How to Use Fear, Pain, and Sadness to Create Massive Fuel For Your Dream

fuel for your dreams

It was hard. Really hard.

I’ve seeing my mother cry 2 times in my lifetime…

Now it’s 3.

“I don’t want you to go.”

I didn’t know what to say, how to respond, what to do.

So I did nothing.

She hugged me, tried to hold back her tears, her emotions.

But I’d already seen it, felt it.

Can a Dream Make You Cry?

About 18 month ago I moved to Japan.

I quit my job, left America, and stepped forward to follow a crazy dream: to become a ninja.

You’d think the hardest part would have been the first time I stepped foot in the Land of the Rising Sun… I did too.

Until now…

The Pain and The Dream Go Hand in Hand.

For the first time in a year and a half I was back in America. I connected with family and friends. It was amazing.

I thought to myself: “No problem, I’ll hang out with friends and family then soon be back in Japan. Continue on with my dream. I won’t miss a step.”

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I have dealt with language barriers, visa issues, cultural struggles, intense winter cold, doubts, fears and insecurity… I thought all the “hard parts” were in my past.

Wrong again.

To this moment, I still hear her words:

“I don’t want you to go”.

Use Your Fear, Pain, and Tears to Guide Your Next Steps

I got off the plane, stepped foot in Japan and made it to my apartment. I have lived here for a year and a half. But everything felt strange, different, new.

I never realized how much I loved my family and friends. I’m fully committed my dream, but it still hurts.

If you want to step forward with your dreams you may face incredible challenges. Struggles you never imagined. But here’s the irony, the more it hurts, the more it fuels me. How screwed up is that?

It’s now 1 month since my return to Japan and I feel more committed to my dream than I ever have in my life.

I share this post with you for 2 reasons: 1) I want you to recognize that pain and the pursuit of a dream go hand an in hand and 2) The pain needs to be used to fuel your dream… Not kill it.

How to Use Fear, Pain and Sadness to Fuel Your Dream

Below is the exact process I used to face the pain of pursuing my dream.

Step 1: Feel the pain.

I got to my apartment in Japan. I dropped my things. I looked in the mirror. I cried.

Not a light cry. I’m talking about a hard breathing, tears flowing, loud sniffling cry! And you know what? Somewhere in the midst of it all, it felt kind of good.

I didn’t fight it. I just let it out. I just let it be.

It’s like I was… Just hanging out with my pain.

Don’t run from your pain or struggle. If you try to deny it, it only gets stronger or more intense. But when we sit with it, eventually we can have a nice, honest conversation with the pain. Which leads us to the next step.

Step 2: Ask “Why does it hurt?”

As I sat there sniffling away – looking in the mirror I found myself smiling. I’m 30 years old. I quit my job to move to a foreign country. I’ve faced challenge after challenge and yet – here I was crying, because I missed my mom :).

So I asked myself: “Why does it hurt?”

Really think about it. Ask yourself the question: Why does it hurt? The answer is scary but within it, is so much beauty!

It’s a scary question, but a powerful one as well. I really thought about it. And it clicked…

Step 3: Identify the beauty in the pain.

You know why it hurt – because I loved my family and friends. I never realized how much they meant to me. When I first got to Japan everything was novel, amazing, incredible! But now a year and a half later, some of the “novelty” had worn off. The “New Toy” excitement was gone. So, I just had to be honest:

I love my family and friends back in America.

My sadness and pain came from love. That’s beautiful.

Step 4: Recognize there are only 2 choices.

Now that I knew the pain, I had to step back. I asked myself: How bad do I want this? Do I quit? Do I give up?

I smile as I write those words. I soon realized I had only 2 options :).

1) I quit the dream
2) I move forward with the dream.

No matter what stage of your dream you are at – there is always 2 options. You either follow the dream, or you don’t follow the dream. There is no middle ground.

Step 5: Make the choice and re-commit.

With that new found knowledge I knew what I had to do. I would continue to pursue my dream: to become a ninja. I opened my bag, pulled out my gi (the uniform I use when I train in martial arts), and just stared at it.

I really was forced to step back and ask myself “Why am I doing this?” As I sat there running through answer after answer, I realized how much my dream mattered to me. But I also realized how much I love my family.

