I often see blog posts about how to achieve your dreams. How to do what you love for a living. How to build your life around what you love to do. Etc, etc. When I see these posts, I think about several things simultaneously:
- I’m so glad for this person who’s able to live so wholeheartedly and align his vocation with his passion.
- I wish she or he talked about all the things you have to give up or compromise on in the process. Because these things are never so simple and people have to make choices along the way. Choices that not everyone might be willing to make. But when these things are not highlighted, it makes the process seem simpler. Big decisions, even in the direction of your dreams, are never simple.
- What if I choose to fully embrace my dreams and then, after a lot of time and investment, find out they weren’t my dreams after all? They never seem to talk about that.
The thing is, I don’t know what my dreams are. At different points in my life, I had different dreams. And some were big and some were small. Over the course of my life, I’ve tried to align things as much as I can.
Here’s what I do know: you do not have to wait to start living a part of your dreams.
Many people I know are desperately waiting for the right time. Waiting for the kids to be older, waiting to have more money, more time, more self-esteem, more support, more whatever.
But I am very much against the all-or-nothing approach. I feel like the right way to start a new endeavor is to take a few steps first. Get your toes wet. See if you like it. I understand that this won’t work with all situations but it works more often than not.
For example, if you think you want to sell art, try making a lot more art and even having friends commission a few pieces (not for money). See if you like making art on demand. See if you can meet the deadlines. See if the joy starts dissipating after a while (when it’s work and not just fun) or if you still love every bit of it. Then, open a small shop. Try to sell a few.
When I started my photography company back in 2005, I already had a camera so I took my husband and son out for a shoot for some samples. And then I created a tiny website with the photos to show others. I then emailed the two moms groups I was in and asked if anyone would like free shoots. (They had to pay for the pictures if they ordered any – at a discount – but the shoot would be free.) Within the hour, I had over 12 clients. Over the next few weeks, I did shoots. I met with clients. I figured out how to present the photos, how to deal with ordering, how to deal with difficult clients, copyright, etc. My clients were understanding since they were getting a huge discount so it was easier for me to try things and worry less about making mistakes.
More importantly, I didn’t buy a new, better camera. I didn’t order stationary. I didn’t pay anyone to design me a logo or a website. I just took it slow and cheap.
As time passed, word spread, and I got more clients. Ones who paid for the shoot and the photos. I learned what kind of shoots I like. What kind of clients I prefer. How I work best. What I like and dislike about this particular career path. This allowed me to enjoy it more and, in return, do a better job.
Life is not all or nothing, if you ask me. You can always be doing something to walk in the direction of your dreams: learning new skills, practicing regularly, connecting with others, etc.
Instead of dumping all you have and embracing a new life or doing absolutely nothing and being sad, you can choose to just walk slowly in the direction of your dreams. Try things out. See if you do indeed like it. You can take tiny steps first and as you have more time/money/dedication take bigger ones.
You’d be surprised how much progress you can make with tiny steps.