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Are You Following Your Dream or Lost on the Hamster Wheel of Life?

March 11, 2011 on 4:10 am | In Dream Types | No Comments

Society’s message is that we are to study hard, work hard, be responsible, get a good steady job, make more money, climb the corporate ladder and/or be in a ‘respectable’ job. Yes, a ‘respectable’ job…whatever that is! The message is heard throughout our lives and has a dramatic impact on all of us. Most of us believe we have no choice but to jump right on to that hamster wheel and keep running. In fact, sometimes people will not even tell others what their dreams are for fear of being ridiculed. It is no wonder the notion of following a dream at best gets little attention and at worst some really bad press.

And how many people right now are feeling that what society wanted of them has jumped up and hit them on the nose? What price complying when faced with losing one’s job? So let’s turn this notion right on its head and think about fulfilling dreams. Perversely, it’s a great time to do it when there are so many people who have lost or may lose their jobs

First, let’s distinguish between a ‘dream’ and a ‘fantasy’ because so many times people are very confused about what it means to follow their dream. How many times have you heard a successful person say that they are where they are today because they did what they loved and dreamed of doing or being. That’s what we mean by following a dream.


The word ‘dream’ refers to what can be viewed as a ‘calling’ or a ‘vocation’. It is the inner yearning, the burning desire that comes from deep within the core of who you are. Your dream is an authentic passion that emanates from your essence. It is not the roles you fill (mother, daughter, father, son, executive, salesperson, etc.), nor is it the product of your ego mind. To live this dream would bring you a true sense of well-being, wholeness and aliveness, enabling you to live more in the ‘now’ than in the past or the future.

As an example, let’s say your dream is to be a dancer. If you are capable of dancing well, love doing it, are willing to work at it and are willing to accept the consequences of pursuing that avenue – the ups and downs and the insecurity – then it is not irresponsible or foolish to consider pursuing this dream. It is valid, heartfelt and a statement of who you are. Yes, it’s true you may or may not become successful at it or make enough money to earn a living by dancing. However, if the passion is there and you truly enjoy dancing, you will likely gain fulfillment and satisfaction in your life. And perhaps you can earn extra money in other ways if needed. You will, of course, have to stand strong against the negative reaction you may receive from others and the negative mind chatter that may pop up.


A ‘fantasy’ on the other hand, is something that originates in the ego mind rather than in your inner being. It may be something that is impossible to achieve or it is based on what you’ve been taught to believe is significant, such as that ‘respectable job’ or making lots of money. A fantasy usually shows up as materialistic or very self-indulgent. For example, you may say you want to become a rock star. If you aren’t very good as a musician or singer and don’t have the motivation to learn and work at it, you are more than likely caught up in a fantasy. Your wish may simply be to have the fame, money and excitement you perceive rock stars to have. Even following the path you believe to be right for you can turn out to be a fantasy because when you have achieved your desire you may realize that you do not feel fulfilled or satisfied. And this can and does happen to so many people.


So what about you? Are you very clear and certain what your essence truly desires and dreams versus what might just be ephemeral fantasy? If this has you feeling stressed and confused, it is not surprising or unusual. Remember, you live in a society that promotes and glamorizes certain careers and lifestyles – and who isn’t, to some extent, drawn to the materialism that is deemed so important in our society? Yet you may experience a sense of discomfort because you are not naturally drawn to the pressures this type of lifestyle induces. If you feel this way, it’s worth taking time to listen because the ‘real you’ knows what is going to help you feel fulfilled and alive. This takes some serious introspection to determine the source of the motivation – is it authentic or superficial? How do we learn to know what we truly want (the dream) as opposed to what we are expected to strive for on that hamster wheel called ‘life’?

So even if you are facing unemployment, it’s pretty certain that the push will still be towards finding that ‘respectable job’ rather than taking the opportunity to follow your dream. The key is to stand strong and you will succeed.