In that moment, my dream evolved. Someday, at some point I’d love to go back to America and train obsessively. But right now, I’m not there yet. I have to earn that opportunity. Now I’m in a different stage of the game. My commitment to this moment is deep, because I know it will get me to those other moments when I’m ready.

You have to choose one way or the other. You cannot say “I’ll wait”. By choosing to “wait” that is no different than saying “No.” to your dream.

Step 6: Take it 1 Day at a Time.

Initially I wanted to develop a super detailed plan of action. But it felt overwhelming. It was too much. So I stepped back and thought to myself “What if I just focus on today?” “What do I need to do today to move towards my dream?”

The dojo (where I train at) was closed. So, I put on my running shoes, my headphones and stepped out the door. I ran and ran and ran… What’s this got to do with my dream? Well… Have you ever seeing a fat ninja?

Me neither.

I decided to take each moment for what it is – a beautiful precious opportunity to learn and grow. One step at a time, one day at a time. I continue to make progress towards my dream. It’s a beautiful thing to feel the beauty in the pain of the pursuit of a dream.

Don’t try to take over the world in one day. Focus on making the most of today. What can you do today to move you closer to your dream?

What struggles, challenges or fears have held you back from pursuing your dream?

Photo by F L I R S T – Palk Clap

39 thoughts on “How to Use Fear, Pain, and Sadness to Create Massive Fuel For Your Dream”

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. It is very inspiring. We do forget that very often changes come with pain and in the process of overcoming we grow tremendously.

    1. Hello Maya :).

      That is the beauty in the pain – there is such amazing opportunity for growth. There is so much power in continuing to push forward.

  2. Hey Izzy…
    I agree with regarding chasing our dreams with all pain, fear, struggle etc.. but am not able to decide what is my dream. What ever i think of is with dual mind as you had with your dream and family. Your are a brave man who choose dream. Fever few will have courage to take shuch a strong step and sticking to the decision of chasing dreams.

    Sure your steps to follow dream support.. Thanks a lot!!

    1. Hi Vikas – one of the most important responsibilities we have as human beings is to discover our purpose! It is impossible to hit a target you can’t see.

      Therefore right now it is very important that you focus your time and energy on identifying the answer to this question: “What do I want to do with my life?”

      Please head on over to my site- You will find a lot of posts and resources that deal with this specific focus :).

  3. I hope your dream is all that you want of it and is the most fully satisfying of all experiences you could have – I will tell you that it will need to be. I did that; chased my dream and gave up family and friends to move far away. In hindsight, I gave up too much; because part of the dream, which maybe I never realized till aided by hindsight, was being able to share it with my family and friends. Again, in hindsight, I would have found a way to work my dream and have both because I cannot ever get back what was lost – the time, the experiences of being together – so many things I would give a lot to have a “do-over” on now. So was the dream worth it? No, probably not. Like the song from the show Wicked – “I couldn’t be happier” – there are bridges we cross, we didn’t know that we cross until we’ve crossed….check out the rest of the lyrics if you haven’t heard them – you will probably find when pursuing your dream you can identify with much of it. Best of success.

    1. Barbara I can say without a doubt – IT IS WORTH IT!

      If I was to stay in America – I would be weighed down with doubts, regrets and a life filled with “What-if’s”. A true dream – when identified is our single most important purpose in this world.

      When a person says “It’s not worth it” I am forced to ask – Well, was it truly your dream then?

      Often we are blinded to what we truly want. If it is your true and unquestionable dream then it is the single most important thing you want to achieve with your life. Yes, of course there is pain, challenge, and struggle but it is also incredibly empowering, exciting, and thrilling.


  4. Glad you went through with becoming a ninja. No one else can make up or live your dreams for you. A few years ago I found myself making up excuses why I could not possibly play an upcoming concert. I was terrified to perform in front of several of the best guitarists in the world. Glad I faced down my fear and did it. It’s a great memory I’ll have forever.

    1. It’s amazing what happens when we face our fears isn’t it? What I love about your story (and sticks out to me) is that this is something that happened many years ago yet it still sticks out in your mind!

