Benefits: Deliberately Think about what it means to chase your dreams.
So That You Can: Keep moving forward when you start to doubt yourself.
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Chase Your Dreams With Open Eyes
The 3 Stages I Went Through
You did it! You made the soul-searching, gut-wrenching, panic-inducing decision to chase your dreams. You should be proud of yourself! But, after you pat yourself on the back, you may want to settle in for a reality check.
Logically, you know that chasing your dreams isn’t going to be a walk in the park. You know you will have to make sacrifices, face challenges, and maybe even push yourself to the limits of what you’re capable of. But, have you opened your eyes to how this will play out in real life?
Of course not! How could you? These are realities that can only be truly comprehended after they smack you in the face. So if that’s the case, why in the world should you keep reading this essay? Because . . .
When you chase your dreams, you will inevitably find yourself wondering whether or not you made a wrong turn somewhere along the way. You’re going to need to know that you’re not alone. You’ll hunger for the reassurance that someone else has experienced what you’re experiencing. That reassurance may be the one thing that convinces you to stay the course, which is exactly why . . .
I’d like to share my experiences with you today — the 3 distinct stages of evolution I’ve gone through since I started chasing my dream:
- The Naivety Stage
- The Ego Stage
- The Reassessment Stage
Come along with me as we discuss the characteristics, pitfalls, and purpose of each stage. Perhaps one of these stages will resonate with you, and my words will provide the reassurance you need to keep going. Or, perhaps you’ll just store the information away for a later day, knowing that the day you need some encouragement will come.
Either way, the goal of this essay is to offer you the opportunity to Deliberately Think about what it means to chase your dreams with open eyes.
How My Dream Came to Be
Once upon a time, I dedicated a full-length post to this very subject — How I Accidentally Manifested My Dream (linked below) — so I won’t go into the whole story here. Still, a little backstory is always helpful.
The funny thing is, I never actually chased my dream because I never really dreamed of becoming a writer/podcaster. I had been a professional accountant for over 20 years when suddenly, and seemingly out of nowhere, I had the crazy idea to start a blog. The idea grew, and in a matter of two months, I absolutely knew I had to go for it or I would (a) lose my mind and/or (b) regret not doing it for the rest of my life.
Then again, maybe I had been harboring dreams of becoming a writer. Maybe I had, at one time, been living this dream vicariously through my ex-husband. During our relationship, he had aspirations of becoming a professional writer, and I wanted that to happen for him so badly. I offered as much support as I could in the way of encouragement, proofreading, and financial resources. Maybe, in part, because that was easier, and less intimidating, than admitting to my own dreams.
That could be why, when the time came for me to chase my dream, it felt like the decision had already been made for me. Because, in a way, it was a dream I had chased before. And now, I was simply following a path that had made itself known to me. In other words, it truly didn’t feel like a decision. It felt like a command from The Universe.
So, I made a plan to save some money, quit my job, and create The Expectation Gaps. Then, I needed to get buy-in from my husband, and off I went — into Stage 1.
Side note: It’s super important to get buy-in from your significant other or anyone who fills that role in your life. I’m not saying that you need their permission, but you are going to need (and want) their love, support, and counsel as you chase your dreams.
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Stage 1 -- The Naivety Stage
aka The Honeymoon Stage
During this stage, you and your dream are getting used to living together. You have overly optimistic expectations of what your life will look like now that you and your dream have tied the knot. And, the realities of your new day-to-day life haven’t quite hit yet.
Basically, you haven’t had much real-life experience with your dream, and that creates an innocence, of sorts, and a sense of excitement — Naivety. But let’s be careful not to attach any negative connotation to the term “Naivety” here because being a bit naïve is an essential part of making the decision to chase your dreams in the first place. If you weren’t a little naïve about what you were getting into, you’d probably never start.
This naivety will give your imagination the space it needs to start conceptualizing so many great ideas — opportunities to pursue — that you won’t be able to keep up with them. These ideas will fill you with energy and a sense of purpose.
