7 Ways to Move Closer To Your Dreams When Life Feels Overwhelming
“Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure.”
– Paulo Coelho
It’s frustrating, isn’t it?
Watching time go by as your dream just stays a dream. Everyday your dream fades away just a little bit more in the busyness of the real world.
You wanted to quit your corporate job to do meaningful work to change the world, but you have too many bills to pay. You wanted to take time off to travel the world for a year, but you have a family to take care of. You wanted to write a book, but you just don’t have any time or energy left after twelve or more hours at work.
When you barely have time for a proper sit-down dinner, how can you even start working toward realizing your dream?
When 24 hours just doesn’t seem enough to get everything done, it’s a sign that life has become overwhelming. In response to all this stress, our brains do their best to distract us from facing our problems. It’s just easier to sit and stare at the wall or waste hours on YouTube, rather than working toward making our dreams come true.
I’ve been there and had to claw my way out of the pit of feeling overwhelmed. I still struggle with it some times. So many things are on my to-do list that I could have a hundred clones and still not make much progress. But you can’t just expect to open your eyes one day and step into the life of your dreams. You must keep making slow, steady progress towards fulfilling your dream — no matter how overwhelming life gets.
Use the following seven strategies to help you keep moving toward your dreams.
1. Do what you’re most afraid of
Counter-intuitive, isn’t it? Why would you choose to do something that scares the hell out of you? Especially when you lack the energy and focus to tackle it?
I took ages to start a blog. I wanted to write, but I was afraid of sharing it in public. What if people didn’t like it? What if I put it out there and no one reads it? Would I be able to keep coming up with good topics to write about? What if I failed as a writer?
So, not having enough time became my go-to excuse for not starting.
After a few weeks, I realized that my fears were getting in the way of my dream of becoming a writer. So, I signed up for a free WordPress website, installed the default theme, and started writing. I’ve written for over two years now, and I love writing even more than when I began. Pushing through my fear helped me find what I love doing.
Don’t let fear prevent you from chasing your dream. Overcome these irrational fears by doing the thing that you are afraid of. Every small step forward will give you the confidence to keep moving toward your dream.
2. Work through the pain of chasing your dream
A few years ago, I decided to lose weight, and I picked running as the way to do it. Twenty seconds into my first run, I could barely move. My lungs were on fire, and I would have dropped to my knees if it weren’t for the railings.
It was my first attempt, and quitting after a mere twenty seconds felt as if I was giving up. So, I rested for five minutes and ran for twenty more seconds. I almost had to crawl back home and seriously considered not running the next day. But my desire to lose weight was stronger than the pain. By pushing myself on that first day, I had expanded my belief of what was possible. I had moved one step closer to my dream of losing weight.
I kept stringing together those short runs day after day until six months later when I could run 5km without a break. I also lost 25 lbs. The six months I spent losing weight made me realize that we have to put ourselves through pain, physical and emotional, on the road to fulfilling our dreams.
When you barely have time to eat and sleep, avoiding the pain of working towards your dreams seems like the natural thing to do. But you know that only by enduring this pain can you get closer to your dreams. The surprising thing is, once you accept the pain and start working through it, your motivation strengthens. Every day, the pain will challenge you to give up, but your desire to make your dreams come true will push you just a little bit further.
Like Winston Churchill said, “If you are going through hell, keep going.”
3. Realize that enjoying what you do is a good thing
I used to love video games, but I looked down my nose at people who cheated while playing them — until I ran into a difficult stage in one game and spent hours failing to get through. Out of frustration, I cheated just so I could move on, and I enjoyed the rest of the game. My initial guilt at having cheated (despite what I believed) vanished in a few hours. I realized something important that day — why agonize over something that is designed to be enjoyed?
The same can be said of our lives too. What’s wrong with finding a way to enjoy life more?
We have been taught that life is hard and that we just have to keep our heads down and go along with it. We have been brought up with the belief that work is not meant to be enjoyed. Any sort of enjoyable work tends to get labeled as not real work. So, we choose to spend the majority of our days working on things that drain our energy. We come up with excuses for why it’s okay to do soul-sucking work. All the enjoyable things get labeled as hobbies, relegated to the free hour that we may have once or twice a month.
Here’s what you were never taught (but deep down know to be true). To be happy in life, find and do what you love. Working toward making your dreams come true will require hard work, but it will also be enjoyable. You will enjoy perfecting the chapter of the novel you are writing, volunteering to help people in need, shooting the intro video for your website for the seventh time. Don’t worry if it doesn’t feel like real work to you. Keep doing what you enjoy, and you will soon be closer to making your dreams come true.
4. When you feel like giving up, work harder
After more than 10 hours at my day job, I come home and dive right into three hours of writing and learning (to be a better writer). I do this six days a week, and sometimes, even on Sundays. I don’t have time to worry about how my job is keeping me from going after my dream of becoming a writer.