      A question: How did that experience impact how you live your life to this day? (Or maybe it hasn’t – which in that case the question would be: Why hasn’t it impacted your life to this day?”

  5. It sounds like you’ve reached that state of “awareness” where what we label as pain, could also just be called an intensity of feeling. It’s beautiful that, in your awareness, you were able to connect with the love you have for your family. Very inspirational!
    Becca Chopra

    1. Thank you so much for saying this Becca :). There is definitely truth in what you are saying here. The pain is an aware of the “intensity of feeling” – but that being said, it was pain :). My tears and heavy heart were unquestionable evidence of that.

      But that being said – I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world! It was and is a very powerful experience to identify the beauty in the pain!

  6. This sounds great and spot on, Izzy. For me, I believe I’ve finally found my dream after 18 years of uncertainty. For the first time in my life, I am putting blood, sweat, and tears into my writing and maintenance of my new ambition. I’ve gone through all the stages in such a short period of time, but I’ve gotten back up once the doubts arose.

    The way I see it, if this was something I cared very little for then I would be rather apathetic and detached; careless of results. That’s not the case, I actually pray that I succeed and I can tell it’ll stick around for a very long time. I hope I can take it places.

    1. Yo Vincent – your words convince me that you very likely may have identified your dream. One of the key characteristics of someone who identifies their dream and moves toward it is a “relentless unstoppable determination” to achieve the dream.

      Hours become irrelevant. Time no longer matters. It’s almost as if you are taken over by the dream :). I don’t want to put word in your mouth – I am speaking from my own heart here.

      If you want to go deeper in the conversation please feel free to email me at . If you have specific questions, concerns or thoughts I would love to support you in any way I can :).

  7. Hi Izzy. Really enjoyed your article here.

    I think that we all know there is going to be some sort of sacrifice when it comes to taking LEAPS OF FAITH to step into the unknown.

    Dreams are CHOSEN JOURNEYS relating to the strong desire to grow and experience life differently. Even if we feel uncomfortable with the change the tide will turn if we keep pursuing what we love because our inner strength and view of life will eventually change for the better.

    I totally agree for the need to allow ourselves to feel the Fear, Pain, and Sadness to fully understand where we are and where we really want to be. Even ninjas should not fight themselves.

    Your journey has taught some valuable lessons and therefore served its purpose. Our souls have massive plans to stretch our potential to the max.

    Well done for taking that massive step into the unknown I too would love to be a ninja of
    awesomeness : )

    1. Paul that is a freaking great title: “Ninja of Awesomeness” – I would be an arrogant jerk if I gave it to myself, but since you have given it to me I can wear it proudly :) (at least for today!).

      You bring up some very perceptive points. In particular I really love your comment about faith. I am a strong believer that the role of faith in pursuing a dream is pivotal.

      Actually, I just wrote up a post that asked my readers: What relationship does faith have in pursuing a dream (if at all)? It would be interesting to have you share your thoughts with the group, and for you to read their thoughts :). Here’s the link:

      Thanks for taking the time to leave such a freaking awesome comment!

  8. Izzy,

    What an inspiring story. I can relate. I left the sunny island of Singapore five years ago to be in New York. There has been many a challenging and heart wrenching moments but the dream lives on. Thank you for sharing your story.

    May you be the ninja you’ve always dreamt of being and may the force be with you :)

    1. Hi Lisa :). Wow! So, you left Singapore and ventured on over to New York to achieve your dream. That’s awesome! How has your progress been?

      If you want to delve deeper into it feel free to shoot me an email at . I’d love to hear from you.

  9. Hi Izzy

    This story popped up at the most amazing time…when i needed to know this most. Love is so key in our lives and we find it from many different people throughout our lives. Pursuing our passion is too. I am in a regular job at the moment but studying various things to pursue my passion. At times i feel a bit stuck but dont let this deter me as it is a stepping stone to where i see myself and i accept where i am and its paying for me to achieve my future aspirations. We will always need to endure certain things inorder to recieve other things we truly want. Life is never a 100% all yours, it is a pie that you must delight in whether good or bad and life will somehow seem easier for life is a journey and a lesson. Nothing in our lives are pointless unless we think it to be….

