Take a hammer to your dreams (so you can finally achieve them)

Photo by Jachan DeVol

I don’t often talk about goals. I’m not a goal-achieving guru of any sort. But I’ve recently learned a bit of a counter-cultural mindset that’s been helping me, so I wanted to share it with you here…

Let’s talk about that big goal of yours. It could be a number of things: writing that book, starting that podcast, getting a date with that person, leaving that other person, moving to that zip code, buying that house, selling that other house, getting your kid into that school, saying those words that need to be said…

It seems so epic. If you could only do/get/achieve it, then peace would be restored and you’d emerge triumphantly.

But you’re stuck. It’s been on your mental ‘want list’ for ages now and you don’t see it getting any closer.

Well, what if I told you that the emphasis you’re placing on the achievement of your dream is total bosh? What if I said that this thing isn’t nearly as awesome as you’re making it out to be and that life will still be complicated and messy and full of tension even after you get what you want?

Would you feel helpless? Hopeless? Disappointed?

Well, that’s not my intention with this piece. Not at all...

In fact, if anything, I want this revelation to lead to your freedom.

Because this notion of ultimate satisfaction should you just get ‘the thing’ is exactly what’s holding you back from taking the steps towards getting it.

See, by propping this thing up as the end-all-be-all, it remains a utopian fantasy in your head. It’s so perfect and shiny up there. But a part of you is terrified. It’s terrified that, should you achieve the thing, this dream will vanish because it really won’t be so profoundly satisfying after all.

I want to help you take a hammer to this illusory dream right now. I want you to realize what you already know to be true — that life won’t be what you’re dreaming it up to be should you achieve your goal(s). But I still want you to try to achieve them anyway. Not because they’re your ultimate salvation, but just because it’s nice to do awesome things.

As negative as it seems, this approach will give you the best chance of achieving your goals because it’s rooted not in dreamland, but in the vulnerable and imperfect reality of the human condition.

Now, should you get what you want, I hope you realize that weighty whisper of disappointment is natural. Because the external world will never bring anything other than temporary satisfaction.

But again, may you take that first shaky step anyway. Yes, you’ll stumble and fall. Yes, it’s very likely you’ll make a fool of yourself (we all do — it makes for great dinner stories).

Focus on the enjoyment of the physical steps up the mountain rather than the crescendo of the summit.

Because really, the summit is only incredible for a few minutes before you head back down and move on to your next climb.

Bring that dream of yours down from the clouds. Nothing about it is utopian in reality. It’s far simpler and way less epic than you’re making it out to be. It’s real.

So go after it. And when you get there — or even if you fall short and decide to throw up your hands in defeat (happens to the best of ’em) — make an about face and go after the next thing enjoying every fumbling footstep along the way.

Big thanks to Peter Rollins for the inspiration 🙏