Before I started writing daily, I used to think I could only write when I had more time. I kept daydreaming about how I would quit my job one day, lock myself away in a cabin for a few months, and emerge with the next bestselling novel. So, I would come home from work, watch TV, and play video games, hoping that one day my dream would come true. I didn’t realize that I had already given up on my dream by deciding not to work toward it.
Life will always get in the way. You’ll always have a hundred things that need to get done. In the midst of all this, your dreams get pushed down the priority ladder. Your dreams are still dreams because no one told you that you’ll need to work even harder than you already have to make them come true.
Every day, I keep putting one foot in front of the other trying to become a writer. It is hard work, but it also ensures I am closer to fulfilling my dream. This gives me the strength to keep going, even when I feel like giving up.
Just remember — that when life gets too overwhelming, and you don’t have the time to work toward making your dreams come true, that’s when you need to dig deep and work even harder.
5. Stop thinking and just take that first step
How long will you keep thinking about the novel you want to write without actually writing a word? How long will you keep daydreaming about backpacking across South-East Asia when you haven’t even traveled to any place there?
The world is full of people who want to live their dreams someday. All these people are miserable, whereas the happy people are already living their dreams. What separates these people from the rest is that they decided to take that first step, no matter how risky it seemed. Just like the woman who quit her job to scoop ice cream on an island.
We get so caught up in planning and analyzing everything that we forget to actually do something. Choosing a thoroughly researched option might prevent us from stepping into known dangers, but it also prevents us from living our dream life.
A few months ago, I bought tickets to World Domination Summit (which I have wanted to go to for more than two years now) without knowing whether I’d get a visa, whether I could afford to pay for the flight and hotel, and whether I would be able to take extra days off from work to go there. But I bought them anyway. I came back from WDS last month, and can honestly say it was a dream come true. It wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t taken that first step and bought the tickets.
Do one thing, even if it’s small, that you feel you just have to do. Take the first step to move closer to your dreams. It’s just like Steve Jobs said, “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”
6. Use money to move closer to your dreams
I used to believe that money was the root of all evil. I did not care about my earnings, savings, or expenses. Working in a job just to make money seemed like an absolute waste of time.
So, I started looking for ways to make money doing work I enjoyed. One of my first attempts was to try freelance writing. Within a few weeks of signing up as a freelancer on Elance, I landed my first paid writing project and made nearly $250 in a month. The reason I was able to get such quick results was an online training program I had bought. It taught me how to pitch my proposals to clients, how to set my rates as a freelancer, and how to talk with clients so that they feel they hired the right person.
I realized later that the salary from the job I hated had enabled me to invest in a training program that was helping me change my career path. The money I was making was helping me to get closer to my dream much faster than I could have managed on my own.
Even though I am frustrated in my job and want to quit, I can’t help but be thankful for the money I make. It has helped me invest in training and education to enhance my skills as a writer.
If you are reading this post, I believe you are privileged enough to have a job that pays well, even though it doesn’t leave you much time to work on making your dreams a reality. Use the money you make to help you move closer to your dreams. If you want to change careers, you can invest in training programs to learn the necessary skills. If you want to get a novel published in your name, you can hire a ghostwriter to write the novel for you. If you need to research competitors for the new business idea you have, you can hire virtual assistants to do the research.
7. Act in defiance of the status quo
We feel overwhelmed when we are obligated to act in ways that don’t feel right to us. It’s usually when society expects us to behave in a certain way just because everybody else is doing the same. In times like these, we search for answers in articles, videos, and books. We look for proof that a better way exists, and we look to find courage to defy the status quo.
Sometimes, in our search for proof, we come to a crossroad. We can choose to continue looking for more proof, or we can choose to break out of the norms that hold us back.
No strategies or guides exist to help you decide; it’s all up to your gut feeling. You just have to break out of the status quo to keep moving closer to your dreams.
When I talk to my friends about quitting my job to travel and explore for a year, they get excited and want to know more about it. Telling my story helps them open up about their ideas and plans for the future. I love to help them expand on their dreams, especially if doing so can help them quit their dead-end jobs too.
Helping them get even one step closer to their dreams feels great. Knowing that trying to break out of the status quo inspires others to do the same gives me the courage to keep moving toward my dreams.
You know what to do; now go do it
If you have read this far, congratulations! You have separated yourself from the millions who are just mindlessly browsing the Internet.
You were reading and wondering how you can apply some of these strategies to your own life. This proves that you are willing to do what it takes to keep moving toward your dreams, even when life gets overwhelming.
Some of these strategies might be new to you, yet some you might have known for a long time. But you haven’t done anything with this knowledge. On your deathbed, you will regret not having even tried to make your dreams come true. Don’t let life overwhelm you and prevent you from chasing your dreams.
You now know what you must do. Go live your dreams.
Photo by Björn Lindell