    1. Wow Yazzie- that’s some deep stuff there :).

      Nothing in our lives is ever pointless! Every single thought, action and behavior counts. Every single thing we do has an impact on us positively or negatively. It’s on us – to make sure it moves us in a positive direction.

      I’m glad this post was able to come to you at a time of need.

      1. mahavir nautiyal

        Wonderful and inspiring story,Izzy It is in the nature of sentient beings ( including animals and plants) to avoid pain and suffering. Happiness is desirable but it is also superficial. Suffering makes one introspect and seek out what has gone wrong. This gives an opportunity to us to know ourselves better and re-orient our attitude to life. One’s character and inner strength is best tested in suffering and adversity. By understanding suffering that I am going through, i have a chance of transcending it and not by running away from it. You have shown the way.

        1. Mahavir I am very honored that you found this post helpful enough to help you push through suffering. There is a lot of stuff out there that is constantly focusing on the joy that comes with following our dreams – the problem with this is that it denies the reality of pain and struggle.

          At the same time there is incredible beauty in pain and struggle if we are wiling to step back and grow from it :).

          Glad to be part of the whole that helps you keep moving forward.

  10. Izzy, thank you for sharing this.

    I know how hard it may be to share some deeply personal things, and, sharing this, you showed to be brave.

    I’m in a similar phase in these days.
    I’m realizing that the closer to your dream you arrive, the harder it’s for you. Reaching the success is much easier than keeping it.

    I did something similar to your step-by-step exercise. The fact is that we have just to accept it and go on. As you said in one of your videos “It’s your choice”.
    Only after you feel the pain and the fear, you can understand if you are doing what you really want. Only if you really want it, you’ll find the force and the bravey to go on.

    Thanks again Izzy, you are always inspiring.

    1. Beautiful comment Mauro! I love how you explained that. By facing pain and struggle in the pursuit of our dreams and still opting to move forward we prove to our own heart how much the dream matters to us. In fact, we prove to ourselves that it is in fact our dream :).

      Great comment man… Nice grammatical English as well :).

  11. Yes, I admit there are times when we need to make a change to get back on path to our goals. We must adhere to our commitments to our self, but at the same time we need to respect the needs and feelings of others. When you make a commitment to yourself to do something in life it must take priority over everything else and that within itself is a big task. Knowing how to leverage our own commitments with the feelings of others is another. We will go through the challenges we face while others are simply living their life the best they know how to live. We must remember that others are not inside our head. They do not see things the way that we do nor will they ever truly see our commitments and the feelings of determination that we have concerning them. We must remember this delicate part of life and relationship. Stay in touch with those who are fond of you, and allow them to continue to be a part of your journey. Let them know how much you appreciate them.

    1. Amy, this is a wonderful comment. You bring up one of the critical challenges of pursuing a dream. There are moments within it when we may face a situation where we can either try to satisfy the short term pleasures of ourselves (and others) or do things that may hurt others but be better for ourselves in the long term.

      I cannot go into detail on this topic in a general sense as that would be too difficult. But I can explain that without a doubt, though it is hard for my mother she also supports it. She knows as well as I that this experience is allowing me to become a better person. I will be able to give more to the world and my family because I will be a more whole person. I talk to my parents multiple times per week. I express my love too them often. They knew about this post long before it was ever published. The pursuit of my dream has allowed me to feel a love for my friends and family I never knew I had. I feel blessed for this – and I know they do as well.

  12. Hi Izzy. First, I love how your writing told bits of your story and led us through to see why and how your message is important. Great writing.

    Your line “there is always 2 options. You either follow the dream, or you don’t follow the dream” is so much in line with how CJ (the guitarist above in Comments) and I now live our lives. We were NOT doing this for the first ten years of our marriage, but our last five have been a transformation. We like to say, “You’re either going up or going down,” but now I can add yours to our mantras! Many thanks.

    1. Hello Tammy.

      I love that you totally embraced this phrase. A few years ago I didn’t understand this concept. I thought by “waiting” I was safe. But in time I no longer believe that (and it seems you feel the same). Now I believe waiting is the most dangerous thing in the world because it allows me to deceive myself (and others).

      Please come drop by my site: (and have CJ come too!). Your attitude on life are the exact type of attitudes that I love my readers to have.

