“I want to be an astronaut.”
Imagine this was the response you got when you asked a 5-year-old what they wanted to be when they grew up.
You might respond with “Aww” or be like, “Kids can be so cute sometimes.”
But what you are really thinking is, “Kiddo, the chances of you making it to the moon are pretty slim. Why don’t you become a doctor? Or an engineer? They pay good money.”
You might not say this (unless you are a real party-pooper), but you’ve probably already thought of it.
I know I would have.
Now imagine another 5-year-old answered the same question with, “Why don’t you ask me that in 20 years' time?”
Your jaw drops. “Umm, okay, sure.”
You walk away wondering what’s up with them, initially freaked out by what just took place.
Later that day, you begin to think to yourself, “Boy, that was actually a really good answer.”
In fact, that’s the sort of answer I’d give someone if they asked me about my dreams right here, right now.
There is something to learn from both responses. The first is that we should never stop dreaming. The second is that it’s important to realise that our past dreams might not be the same as our future ones.
You Have a Lot to Learn From Your Younger Self
“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.”― Anais Nin
What’s great about being a kid is that nobody is judging you.
One day you come home wanting to be an astronaut. The next day you want to be a fireman. Why? Because your school friend Jerry told you how his dad had just put out a massive fire at home.
It’s unbelievable how quickly our mindsets change when we are young. Our imaginations are given the freedom to run wild. We just take what we are given and create the best out of a situation. We don’t care what anybody else thinks.
We learn how to respond to new situations (which in this case, is thinking that it would be even cooler to be a fireman).
But us ‘grown-ups’ we often struggle to look at it like this.
We tend to view the changes around us by shrugging our shoulders. We say to ourselves, “life got in the way” or “it just wasn’t meant to be.”
We allow ourselves to be caught in a web of emotions when we are forced to change direction. We struggle to let go of our old dreams because we are worried about how other people will judge us.
How will we next respond when someone asks us “how’s that astronaut thing of yours going?”
It’s a real struggle to admit to ourselves and to others that our dreams have changed.
But it really shouldn’t be this hard.
Some Dreams Naturally Disappear
Many of us won’t realise this, but we tend to forget about the dreams we once had.
For a good part of a decade, I had always wanted to be a cricket player when I was younger. But as the years went on, I started to find new interests and new aspirations in life.
My childhood dream started to evolve into a “that would be nice” thought, and after a while, it was no longer something I considered.
In fact, last week I had an actual dream about saying “no” to my childhood dream. How weird is that!
I had just been invited to play for the Indian cricket team and I should have been thrilled. But I wasn’t. I wanted to refuse this offer.
I didn’t want to let go of my existing life to become a professional sports player. I didn’t want to sacrifice my hard work in other aspects of my life to pursue a dream that I’d forgotten about over the last decade.
I had moved on (and woken up). And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Right Place, Right Time
It’s important to know that it’s perfectly normal to want different things at each stage of our lives. If ages 5 to 10 were spent wanting to be an astronaut, there is nothing wrong with ages 10 to 15 wanting to be a fireman.
If ages 20 to 25 are spent wanting to be an investment banker, there is nothing wrong with ages 25 to 30 wanting to build your own start-up.
The important thing is whether we are able to let go of our past dreams to work on our future ones. It’s the only way we can move forward.
When Life Gives You Lemons…
Sometimes we also have to accept the fact that our circumstances will change. Life just happens. And sometimes we have to deal with it and find new dreams, or find new ways to make old ones work.
Occasionally you might be presented with an opportunity that is too tempting to resist, and all of a sudden you change course. You might land an amazing job offer that requires you to relocate to another part of the world. Then what happens to your old dreams?
Well, you find new ones.
Even those who have held onto their childhood dreams and are seeing them through will admit that their dreams have evolved in some way, shape or form.
That’s just the way it goes. You can’t control what the universe has in store for you. You simply need to learn how to respond to new situations. So don’t fret if your past dream isn’t the same as your future one.
But Nobody Told You Stop Dreaming
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” — Harriet Tubman
Some dreams happen while others don’t. Some are reignited by what life throws at us, while some are gently put to rest.
And sometimes we just need to let go of old dreams to pursue new ones.
But the only way we really fail is if we stop dreaming altogether.
We have to remember that there will always be something to dream about. And even if you don’t know what that is right now, or if you can’t see where your life is going, you have to believe that there will be a new dream waiting for you just around the corner.
And it’s okay if it isn’t the same dream as the one yesterday, or the one tomorrow, as long as you never give up on the innate power of having a dream.