Which means, you’ll be very eager to figure out how you can bring your great ideas to life. You’ll find yourself consulting with as many experts as you can, whether it be in person, through an online course, or via YouTube videos. And, you may find that this desire for knowledge becomes almost an obsession.
This obsession will actually be the beginning of the end of this stage. We’ll talk more about that in the next section, but before we leave this one, let’s clarify what The Naivety Stage’s purpose is.
The Naivety Stage’s Purpose
This Stage’s purpose is pretty straightforward.
First, it’s really the only place you can start from. You need the optimism and excitement the Naivety Stage has to offer, or you would never take the first step toward chasing your dreams. Plus, you need the energy this state of mind creates because this Stage is going to take all the emotional energy reserves you have.
Second, you’ll need a “why” — the underlying reason you decided to chase your dreams in the first place — to come back to when things get tough in the Stages to come. The Naivety Stage is when you create your “why”. It’s the stage where you feel the spark, the calling, that was strong enough to convince you to change the course of your life. You may not realize it yet, but your “why” lives within that spark.
Curious to learn about owning your “Why”? Great! I wrote a post that tackles this subject. Linked at the end.
Stage 2 -- The Ego Stage
aka The Cookie Cutter Stage
Let’s go back to my former statement — your obsession to gain knowledge from every expert you possibly can will be the beginning of the end of the Naivety Stage. Or, in other words, it will be the beginning of the Ego Stage.
Yes, of course, it’s important to learn from those who have chased a dream similar to yours. And, there’s no reason you have to write your entire playbook from scratch. That would be a waste of your time and a waste of that valuable energy you created in the Naivety Stage.
However, there is a tipping point where seeking advice from others becomes counterproductive, and you need to be aware of it if you want to chase your dreams with open eyes.
The Tipping Point
Remember how you were so certain, back in the Naivety Stage, that you had stumbled across a monumental idea that no one else could deliver to the world, except for you? Remember all the elements of the dream you envisioned that made it unique and valuable? Well, you’re about to lose sight of that vision.
In the process of educating yourself, you will inevitably start comparing yourself to those who have gone before you and those who are your current competition. Your ego will kick in and tell you that you should do what everyone else is doing because it’s safe. And, of course, you’ll be drawn to that path because it promises success and the esteem that goes along with it.
The result . . . your dream starts to take on the cookie cutter shape of everyone else’s within your niche. You unwittingly stamp out that spark you found in the Naivety Stage. And, you’re left with a deformed, synthetic version of your dream.
On top of that, you’re bound to be pretty burned out by the end of this stage. You’ve been giving your all in a vain attempt to follow someone else’s mode of operation, and it’s becoming rapidly apparent that their system, in its entirety, just doesn’t work for you.
The Ego Stage’s Purpose
This all sounds pretty disheartening and painful, right? Right! I think that’s exactly what it’s supposed to be because the purpose of the Ego Stage is to separate the amateurs from the professionals. Okay? You may be thinking. But how?
According to Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art, you can differentiate an amateur from a professional based on the type of love they have for their dream. As Pressfield says:
The conventional interpretation is that the amateur pursues his calling out of love, while the pro does it for money. Not the way I see it. In my view, the amateur doesn’t love the game enough. If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his “real” vocation.
So, the Ego Stage will test the love of the dream chaser, in order to weed out the amateurs. Now that the Honeymoon Stage is over, and the realities of day-to-day life have hit, you will have to figure out if you love your dream conditionally or unconditionally.
Do you love your dream only when it’s fun and exciting (amateur)? Or, do you love your dream even though it’s now a deformed, synthetic version of what it once was (professional)?
Do you love your dream enough to make it through the Ego Stage and find a more authentic and sustainable way to chase it?
These are some of the questions you’ll need to answer in the next stage.
Stage 3 -- The Reassessment Stage
aka The KISS Stage
Now that you’ve allowed the Ego Stage to get the best of you, you have to make a choice. Will you keep chasing your dream, or will you let it float away into the great unknown?