      You either follow the dream or you don’t. It’s black and white :).

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment

  13. I always thought that all my fear and sadness and hopelessness might someday help me become a more better and obviously wiser person. I think that very few people go through life seamlessly. Most people that live out their dreams went through a lot of bad stuff but managed to keep working towards their life missions.

    1. Yo John. There is immense truth in what you are saying. To achieve a dream we must go through challenge and struggle. This is because it is extremely challenge to turn a dream into a reality – this means that we must be emotionally tough.

      The only way to gain this toughness is to go through these tough situations time and time again.

      I love the insights you brought to the table here :).

      Thank you.

  14. “I don’t want you to go”…… I am in a similar dilemma or would be.. Its very diffucult leave the people you love and go away somewhere far….Currently, the pain is killing me and I get a feeling that it will end the dream, I don’t want both to happen.

    Step 1 is so very true, the more you hold, the more it pains, one should let it out, but we men usually don’t but one should, I agree.

    “sadness and pain came from love” — so very true, felt nice to read it.


  15. you really know what it takes to follow a dream. I like the idea either you are following you dream or you r not. one day at a time is really i need. i am also following my dream.

    1. Hello Abhishek.

      Thank you for your kind words. If you have adopted (or are in the process of adopting) the philosophy of “You either follow your dream or not” it will change your life.

      Every day I remind myself of this. It is very powerful and humbling. It means that every single day I can either choose to follow my dream or I can choose to not follow it.

      It creates a massive sense of urgency.

      If you ever want to share your dream with me and the readers of The Change Blog please feel free to share it as a reply to this comment. Or if it more of a personal thing you can always email me at I love hearing about people’s dreams.

  16. When I read it, it reminded me my own experience of many years ago in a foreign land. I was even younger. At the beginning when I get the opportunity of going to foreign country I was overjoyed, my dream was to promote self to higher stage; to learn new innovation and share it with others. To this day, my love and believe in education is immense. I went to foreign country on scholarship, and then to get scholarship was very privilege, to separate from my mother, family and friends were painful, and took me to overcome the homesickness a while. To be in a different country is not easy, one will encountering with cultural differences, language, problem, and adjustment of weather. In order to overcome, one has to be tolerant, and think of the future benefit not present hardship. In later years, the challenges went through; and the experiences negative or positive would be lifelong educator.

    Especially in the evening I used to cry as if I would never go back to my homeland ever again. The people were extremely nice and understandable – they were always encouraging and tried to comfort me, despite all that it took me many months to adjust and feel at home. What helped me most was kept myself busy, and associated with friends of my age group. In the evenings, when I have not much to do I went to movies. On the weekend, thanks to the wonderful people around me they took me to places such as museum, opera and country side – for all that I am indebted for the wonderful people of Germany.

  17. Hi Izzy,

    Thank you so much for this post. It always good to know that you are not the only one feeling the pain when pursuing your dream.

    I am currently pursuing my dream to live in a new place, it’s been almost one month and to be honest my life has never been this hard. This is the first time I really live far from my family. I got only a few friends here and they’re busy most of the times, so I feel so lonely. And everyday I’m thinking about my family and the warmth of our home. Weird how we value them so much more when we’re away from them.

    Most of the times, I feel like giving up and return home, back to everything that give me the security. But I persist because I know this is what I need. I need this experience to help me grow and to find my true self.

    The truth about following our dream is that the road won’t be all pretty and fun and exciting, there will always be the down time. I guess what we can do is to ensure ourselves if the dream worth all the pain and struggle. I just hope that I can always find the strength to continue following this dream, just like you have find yours.

    Home will always be there waiting for me to come back, hopefully one day I’ll come back as a better me :)


  18. I loved the part where you ask yourself “why does it hurt”? I agree, that it’s scary yet powerful at the same time. The answer to the question is the key to everything! Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am sure it must have been hard to share something so personal. It really got me thinking about goals and dreams that I have for myself as well.

  19. Dear Izzy

    Thank you so much for this post… I am going through a rough time and today was especially hard (to the point where I was laying on the floor and crying). I went online and found this post… it literally changed my whole perspective on things… Thank you so much for sharing this information, you can’t believe how much this post has done for me today…

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