The single most popular post I have ever written on this site is called ‘What to do when you don’t have a dream.’ I wrote it nearly four years ago when I was feeling fed up with the notion that we are all supposed to have one Big Dream that acts as the guiding light over our life.
The concept is intertwined with the idea that if we do what we love, we’ll never work a day in our lives. It also reminds me of that question that is supposed to solve the career conundrum for all of us: What would you do if money was no object? It’s a magic bullet that’s supposed to reveal our Big Dream, our life’s purpose, and our ideal job all at once.
My answer to that question has traditionally been ‘travel’ and ‘write’ but it could just as easily be ‘read magazines,’ ‘do puzzles,’ ‘pet cats.’ As if any of us would only do one thing for the rest of our lives given the choice. We’d do whatever the heck we felt like doing at any given time, but nobody’s going to pay us to do that. It’s not a viable career path.
There’s that word again: career. I spent a decade thinking I had to have one, and that it was closely linked to that elusive Dream I was supposed to have. I wasted so much time feeling anxious that I couldn’t identify the one perfect job that would make my whole life fall into place.
Just like new year’s eves and birthdays, achieving your dream (your goal?) isn’t always what you imagined it would be. Sometimes it is, even if only for a brief moment, and it can be spectacular. But sometimes it isn’t, and that’s okay because our priorities change.
The things I thought I wanted as a younger me weren’t the things I wanted at all; a prime example is my job in Newcastle. I worked at a university in Australia, I traveled to exciting places (which I loved), I liked my colleagues. On paper, my younger self would have declared it perfect.
But what happened? I left that so-called perfect job so I could live out of a tent and drive around the country.
Human beings are not static. We are dynamic and what we want want changes over time. Despite knowing this, we seem to spend an awful lot of time looking for the perfect [fill in the blank]: house, job, partner, city. Something we can tick of the list and go, well that’s sorted, now I can focus on other things.
That’s not how it works.
We’re always juggling, trying to figure out how to manage what we want vs. what we have. And somewhere in the middle of that we’re supposed to find our passion, and make that our living.
* * * * *
These are real search terms that have led people to my blog:
- i am shy and dnt have a dream at all
- is it possible to not have a dream
- ive never had big dreams for my life
- at 23 i still dont have a dream
- no career goals want happy
- why can’t i have a dream
- how to have a dream in life
- what to do if i dont have a future
- what if you dont have big dreams
- i don’t have dreams to chase
- i don’t have any dreams or aspirations
First of all, if you’ve ever wondered or searched any of these thoughts, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. These search terms break my heart. Your career does not have to be the root of your happiness. It’s okay to just live your life one step at a time even if you fear you’re stepping into a void.
Obviously I can only speak for myself, but I’m fairly confident human beings have a range of interests. Asking us to pick Just One and focus on that for the rest of our lives seems…not sensible to me.
If you don’t have any dreams or aspirations, that doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. It probably means there are a few different things you find interesting, and that makes you normal.
Your job title does not validate who you are as a person. You may know exactly what you want to do. You may have no idea. You may have other interests that don’t correspond to paid work.
All of this is fine. Totally fine.
If you’ve got a dream you’re itching to achieve, go for it. But if you don’t, that doesn’t mean you’re missing something.
It makes you human.