There is no right or wrong answer to that question. Cutting ties with your dream doesn’t mean that you failed. Perhaps it wasn’t the dream you were supposed to be chasing. Perhaps you’ve gained some skills in the previous stages that are pointing you toward a different dream. Or, perhaps, you’re doing your best to convince yourself that this isn’t the dream for you because you’re scared to keep following where it leads.
Sorting through all of these thoughts is a tall order, and that’s why you may feel like you’re losing your mind during the Reassessment Stage. You’re going to feel a little lost. And that’s when you need to remember KISS — Keep It Simple Stupid (a design principle that suggests systems perform best when they have a simple, not complex, design).
Get Back to Basics
Remember that “why” we talked about in the Naivety Stage? Go back to it. Figure out the real reason you began chasing your dream in the first place. Revisit the initial vision you had, which was probably a pretty simple one.
After experiencing the Ego Stage, you’ll have a better understanding of what chasing your dream requires. Which means you’ll be in a good position to determine whether or not that “why” still fits. And, you’ll be in a good position to pick your vision apart and determine which pieces you’re not willing to pursue anymore; which pieces are too costly, in terms of your time, financial health, or mental health.
You’ll also want to stop seeking wisdom and advice for a while. Instead, focus on sorting through all that great knowledge you gained during the Naivety Stage. In an attempt to implement every amazing tip, trick, and timesaver that seeped into your brain, you’ve no doubt made the system for chasing your dream much more complicated than it needs to be. It’s time to KISS, and decide which parts of the system are working (keep) and which parts definitely aren’t (toss).
The Reassessment Stage’s Purpose
Well, it’s not called the Reassessment Stage for nothing. The purpose of this stage is to answer the question I posed at the beginning of this section — Will you keep chasing your dream, or will you let it float away into the great unknown?
You may decide to let your dream float away, but it’s more likely that you will decide to keep chasing your dream, using a different approach. So, you will have to let some pieces of the vision you created in the Naivety Stage die along with some of the endeavors you took on during the Ego Stage. And that means you’re going to experience a bit of a mourning process.
The mourning process is going to suck! No doubt about it. But, there’s also no doubt that it is an essential part of chasing your dream for the long haul. As you release some deadweight, you will create space to reimagine your dream and reboot your vision.
The beauty part? All this reimagining and rebooting will start to feel like the Naivety Stage again. And that leads us right back to the beginning . . .
The Naivety Stage -- Part II
At this point, you’re feeling that optimism and excitement you felt when you first decided to chase your dreams. Probably because you are, in a way, starting over again. Only this time you’re not as naïve. You have some experience and knowledge under your belt that you didn’t have the first time around.
You’ll start seeking wisdom and advice again, only this time, you’ll cast a much smaller net. By now you have a pretty good sense of who you should be learning from, which advice to throw away, and which advice to keep.
And, maybe most importantly, you’re going back into this stage with a much better system for chasing your dream; one that is designed by and for you. Nothing can stop you now, right?
I’m not sure, and maybe that’s what chasing your dreams with open eyes is all about — living and thriving in uncertainty.
As I write this, I’m straddling the Reassessment and Naivety Part II stages. My gut tells me that I’m bound to repeat all three stages over again, although with less severity the second time around. The question is, how many times will I find myself repeating them?
My best guess at this point: I think I will repeat these stages over and over again as long as I’m on this Earth. I don’t see how I couldn’t since I am committed to growing as a person and Deliberately Thinking about my direction in life. And, I think I can accept that because, after all . . .
There’s nothing worse than actually catching your dream. But that’s a discussion for another day.
If you’re ready to figure out which phase of chasing your dreams you’re in, be sure to take advantage of the worksheet I put together for you (tab at the top of this post). It will empower you to go from inspiration to action.
Click here for more posts with an “intentional living” theme.
Here are the two posts I referred to earlier:
If you’re ready to Stop Settling & Start Living! check out our home page to learn more about what The Expectation Gaps has to offer.
And until next time . . . STAY CURIOUS!
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