Oh, aren’t we inundated these days by motivational gurus and bloggers? Everywhere we turn we see: Follow Your Dreams! How to Achieve Your Heart’s Desire! Find the Secrets to True Success!
And about a zillion variations on the theme. Seems tons of folks are striving to do what they love and the money will follow.
But doesn’t the very fact that for every guru, hundreds if not thousands of follows exist, tell us that most folks aren’t achieving the success for which they strive?
So what gives?
So many people I talk to feel as though they’re banging their heads against the wall, in pursuit of their dreams and goals.
But you know the funnier thing? So many are achieving them, and going on to seek higher peaks. Even if it takes decades to get there.
Woah! People say. Decades? Um, I thought that money would follow a bit sooner than that . . .
And for many, it does.
But I remember (all too well) having thoughts of giving up when years and years and years seemed to have trickled by and over each peak four more appeared to take its place.
Some dreams are exacting, indeed.
Okay, we get that, right? We know making a plan, writing it down, breaking it into steps, having accountability, all those things put us on the path to success.
But those numbers just stopped me for a bit. Especially the 84% with no specific goals at all. This is just not a way of being I can understand.
Then again, I’ve always been blessed to know exactly what I wanted to do and to achieve in this life. My purpose is clear. And I do realize that so many folks don’t have that blessing.
Still, if you went to all the trouble of getting a Harvard MBA, or anything else that took a fair amount of work, one would think you’d have plans and dreams and goals once the diploma was in your hands. Right?
But put another way, we all can name a ton of reasons why we don’t get completely serious about succeeding in our quests. Fear of failure/success, self-doubt, excuses, being problem- rather than solution-focused, not having the motivation to truly commit.
And I bet you can think of a hundred more.
We’ve all fallen prey to some of those, along our paths. No?
But I believe that deep down, all those reasons can be distilled into one core issue.
I mean, we all know that life can surely beat you down. It’s filled with enough twists and turns, sadness and heartache, scrambling to get by at times, that who could blame anyone for giving up?
I, for one, certainly can’t. At many, many junctures I’ve felt the pull to give up on my dream. Sometimes you just get tired.
Especially as those decades go by . . .
I was talking with a good writer friend of mine, who’s in her fifth major revision of her novel (based on a top agent’s orders), and she said, “I see now why writers quit writing.”
Yep, this is a tough road to hoe. We both write Literary Fiction, which is the top of the publishing pyramid, and not a lot of spots are there for the thousands and thousands of folks penning it.
I have watched far more writers quit than keep going.
And of course, I can’t blame them one whit! A decent dose of masochism seems necessary to continue this.
Or does it? Is something more at play here?
Of course it is 🙂
Yes, yes, clearly you have to love what you do to keep climbing those mountains. That’s a given.
Again, I know how difficult chasing dreams can be. And how real life can get in the way. And how we might not have the energy as those decades go by that we once had.
All of that is real and true.
But what’s core issue, which in itself contains the magic key? It boils down to a simple question:
What do I want in life?
No answer is inherently wrong. If you get one life, lord knows, you might as well spend it the way you want to!
But the thing is, if you have those dreams, and you’re not living them, how do you truthfully answer that question?
And yes, we all want peace and contentment.
But what is contentment?
Isn’t it being happy with who you are, where you are, how you live, and what you’ve achieved?
I never could figure out how to be content if I let go of my dreams . . .
What folks so often mean by contentment, is that they’ve actually slipped into complacency.
And at the root of that is fear, not peace.
Life is funny. The old psychological truism of if you’re not progressing, you’re regressing, exists for a reason. Life just isn’t stagnant.
When we stop facing fear, stop challenging ourselves, stop learning and changing, stop grasping for that brass ring, we stop growing.
When we stop growing, we start dying.
And is that, in the final analysis, what you want? What you really want?
I might never win the Pulitzer. May never see my stories made into film. But wouldn’t it be cool if I did?
And in the meantime, the joy is in the writing. And in hearing from readers who love my work, relate to my characters, find a thrill as my stories come out.
I can’t imagine another way.
I’ve always been fond of this quote by Winston Churchill, which helps shine a light when the day seems dark:
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Your turn: What do you really want out of life?
Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.