If Your Dreams Scare You Too Much, What’s The Point?

“If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough” — Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

I’ve been thinking about this.

There’s a lot of blogposts, articles and quotes floating around lately about dreams. They tell the story about inspiring people that have successfully achieved their dreams. They are also saying that anyone can do it as long as they take that first step, work hard and believe in themselves. However, telling someone who is scared to “just do it” is can be a little like telling someone who is afraid of heights to just not be afraid of heights anymore.

Now, I love those inspiring texts, and I agree with them, but I also feel that there’s one big piece missing: where does the courage come from?

I’m currently pursuing a dream of traveling the world while building a business — constantly scared I might add — and the fact that I manage to overcome my fears and take that step and quit my job is become I’ve taken other scary first steps many times before.

Take the pressure off, dreams are supposed to be fun

What are some of your dreams? What makes them dreams rather than goals?

Some people seem to have a hard time defining their dreams and can get uncomfortable when asked. It’s like a dream has to be this one huge, intimidating life achievement, and shame on you if you have one but you’re not pursuing it, right?

So forget about dreams for a second, I like to ask a person what they would do if they’d die within a year. Now that’s interesting, it seems there’s no problem for people to list a ton of things they’d do or change in their life in such a scenario; quit their job, travel the world, spend more time with the family e.t.c. Basically, without the “dream pressure” people are talking about what to me sounds like parts of their dreams.

Back to the basics

I believe that defining and pursuing one’s dreams are skills we can learn by simply practicing, just as anything else. Now, some people might say to jump in the deep water immediately and go with it. That might work for some, but I sure as hell didn’t learn to swim that way. I don’t think there’s any shame in going in from the shore and slowly but consistently make your way out there.

If the only focus is the biggest, baddest dream out there, it’s gonna be a long time before any part of the body is wet. So why not ease into that too?

I cheat on my big dream on a regular basis with other dreams that are more in reach, although still scary. Everything is relative to what we’re used to so for some people, moving to another continent is not a big deal, while others feel nervous being on a flight. It’s not really important at what scale we’re putting ourselves in uncomfortable situations, as long as we keep doing it.

It will lead to success if we don’t give up.

The great thing is that we can get used to the fear, something that was super big and scary for me a year ago is a morning snack today as I’ve slowly increased my fear tolerance over time.

If we do have a life dream, eventually we’ll be ready to take it by the horns and go for it. It won’t seem as scary anymore, and we’ll go in with confidence as we have all those previous achievements to be proud of. If we don’t have one, no worries, achieving things will keep leading us to new adventures and experiences we’d never thought of.

Ain’t no drug like it

Pursuing my dreams, big or small, is what makes my life exciting, and honestly I think I’ve become addicted over the years to the excitement and ups and downs in those pursuits. It’s kind of a similar feeling as with roller coasters; the higher, faster and steeper I go, I increase my tolerance and even higher, even faster and even steeper I want to go next to keep that rush going. What’s the worst that could happen?

What are some smaller dreams that you’ve already achieved? What impact did that have on your life?

I can list a few dreams that to me were scary at the time.

  • Learn a 3rd language — in college I applied for an exchange year in Spain, got accepted and spent a year living in Valencia. I learned Spanish and met friends from all over the world.
  • Get a job on my own merits — applied for pretty much everything I could find, didn’t hear back from most but got called to a few interviews. Most of them said no, but in the end got a paid internship in San Francisco that led to a full-time position.
  • Own my time and be location independent — My current situation, I quit my job in San Francisco 4 months ago, and now trying to build a lifestyle business with no prior business experience. We’ll see what this leads to. It’ll take time but as with every previous commitment I’ve had, this should also work out :).

I’m still scared as shit, and I fight mental battles every day to not give up, because success will come if I don’t give up. This addiction has lead me to fantastic places and situations I’ve never thought I’d be, and I can’t wait for what’s coming next.

Good luck dream pursuing!

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