes me ashamed of the times I’ve bitterly complained about my hereditarily-crummy teeth and eyesight — which are way way down on Ma Nature’s imperatives…)

Jane
Jane
10 years ago

I have been thinking about this post all week. I wasn’t going to comment, because although I read every posting, I rarely comment. Also, I didn’t think I could say anything helpful or insightful. This morning I decided to read what others had written. I spent an hour reading each comment–an hour that was supposed to be used for revising my dissertation. The dissertation that has been such a struggle for me to write. I have 3 weeks to finish revising, and have spent 2 years writing it. Every weekend, without fail, I go away from my family to write. Over the Christmas break (Dec. 22-Jan. 2) I wrote every day but Christmas and New Year’s. I have started to take days off work to finish. It is agonizing, and I have wanted to quit so many times. This is the end to a PhD in a field where I am lucky to teach one class a semester. It’s not my “regular” job, or how I earn any money. It is not where I thought I would be when I started in 2003. I work in Higher Education, so the initials after my name are very important, but the subject matter isn’t. My advisor wants me to be working at a Research 1 institution, publishing, Fulbright, etc. Not my life.
I think that dreams get re-focused, and they morph. I am finishing, because I want to demonstrate to my kids that all of the missed family time pays off. I don’t know if it will, but it might. My dream is to finish, but the dream no longer involves being an expert in my field. Morphed. My dream of having four children changed to two. Re-focused.
Whatever you are struggling with Linda, lean on your readers. As evidenced by this comment thread, we are big believers in you, JB, the boys. We want you to be happy, to be successful, to keep making us laugh and cry. See what happens if you try to re-focus or morph the dream–how do you feel? Can you live with it? Can you move forward?

On a sidenote to Mia at 12:08 on 2/3–I cannot tell you how your words affected me. I am sorry you feel your dreams are not coming true and I am sorry you have had such a difficult time of late. You are in my thoughts and I hope that you will soon experience peace and happiness.

Lana
Lana
10 years ago

I love to dream! Reality isn’t is so much fun in comparison.

I gave up the dream of continuing my education several years ago because it just didn’t have the same importance in light of what I had going on at that moment. Two years ago the very same dream came back, so I said “Screw it!” and dove in. Life evolves and sometimes it brings you back to where you came from when the timing is better.

I still have unrealistic dreams, however, I’m not giving them up. I’ll do what I can to make them happen from my end and just wait and see what the universe will do on its end. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll be satisfied knowing I did what I could rather than being sad that I didn’t try.

Lisa M.
Lisa M.
10 years ago

To Dak, thanks so much for the kind words. I was sitting in my office when I read your comment, and my grad students heard me go “Awwwww!” when I saw that. :)

Tatiana
Tatiana
10 years ago

Holding on to my dream was impossible. It smolders in the bottom of my heart but I know I will never achieve it and that acting on it would lead to painful failure. I’m discovering that when I shelved it my will to live was somehow attached. Yet I still wake up every morning, looking for a new reason to hope.

squandra
squandra
10 years ago

Made me think of this discussion …

“When to Give Up on Your Goals” in the Harvard Business Review:

http://t.co/QDdYeoCt

Dana
Dana
10 years ago

God no, don’t ever give up a dream. Just put it on hold. It sounds better.

Frema
10 years ago

Oh, yes. My dreams have grown and changed over the years and some have disappeared altogether.

I used to dream of publishing a novel. Now as a wife, mother, and full-time employee, I’ve come to realize I’m perfectly happy growing my blog instead, with the option to self-publish those entries if I want to.

I used to dream of being 125 pounds again, but after three kids, I realize that dream was never realistic for me.

I currently dream of moving back near my hometown, which is almost four hours away from where my family and I currently live. To make this happen, not only do we need to sell our house in a crappy market, I have to find a new job. (My husband stays home with the kids.) This is all very daunting to me, and it’s tempting to give up and try to be happy with what we have here (affordable cost of living, good job opportunities, etc). But that would mean continuing to have no support system when things times get tough, and that is killing us now. I unexpectedly had to have my gallbladder removed in December, plus there were complications, so I was in and out of the hospital for two weeks with only my husband’s parents to help us, and they had to make a three-hour round trip drive twice during that time on a moment’s notice. Even being retired, that was hard on them, too.

So, even though achieving this particular dream seems impossibly difficult, we are going for it, anyway. The alternative is not acceptable.

Good luck in evaluating your own dreams!

Frema
10 years ago

P.S. In case that last post had a negative feel, I wanted to add that many of my dreams have come true – some through hard work and some through luck. I dreamed of getting a college education and have bachelor’s and master’s degrees. I dreamed of running a half-marathon in 2010 and did it (not well, but I did it!). I dreamed of becoming a mom and I am. As others posted have stated, it all depends on the dream.

Jackie
Jackie
10 years ago

My husband and I have recently given up on something. We are not going to be able to move back to our hometown. After college we moved away and now we have two jobs, two kids and a house we can’t sell. It is just not going to happen. So, we just changed our dream to be more attainable…we hope to move locally in a year or so.

Amy
Amy
10 years ago

I am a fool. I will chase my dream, fight for it, bleed for it, until the day that I die and I know that I won’t know when to quit. I just can’t. I’m a singer and am trying to make it (eventually) on Broadway or at the very least make a career out of singing. I know that, for me, if I give up on my dream, I might as well scoop my soul out with a spoon.