When you decide to follow a particular dream a lot of emotions come up. You may feel a sense of freedom and adventure, of great aliveness. On the other hand your inner critic – that ego mind of yours – may present you with feelings of great turmoil and fear just by thinking about it. Negative mind chatter comes along with thoughts such as: “I’d be foolish and irresponsible. I won’t be able to earn a living. People will think poorly of me.” Remember when the negative crops up, you need to feel the fear – that’s OK – but don’t let it get in your way. This is where your inner strength comes into play.

In an ideal society, right from the start as a child, you would have been encouraged to follow your inner guidance, your inner desires to develop them throughout the various stages of your life. This may well not have been your experience. It is not too late, however, to remember that you, like every other human being, are unique and have special gifts and capabilities that when developed are of benefit to you and society. Ask yourself if you have consciously encouraged another person to follow their dream, or have you shown them the way to the hamster wheel?


A few points to bear in mind – following your dream doesn’t mean that you will always love what you are doing in every given moment; there will be times when you may be required to do things to fulfill your passion that you do not love. And don’t fool yourself by thinking you won’t have to work hard or that everything will be exactly as you plan it. Following your authentic dream however does mean that you will experience an overall sense of direction, purpose and fulfillment as you pursue your dream. This has to be far better than ignoring your inner yearnings or putting them off until a ‘later’ that never arrives. And if the universe has presented you with the opportunity of unemployment, it’s given you the gift of choice – to follow your dream or return it to the back burner.


Reflecting on the questions below can be a great help in determining whether you are following your dream or caught up in a fantasy.

o Do you continue to feel the same yearning from within?
o What are the feelings that accompany that yearning?
o Has the yearning faded and/or do other desires keep popping up?

When a yearning is really coming from your essence it will usually continue over the course of weeks, months, years, and so on. A fantasy may be more impulsive and fade away…a materialistic desire may keep coming up but it tends to me more erratic and changes depending on your mood or what the latest “in thing” is.

• Are you excited and alive in what you are doing right now or is what you are doing leaving you feeling drained and depleted?

An authentic dream would give you satisfaction and fulfillment and not leave you drained and tired. If you feel drained and tired, there is something amiss-you may be putting in too much effort or trying to make something happen that isn’t in alignment with your essence. Perhaps you are putting pleasing others before yourself.

• What are your expectations of your dream? Are they realistic?

If expectations are unrealistic and ‘out there’, that’s a sign of a fantasy. A dream may ‘seem’ to be unrealistic because of the inner critic and negative mind chatter that you may experience; however, when looked at thoroughly, you will find that your dream is a possibility. If you have thoughts such as, “That can’t come true for ‘me’ (yet it does for others)”, that’s a real sign of the inner critic at work-it is not a sign of a fantasy.

• Are you willing to accept the consequences of living your dream? Life gives us no guarantees.

When your authentic self truly desires something and you are able to recognize it as authentic, then you need to be willing to live with the consequences. By contrast, when you are engaged in a fantasy, you will want everything to go according to your plan with everything being perfect. You will not accept anything less because a fantasy is idealistic…a true dream is not.

• What would your life look like if your dream became a reality?

Envisioning how life would look can be a wake-up call. A fantasy can be uncovered when your vision shows you how totally idealistic, materialistic, and inauthentic your desire is. The fulfillment of a dream will make you feel good inside.

• What, if anything, do you have to give up to live your dream? . . . and to what extent are you prepared to deal with this?

When you realize what you have to give up to achieve your dream, it can cement your determination or it can uncover a fantasy. Fear is inevitable – so treat it with care, but don’t let it stop you from following what is truly a dream.

• Look into the future, how would you feel if you did not pursue this desire? Regret? Relief? Or something else?

If your desire is an authentic dream you would know that you would feel regret in the future if you didn’t pursue it. Instead, if you are holding on to a fantasy, you may realize right now that if you didn’t pursue it, it wouldn’t really matter much to you in the future. Or, perhaps you’d even feel relief if you were to decide to let it go.

Lynn Hull and Julie Molner are Certified Professional Co-active Coaches and Co-active Leadership graduates who co-authored a book titled “Your Life Your Way: The Essential Guide for Women”. They are passionate about helping others to live the life they deserve. http://www.essentialguideforwomen.com
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