It’s OK Not to Dream Big.

Do your goals and ambition control you?

They don’t “control” me, though “control” is a funny word.

My ambitions guide me, and they shape me as I realize them. But they in no way prevent me from enjoying the moment, whichever one that is.

Like any other generation that looks smugly down on the one slightly younger, I routinely roll my eyes at kids and young adults I see on Instagram, Vine and Twitter. The frivolous entitlement, fixation on pop culture (that yes, I share with them) and obsession with selfie-fueled narcissism all make me cringe when I loop that Vine.

But then I am met with the “other” kids who are in a totally different state of mind from their counterparts. These are the selfie kids who just finished school and want to seek wisdom for what they should do next. I love to relate to them because one of my most vivid memories encompasses my first summer after college.

And how absolutely terrified I was.

Life starts with big dreams we haven’t thought through. Life continues on after you’ve realized your dreams will actually take a lot of work (that you may not be willing to do).

My dreams have always been based on values I have. Not fame, and definitely not my career. My dreams aren’t “big” in the conventional sense. I never told myself that someday I’ll change the world. I never promised my family and friends that one day I’ll be the best writer with the best writing job. Mostly because that will never happen.

Instead, I crafted my dreams around what I cherish. My spiritual life. Writing. Changing the worlds of people I love.

I accomplished some of those dreams, and some unexpected things have happened as a result of that.

They didn’t happen because I forced them too. I started a blog because I love to write, not because I wanted to be the next “whoever.” I simply wrote about the things I love and let myself grow.

You’re probably in the same boat, whether you’re a blogger, journalist or just someone with a cool story to tell. Don’t worry about who’s going to read your thoughts. Get over the fact that you probably won’t accomplish every single desire your happiness-starved heart demands of you.

Your passion is way more fulfilling than happiness, after all.

So it is OK to dream big. But it’s also OK to simplify. And it’s way better to dream “well.” You’ll have an easier time weeding out the ones that aren’t worth having.

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24 thoughts

  1. Dreams can be funny things, too, John. Having grown up watching the space race unfold, and then gone to college to earn a B.S. in Space Technology at Florida Institute of Technology, I dropped out after two years and started work at a bank’s operations center. My dream was to someday work on some part of the adventure that was the space program, but from where I started, there didn’t seem much of a chance to do that. And yet, within 10 years, I was writing software for the NASA/JPL Deep Space Network. Dream achieved! But then what? How do you top that? How do you view the rest of your life when the ‘big dream’ happened so quickly? During my next job after that, I started writing a short story that turned into my first novel, which now appears to have been the most intricate writing project I’ve ever undertaken. Sure, my writing has changed over the years, but that first book still stands out in this way. And yet, the interwoven narrative style I used for that book has become, for me, a tried-and-true strategy for how to develop a singe short story into a series with an arc and a direction without first drafting the entire scope of it. Instead, I write it as it goes along, and discover where it’s headed along the way. So yeah, dream big, but as you say, its your passion that’s at the heart of your fulfillment.

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    1. That’s a great story and excellent example of something I’m pretty much going through now (or will go through eventually). I’m glad you found your “true” dream or whatever you want to call it. Maybe purpose?

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    1. Agreed that we should be specific. “Fame” is a horrible goal, for example, that many people seem to have. What kind of fame? For doing what? Among whom? These are questions that your goal should be able to answer pretty quickly.

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  2. Love you son. This article made me life. Don’t forget that quietly your dad is your biggest fan.

    I missed you.

    Love, Dad

    Date: Thu, 17 Jul 2014 15:30:53 +0000 To: t_ni@msn.com

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  3. I have always been burdened by my own thoughts. This friend can dance like a swan and do gymnastic. How cool is that. That friend can sing like an angel. How awesome is that. I burden myself by thinking why can’t I be like them. My dream was to be someone else. It was until everything reached boiling point and anxiety just topple my life. I then realise, what is important is that I follow my own dream and passion, regardless of others. Thank you for this post Jon you are a great man. 🙂 Check out my blog http://meowthemiao.wordpress.com where I write to live. ❤

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  4. Interesting read. I recently graduated with my master’s (I went right after undergrad) and am now in that terrified state you mention and am feeling like my “big dreams” are bit overwhelming and impossible – but maybe that’s because I need to focus on some “smaller dreams” that more achievable and can work as stepping stones.

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  5. As a young woman who is constantly worried about the future, I thank you for this beautifully written article, and by sharing some of your wisdom in life, I know you truly help a lot of people who are going through the problems you mentioned.

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  6. Thank you for writing this and I agree it’s not important how many read a blog or how much insight we have or amazing things we may accomplish, because in reality these things may never happen. I too enjoy the simpler things of life and hate that I sometimes over complicate things. I have big dreams, I want to see different parts of the world, but I accept that this may not happen, that I may be where I am at forever and that is more than ok because I absolutely love my job!

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  7. I’m always reading your pixar posts and this one came as a nice surprise. I’ve been feeling a bit lost due to some restructuring at work so thank you for this.

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